In busy fragrance market, Frederic Malle has become one of the most respected names. In a mere 20 years, his perfumes have dominated the shelves of men and women around the world who have fallen in love with his unique combinations and the use of the most precious ingredients you can find. With a focus on quality and emphasis on hard work, Malle has collaborated with leading names in perfumery to create iconic scents such as Portrait of a Lady and Carnal Flower.
To mark two decades in the business, Malle has released specially designed Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle bottles of his most popular scents. To accompany the celebration, Malle has also worked on a book titled Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle: The First Twenty Years that beautifully capture the magical years of fragrance making, including collaborations with the likes of Alber Elbaz and Dries Van Noten.
Below, we ask one of the most respected noses in the business of perfume to reflect on his most memorable moments from the past 20 years and to select a fragrance from his collection that makes a woman feel her most powerful.
Congratulations on this career milestone! Does it feel like it’s been 20 years?
Actually, no. It felt that it was 20 years when I opened the book that Rizzoli has just published about us, but before that, I was so caught up in doing things, mostly perfumes, that I didn’t see the time passing.
What have you learnt about yourself as a perfumer over the last two decades?
Those 20 years have just been a confirmation of the previous 10 years; that I’m nothing without the help of great perfumers and that perfume is never finished until it’s finished. It sounds stupid but in other words, you have to work very, very hard from the beginning to the end of a perfume’s development.
Are there any particular scents that were especially emotional to revisit?
Actually, all of them, especially when I cross someone in the street wearing those perfumes. Not only does it make me proud but it takes me back to the moment I made it.
What was your inspiration behind the limited edition packaging?
There was a great bookstore in Saint Germain des Près called « La Hune » that had similar lists on some of their designs. It’s a far away memory but this was my inspiration. I suppose in another way the Parisian Rive Gauche was the origin of this company.
You will also be releasing a book Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle: The First Twenty Years by Frédéric Malle, how did you feel seeing the final result?
I felt very emotional seeing the final result as the 250 pages of that book sum up the last 20 years of my life. I hadn’t realized how much we had done until I opened it.
Are there any moments in the book that struck you the most?
The book is a visual feast. I love the cartoon renderings of the development of our perfumes, but I also like page 62, which shows the packaging system that I designed years ago, which in my eyes still works today.
To this date, what is your most cherished collaboration and why?
Probably my work with Dominique Ropion, which resulted in about 10 perfumes over 20 years and which is probably my most prolific and intimate work relationship ever. I owe him a lot.
How has your approach to fragrance making evolved?
I think that I am more serene when it comes to fragrance making because I know how hard it is, but I also know that working with the best perfumers and pacing ourselves to go through about a year of hard work results in success. So, although I don’t take things for granted, I probably have a little bit more confidence than I used to have.
Is it possible to wear the wrong fragrance? How does a woman know what suits her?
I think it’s very possible to wear the wrong fragrance like it is possible to wear the wrong dress. You have to wear things that you truly like and you truly feel comfortable with, and never try to be like someone else. Just be yourself and things will be fine.
What scent do you always turn to for confidence?
I have three or four perfumes that I wear constantly but lately, I’ve been wearing a lot of Vetiver Extraordinaire and Geranium pour Monsieur.
And what fragrance (or notes) would you recommend for us to feel our most powerful?
I think Portrait of a Lady makes you feel quite powerful. And that’s probably the key to the extraordinary success of this particular perfume.
What is your favourite smell that’s not a fragrance?
I have many smells that I love in different circumstances. I love the smell of concrete after the rain, I love the smell of cut grass, I love the smell of chimneys in the winter. I love the smell of great cooking when you enter someone’s house. I could go on forever, I didn’t even mention any flowers in this list.
If you could capture the Middle East in a bottle, what key notes would you use?
Patchouli, Rose, and Oud.
Is there a particular type of fragrance you’re noticing a lot more right now?
Speaking about the Middle East, I think that this perfumery that people call « oud », which is not really oud but has that dry amber-y depth to it has conquered the world. It can be smelled from London to New York to Shanghai.
What do you feel are the secrets to a brand’s longevity in the busy fragrance market?
The quality of its perfumes.
How have you navigated the past few months of uncertainty?
I was very lucky to be at home on Long Island, overlooking the water and having interesting conversations with my family.
What is your vision for the next 20 years?
Honestly, I don’t really know, as perfumery is always the echo of society and we live in a very uncertain world.
The 20th anniversary Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle limited bottles are now in stores in the UAE and on November 1 for the remaining GCC market.
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