The man who recreated Marie Antoinette’s favorite fragrance opens his first shop in Paris this month. You can go there to pick up off-beat gems like fragrant bubbles and paper, or, better yet, make an appointment to have this prince of perfume design your signature scent.
While on a red eye flight home to Paris in 2001, the young, talented French perfumer Francis Kurkdjian was enjoying small talk with the woman beside him about their respective lines of work. It was a lovely tête-à-tête, full of funny coincidences and friends in common, but the conversation, however casual, was about to change his life!
Having already designed top-selling fragrances for big name brands (Le Mâle for Jean Paul Gaultier; Miracle Homme for Lancôme; Green Tea for Elizabeth Arden) and won prestigious industry prizes (the Francois Coty Perfumer Award in 2001, at the ripe age of 32!) Kurkdjian was itching for an exciting new career twist.
His words didn’t fall on deaf ears. By the time we walked off the plane he had his most thrilling order yet: a private commission to design a made-to-measure scent for his well-heeled neighbor, Terry de Gunzburg, founder of the luxurious beauty brand by Terry and former creative director of YSL Beauté. (Note to self: Start talking to people on planes.)
De Gunzburg naturally fell head over heals for the one-of-a-kind Fleur d’Oranger that Kurkdjian crafted specifically for her, and before he knew it le tout Paris was buzzing about his original olfactory works of art. It didn’t take long before overseas beauties sniffed him out and he was back on those red eyes following his clients around the globe with his “labomobile,” a Pinel et Pinel custom steamer truck filled with over 200 scent samples.
“For me, it’s all about the de-dramatization of luxury and finding that perfect balance between tradition and modernity,” says Kurkdjian, while playing with the compartments of his nifty nomad lab.
Before each appointment he fills his magic box with a new range of raw materials to best suit his client’s taste. After the meeting (akin to a therapy session with perfumed memory triggers) Kurkdjian spends the next three months tweaking his formula, sending samples back and forth until he gets two thumbs up. From there, the juice is bottled in two gorgeous hand-engraved dark green glass flacons, packed into handmade Italian fabric boxes and shipped off to the lucky client. The secret formula is stored away for future flacons, never to be shared with anyone else.
“My style is about having no style. Other fragrance houses tailor their creations, even the customized scents, to fit their brand’s identity. I don’t have those limitations.”
So, just how far can he go? “It’s just a question of time and budget,” says the wild child of perfume, who in addition to bespoke fragrance also does on-site olfactory installations like perfumed fountains (at the Château de Versailles, no less) and edible collaborations with pastry chefs such as Christophe Michalak of the Plaza Athénée.
Call or email well in advance to schedule an appointment:
Phone: + 33 (0)1 42 77 40 22
Price: €8,000 and up for made-to-measure; €2,500-5,000 for demi-couture (an adaptation of an existing scent)
Boutique: 5 rue d’Alger 75001 Paris