Fragrance Wardrobe: Francis Kurkdjian Rethinks the Rose
Your perfume isn’t just how you smell—it’s how you feel. Usually, it’s an accessory to how you present yourself to the world, but these days, it can serve as a source of comfort and nostalgia during days spent at home. In the upcoming weeks, we’re sharing a new version of Fragrance Wardrobe, our series in collaboration with The Fragrance Foundation that highlights the rotating perfume “wardrobes” of tastemakers through key points in their life. In this new take, we’ll be asking them to share their favorite scents through the lens of comfort and their at-home routine. Get to know them better via the scents they choose to wear during this uncertain time.
There are years that change the trajectory of your life, and for Francis Kurkdjian, 1995 was the one. After deciding to become a perfumer at age 15, Kurkdjian enrolled in SIPCA, the international school of perfumery in Versailles, and soon after joined fragrance house Quest International. It was there that he concocted the scent that would propel him to fragrance fame: Le Mâle, the subversive first male fragrance from John Paul Gaulthier. The mint-laced concoction became an instant sensation, now ubiquitous with the free-spirited edge of the early ’90s. Afterwards, he continued to make iconic scent after iconic scent for brands like Narciso Rodriguez, Lancôme, and Burberry, until he launched his own eponymous line, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, with business partner Marc Chaya in 2009.
These days, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a fragrance-phile or anyone with particularly good taste who doesn’t own a Maison Francis Kurkdjian juice, or at least instantly recognize the scent of Baccarat Rouge 540 on a well-dressed stranger as it wafts by. Kurkdjian is known for challenging fragrance status quos (his Gentle Fluidity duo presented two fragrances that contain the same notes, reinterpreted in two distinct ways), so it comes as no surprise that his newest scent, L’Homme À la rose, reimagines the note of rose—previously thought to be the most feminine note of all—for a male audience in brazen, woodsy blend that feels assertive, yet never overtly masculine. Because why shouldn’t men wear rose? Why shouldn’t women wear cologne? And why shouldn’t anyone wear and smell like whatever they want? Ahead, we chat with Kurkdjian and learn about his Fragrance Wardrobe through the years, his inspiration behind L’Homme À la rose, as well as his reason for not wearing perfume these days.
How would you describe your fragrance wardrobe through the years?
When I was young and way before becoming a perfumer, I already embraced the concept of fragrance wardrobe by having many perfumes. I was gifted all year long for many occasions as my family, mostly, knew I had a passion for scents.
To name a few: I use to wear Vetiver by Carven (the first scent ever gifted by my mother for my 13th anniversary), Eau Sauvage by Dior, Habit Rouge by Guerlain, Pour un Homme by Caron, Obsession for men by Calvin Klein (brought by my parents after a trip to the U.S.), Minotaure by Paloma Picasso.
I stopped wearing scent soon after I joined the perfume school. Wearing scents and working with/around them was not compatible. Little by little, I totally stopped wearing scents except when it wasn’t for my own work.
What was the first fragrance you ever bought and why?
I bought the scented powder First by Van Cleef & Arpels. It was my first Mother’s Day gift. I did not have enough money to buy her a refill of her signature scent, so I decided to buy an ancillary product.
Do you still wear fragrance even when you don’t leave the house these days?
You might be surprised, but I have not been wearing any scent since I became a perfumer! It’s my very own way to be away from my work and feel off! It allows me not only to rest my nose but also to create a kind of hunger to generate new ideas.
Your work from home fragrance:
I am actually the first customer of my own brand, so I only wear all my works in progress—the fragrances I am working on. Once there are completed, I stop wearing them.
The fragrance that brings you comfort:
I love to use my scented shower gels. It’s like my morning routine to pick which one I will be using, depending on my mood. When it’s cold outside, I use Aqua Vitae shower gel. It it’s a bright, sunny and hot day, I use Aqua Celestia; I choose Aqua Universalis, when I travel away from home.
The fragrance that brings back fond memories:
One of my most memorable experience in regard to fragrance is creating Le Male by Jean Paul Gaultier. It was 1995 and I was fresh out of school and Le Male was my very first fragrance and blockbuster. My collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier has a special place in my heart.
The candle you’re currently burning right now:
To relax, I enjoy chilling at my place in a cozy atmosphere, surrounded by candles. I love “Au 17” from my Homes sweet homes collection. This scent is inspired by Paris and its magical, free-spirited vibes. Au 17 evokes the smell of Japanese incense on the base of an amber fragrance.
What you smell when you want to unwind/destress:
I play the piano. That’s it.
The scent you’ll associate with this time:
All the team is currently preparing and working on our next fragrance launch planned for this September. It is L’Homme À la rose, a new variation from our iconic perfume collection around À la rose. With this new fragrance, I wanted to give the men the power to wear a rose scented fragrance. It’s my interpretation of a rose for men, as the queen of flower is more often featured in women’s fragrances. L’Homme À la rose is a woody floral eau de parfum. In the first few seconds, very fresh, green and bursting notes paired with a grapefruit accord and essence of Damask rose from Bulgaria creates a sensation of natural vitality. Then comes the middle notes of a rosy, very woody accord which brings the fragrance verticality, gradually enhanced by the woody amber base notes which infuse the sillage with sensuality.