Named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture, Francis Kurkdjian is a perfumer for Takasago and, since 2009, for the Maison that bears his name. In 2001, he is the first perfumer to open his atelier for custom-made fragrances. That same year, the François Coty prize was awarded to him, recognizing his achievements over his whole carreer. He most notably created Le Mâle for Jean-Paul Gaultier (at the age of 25, while he was working at Quest), Rose Barbare for Guerlain, Narciso Rodriguez For Her with Christine Nagel, and more recently, Le Parfum for Elie Saab.
In everyday life, do you trust your flair, your intuitions?
Yes. I am very instinct-driven. I often have premonitions about things as well as people. Actually, I would often send emails to Francoise Caron, one of the perfumers I’ve long worked with, with a message predicting the success of projects we were working on together. My “predictions” often proved to be true.
Which fragrance(s) do you wear?
Ever since I’ve been making fragrances, I don’t wear any outside of the ones that I create. I am my first “customer”. Wearing a fragrance allows me to watch it evolve throughout its development. Not wearing any is a way for me to take a break!
Which place in the world left your nose the best memory?
I have many, many memories. One of the advantages of being a perfumer is that you have a great memory, an olfactory one more particularly. My travels, places, the smell of people I know, I “record” everything.
What is the worst thing you’ve ever smelled?
It was in New York when I was living there in the mid-nineties. At the peak of summer, I remember the smell of the streets in the Meatpacking District. Stagnant water in the curbs blended with the foul smell of slaughterhouses. Awful!
What is your nose most useful for when you are not working?
Letting me live like everyone else, almost so!
What are the smells that bring most memories to your mind?
Perfume shakes the barriers of memory. These fragrances are, without doubt, the most poignant. Sometimes I will open a bottle of Femme de Rochas and remember my grandmother. It was the last fragrance she ever wore. This feeling is irreplaceable.
What does your place smell like?
Fragrant flowers in season. Mimosa and hyacinths in winter. Roses at the end of spring and in the summer. At the moment, I favour lilies. Big white bouquets that overwhelm the house with their spicy, muffled trail.
Can the smell of a person influence the way you feel about them?
Totally. I remember having a dance partner who wore a fragrance that reminded me of someone I didn’t like. We were dancing a pas de deux and after our second rehearsal I asked her to change her fragrance!
What is the worst olfactory faux pas?
I don’t believe there is such a thing when it comes to perfume. It is so intimate that everyone finds what suits them.
And what does the future smell like?
It smells of iris and amyris, the two key raw materials of my next fragrant duo!