27 marzo 2011

Interview with Francis Kurkdjian

Francis Kurkdjian is famous for being an enfant prodige of perfumery because of his groundbreaking first creation Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Male that he did when he was only twentifive. Since there the list of successful creations is long and includes many designers and brands, including also his own brand Maison Francis Kurkdjian that'a already a must have for many perfume lovers. What strikes me about him are his lively dark eyes together with the free and easy attitude of someone that has nothing to prove. If you wouldn't know he's a successful perfumer with a prolific curriculum behind, you could tell there's a teenager in front of you. Maybe it's just this spirit that pushes him beyond, even while he's talking to go ahead with his mind looking for spurs to feed his brilliant mind. Thanks again to Francis Kurkdjian for his time and attention and finally also to the Di Liello family that made possible this interview in their very refined new Campomarzio 70 space at via Vittoria in Rome.

E: In 1995 you created Le Male for Jean-Paul Gaultier and it’s still nowadays a best seller, in 2004 was the turn for Christian Dior Eau Noire, an exclusive beauty perfectly embodying the spirit of Slimane’s black suits. You recently released Absolue pour le soir for your Maison that’s simply amazing, three perfumes I’ve enjoyed very much. Speaking about your approach in composing a fragrance during these years and for different targets, how is it changed?
F: It did the change that I feel the pressure now. Before I didn't think too much but now creating is heavier
E: ok so you feel more pressure nowadays than when you were twentifive?
F: I was doing bad, for le male I was doing… I didn’t know what I was doing (laughing), now I think too much at least before when I create
E: Ok I see, so turning forty makes you think more
F: It’s not about the forty it’s more about the things you have to put behind a fragrance to let it go, that’s very hard.

E: And what about the luxury fragrance market? How is it changed in the meanwhile?
F: That’s a joke monkey?! (opens wide his eyes and smiles)
E: Haha... Oh, ok, next question…
F: Seriously I think there are things lost not only because the big brands are doing lot of things because nowadays also the niche brands are doing more and more things. I think there are a lot of things that are out now, of course there is no way to clean the market, market cleans itself but basically It’s like movies, every week you have maybe twenty more new movies out of that maybe you have one good movie once every month, the rest is crap you’re going to see on TV and with fragrances is almost the same.
Also with my partner I say I’m not a niche brand, I’m a small brand, this is quite different. I don’t want to stay niche. We’re here today because the size of the house doesn’t allow us to be distributed somewhere else like bigger houses and this is why we are meant to be here today but we’re a small brand
E: So kind of artisanal?
F: No it’s not about artisanal. When you say artisanal that means something that has uncertainty and we know it clearly, we’re very sharp. The reason why we are small is because the resources are small and because our capability to produce is very small but it’s the beginning and we’re out on the market since eighteen months now. So that’s the way we want to do it but we’re expanding more and more anyway and it’s not because you expand that you reduce your quality as I think it’s the paradigm now: it’s because of the capitalism in general  when you speak about making more money but you reduce the quality to make more profit. I think that big companies should think to make less profit and put more quality in what they do.

E: Knowing you have a background about piano and ballet I was fascinated reading about your collaborations with the Cartier Foundation for an olfactory ballet. What do you think about the cross-fertilization with different arts with perfumery?
F: I’m just a successful parfumeur, and I’ve been a ballet dancer a painter and a musician

He smiles mocking and rejoicing at his shrewd answer that makes me briefly understand that every artistic experience forms you and leaves something inside, just like the emotion of a perfume.

E: In 2005 you created for the Versailles castle Sillage de la Reine a reconstruction of Marie Antoinette’s perfume by Jean-Louis Fargeon. How is important for you tradition and how do you express modernity in your creations?
F: Tradition is important because everything we are today it’s because of yesterday. For example during this experience in Versailles I had the chance to learn how leather was scented in eighteenth century. They didn’t scent it like we do nowadays just spraying the fragrance on the leather. They had a long process mixing the fragrances with the colours and tannings and the smell is quite different and longlasting and I had the chance to see it and learn. So nowadays when I wanted to make my leather bracelets I took advantage of this experience. Modernity is because I live nowadays, I have a smartphone, I use technology so I try to do things that can be worn in our time, everyday.

E: We’re in Rome today, a city full of memories from the past. Let’s suppose you could create a scent for a personality from the past, who woud you like he/she to be and why?
F: Nobody. It’s something I already did so I don’t care anymore about doing it again. I did it for Marie Antoinette in Versailles and it’s been a success, that’s enough I think.

E: Where do you take the inspiration for your own creations?
F: Everyday’s feelings and emotions, a walk outdoors, simple things in life.

E: I was amazed by your simple yet refined packaging and the care for details and materials you put in it. How are important details and materials also in the bottled fragrance?
F: It’s all about details. Also in a fragrance you don’t need to do too much, you just have to do something that’s simple and sharp. Like for the bottles there are many bottles on the shelves also here but there’s no need to overdo. For the fragrance is the same, you just have to do something simple, and doing it the best you can taking care of materials and all the details. For example when you make spaghetti you can choose to put in it lots of things but I prefer to make a dish of spaghetti just with olive oil and basil putting the attention on the quality of olive oil and the basil you put in it. That’s all about simplicity and details.
E: What’s in your near future and what’s in Maison Francis Kurkdjian near future?
F: The future... The future when? Next month, next year...
E: Heh, well, you have to tell me when …
F: In May we will launch a new limited edition fragrance to celebrate ten years of  bespoke creations while in June will head the boutique Aqua Forte, a kind of  concentrated Aqua Universalis. By end of the year we will launch the travel spray for most of the fragrances in the line.

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