Photograph Courtesy of Frédéric Malle
French perfumer Frédéric Malle represents the third generation of perfume specialists in his family (his Grandfather Serge Heftler-Louiche founded Parfums Christian Dior) and has become a world authority on perfume making. In 2000, he introduced Editions de Parfums—exclusive, creative fragrances composed by the world’s greatest perfumers and sold under their name. To celebrate the launch of the brand at Bergdorf Goodman, we sat down with Malle, who made a personal appearance at the store, to talk about his favorite fragrance, the process of creating a perfume, and more. Read the full interview below and shop Frédéric Malle now in store on the Beauty Level and online at BG.com.
Bergdorf Goodman: What is your favorite fragrance available at BG right now?
Frédéric Malle: I don’t really know what would be my favorite fragrance available at Bergdorf Goodman today, but I know that it is one of the 25 perfumes that I am selling, that is for sure! They all represent almost a year of my life because we worked so hard on them, so they are like children to me with different characters. I go from one favorite to the other. I suppose everybody’s favorites are Musc Ravageur, Portrait of a Lady, Vetiver Extraordinaire, Carnal Flower—all of these have become legends, but they are not always my favorites. There are others in the collection that are really cool.
BG: What is the key to an individual finding their signature scent?
FM: I think the key to finding one’s scent or your scent is not the name on the bottle, not the list of ingredients, but whatever you feel comfortable with. Perfumes are a little bit like clothes. If you are comfortable wearing them, it is more than likely that you will look good or smell good in them. That is all there is to it. Don’t try to smell like your best friend. Try just to be yourself and you will be fine.
BG: Can you tell us about the process of creating a perfume?
FM: The process of creating a perfume is always the same, more or less. My process is a bit different than others. Many people work on image and then they try to fit a perfume to the image, but we do the opposite. I work with perfumers and I share the language because I used to work at a lab, so I speak that chemistry language. We decide to mix certain things together—be it a flower with musk, something I smell in the street that could be cool next to something else—it’s a general conversation, a bit like two artists talking about a collage, and once we have decided what to do, the perfumer makes a sketch, which is a perfume formula that we smell and if we like it, then we decide to refine it. That takes quite a long time—sometimes more than a year—but usually it is around a year. Carnal Flower, for instance, took two years, so sometimes it is more difficult. We polish that perfume to make it diffuse, to make it last, to make sure that every detail is scintillating and only then do we decide to launch it, if we like it.
BG: What is your favorite Bergdorf Goodman memory?
FM: I don’t have one favorite Bergdorf Goodman memory to be honest. I have had a very long relationship with Bergdorf’s. I used to work with Mark Birley, we used to sell that perfume that we made and that was really my beginning in this industry, so I am very fond of that. But I can’t count the moments that I have gone shopping here with my wife and it is always fun. It is always an adventure and these are the memories that I cherish the most.