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TBG Interview: Marc Chaya, CEO and co-founder, Francis Kurkdjian

The celebrated perfumer Francis Kurkdjian is one of the biggest names in the rarefied world of French noses.

Kurkdjian’s claim to fame was Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male, which he concocted at the age of 26.

The award-winning perfumer went on to create many other distinctive juices with his signature juicy, sexy, yet fresh and delicately feminine accords.

The Beauty Gazette loves loves loves Guerlain Rose Barbare (2005), Carven Le Parfum (2013), Elie Saab Le Parfum (2011), and My Burberry (2014).

In 2009, Kurkdjian launched his eponymous perfume house with businessman Marc Chaya.

To kickstart 2017, Kurkdjian adds Aqua Celestia to his signature Aqua Universalis (2009) and Aqua Vitae (2013) line-up.

The juice is described as having “a fresh, colorful and generous top note accord that resonates with the sunny radiance of mimosa blossoms from Provence and a celestial whisper of musk”.

The Beauty Gazette finds out more about the essence of Maison Francis Kurkdjian from the brand’s CEO and co-founder, Marc Chaya.


How did you first meet Francis Kurkdjian?

I met Francis some 10 years ago at a casual dinner following a Jean Paul Gaultier fashion show.

At the time, I had no idea what a perfumer was. When I learned that he had created Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male followed by more than 40 world-famous perfumes for several fashion houses (including Dior, Saint Laurent, Armani, Narciso Rodrigez, Elie Saab…), I asked him, How come I don’t even know your name? You have created all these perfumes that everyone wears, yet no one knows your name.

To me, the similarities between the fragrance and art industry is apparent. It is like going to see a Picasso exhibition yet no one tells you that the painter is Picasso and only the sponsor’s name is provided.

With time, Francis and I became close friends. We shared the same vision on the ideal lifestyle and the definition of luxury, while having complementary business and creative skills. We gradually started working together. At that time, I was still a global partner at Ernst & Young. So I started to support him on his strategy and some business ventures during the weekends and on weekday evenings. Eventually in 2009, we both thought it was time to co-found Maison Francis Kurkdjian, a luxury independent fragrance house by one of the most celebrated perfumers of our time.


What sets the Kurkdjian fragrances apart?

Firstly, having an in-house creator and perfumer makes a significant difference as our marketing is at the service of a genuine artist and creative. This is very rare in the industry, as perfumers are usually working in the dark at the service of a brand’s marketing team. Francis Kurkdjian has free space when it comes to his creations.

The Maison Francis Kurkdjian perfume collection was created as a fragrance wardrobe where each scent is designed to fit a certain sensual mood; to match one’s aura at a specific occasion.

We believe that it is a bit old fashioned to wear the same scent all your life. Modern men and women are multi-faceted. For example, we are not the same person when we are at work, with friends and family, and while travelling. If I open a sophisticated person’s wardrobe I can be sure to find casual wear, formal attire, as well as evening standard ensembles, and maybe, even couture.

Our collection of fragrance has been created in the same spirit. Our Aqua collection is like an essential piece in the wardrobe, a bit like a sharp and crisp white shirt that you can wear on any occasion: buttoned up with a bow-tie and a tuxedo; or with the sleeves rolled up to match a casual pair of khakis. Our Aqua collection is fresh, versatile and genderless (“freshness” is an emotion that both men and women experience).

Then we have our ready-to-wear collection with very elegant, yet easy-to-wear scents such as Petit Matin, Amyris, Plural, and A la rose.

Our evening standards include more dressed-up scents like Baccarat Rouge 540, Grand Soir, Lumière Noire and our OUD collection. Each fragrance has its own olfactive signature. Finally, we have our bespoke offering which mirrors the haute couture in fashion.

So you can be an Aqua Celestia person on a lovely sunshine day, then wear Amyris on a date and Oud Cashmere at a black-tie event.



Which is your favourite Kurkdjian perfume? 

I have fully embraced the philosophy of the wardrobe and tend to change scents every day based on how I am feeling, what I am wearing, and the occasion. My favorites are Aqua Vitae, Amyris homme and Baccarat rouge 540. I don’t have a favorite accord but I tend not to wear scents that are too dry or too green.


What is different with Aqua Celestia?

The Aqua family is a modern tribute to the iconic Eau de Cologne that was invented at the beginning of the 18th Century. Eau de Cologne is mostly a blend of citrus, orange blossom and herbal/aromatic notes. At its origins, Eau de Cologne was sold and promoted for its scent but as a drinkable medicine as well. Thus, it has an obvious inside and outside effect.

Francis Kurkdjian wanted to reinterpret this idea of feeling good, being good, and smelling good. That is the inspiration for our Aqua family of fragrances. Aqua Celestia, the latest opus of our Aqua collection (Aqua Universalis and Aqua Vitae), explores a new territory of freshness. It was created to conjure the concept of a seamless bond between the blue sky and the blue sea, like a path leading toward absolute serenity. The scent is heavenly fresh, with a colorful and generous composition of lime, cool mint and black currant absolute. The top notes resonate with a sunny mimosa blossoms and delicate musk.


How do you make sure that the fragrance you wear lasts on the skin?

To me, the best parts to spray your perfume are the pulse points (neck and wrists) because it is where the skin is the thinnest and gets warmer, so the scent diffuses better.
And don’t forget that dry skin doesn’t hold perfume well, so keep your skin hydrated.

Where does Francis get his inspiration for his concoctions?

Inspiration is the invisible part of creation and many things can inspire Francis Kurkdjian: art, Couture / Fashion, people … as long as it stirs an emotion in him.

He always needs a name to start working. It helps him to define a territory for his creation. He then sees the scent in his mind and start using his palette of essential oils to make his vision come to life. Creating a perfume is not just a technical process consisting of mixing essential oils in a lab, and putting them on the market if they smell good. It is a creative artistic process. For instance, colours are the tools for painting but not everyone that masters the techniques of painting and mixing colors becomes a Picasso. A pianist interpreting Mozart to perfection is not Mozart. Technique, in the case of perfumery chemistry, is the basis; but you need genius to go beyond technique and elevate the creation. Picasso used to say first learn the rule so that afterwards, you can break it.



What’s next for the Francis Kurkdjian label?

The fragrances and accessories collection developed as an olfactory wardrobe will continue to grow each year and embody our unique vision of perfumery.

In 2017, in addition to the launch of our new eau de toilette Aqua Celestia, we are expanding our body and home collections with hair mists and body oils this spring. A new handcrafted candle collection will also be revealed in fall.

Photos: ©Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Text: ©The Beauty Gazette

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