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Brought up in the world of luxurious fragrances, Francis Kurkdjian followed in the footsteps of his elders not too long after! As our society continues to evolve, so does the choice of perfume. No longer “limited to our gender in the years to come,” Francis understands the importance of adapting to change and bringing the best for everyone. Truly passionate about fragrance and all that surrounds it, Maison Francis Kurkdjian has just released its latest collection which will leave you wanting more… Dive into the world of fragrance with Francis Kurkdjian!

Share with us what you were most excited about the release of the latest new collection. What was behind the inspiration?

To understand the genesis of the Cologne forte collection, you need to go back to the creation of Aqua Universalis, launched when Maison Francis Kurkdjian was created in 2009.

The inspiration for this fragrance, later followed by Aqua Vitae and Aqua Celestia, could be summarized with this Latin quote “mens sana in corpore sano,” meaning “a healthy body in a healthy mind.” I thus wished to reconnect with the tradition of the Eau de Cologne which, in its original form, was also drinkable, creating a visible “inside-outside” effect. What is good for my body is also good for my mind.

In 2011, we came up with the forte name, a reference to music, to express the idea of strength in these fresh fragrances.

Finally, in 2021, I wanted to bring a new light to this Aqua collection and a new caliber to the forte range, keeping in mind that the idea of freshness could also be explored starting from the sensations induced by light. This is how Cologne forte became a reality: a modern, long-lasting Cologne, showcasing the idea of light, color and sensations which was already in the genesis of the original eau de toilette fragrances.

This new collection, who do you envision wearing it? Who was it made for?

Maision Francis Kurkdjian is a fragrance house of freedom: freedom of creation first but freedom of wearing the fragrance you want without being judgmental as well. This collection is a tribute to the original Eau de Cologne, which was historically destined for both men and women… Thus, all the Aqua Collection fragrances are not only gender-neutral, they are suitable for all on all the continents.

How has your relationship with fragrance evolved over the years? What are some lessons/changes you learned and adapted to?

The choice of perfume is no longer limited to our gender in the years to come. Our society evolves, and so has the way to choose a perfume as a consumer. Therefore, as a creator, I believe it is my mission to rethink how I envision femininity and masculinity as this question. Everyone is free to choose a fragrance based on their identity. Gender Fluidity is one of my personal responses to contemporary questions on gender identity. It reflects the idea of freedom to express our personality without having to submit to diktats and our freedom to choose a fragrance that suits us without any gender pressure. Gender Fluidity does not mean no Gender. It means you do not have to be secluded in one category only. That is a big move forward.

Tell us a story from when you were 15 and decided to become a perfumer, a moment that had a huge impact on who you are. 

I had the chance of being brought up by parents and grand-parents who got me into the world of arts at an early age – from ballet class to piano, visits to the museums, and even being immersed in the world of Couture with two grandfathers working for the craft, and a very close of my mother who worked with Christian Dior himself. I grew up curious about everything and developed a passion for handcrafts.

However, I had my true revelation, at the age of 14, by reading an article about perfumery and five perfumers in the glossy pages of a French magazine. I discovered that the couturier/fashion designer was not the person behind the creation of perfumes. There were people behind the scenes, and those people had a very special craft and gift.

I also saw the movie “Le Sauvage” with actors Yves Montand and Catherine Deneuve in which Montand character plays the role of a perfumer in a remote Venezuelan island. After that, I fell in love with the craft and told my parents I wanted to become a perfumer. I knew deep inside that it was my vocation!

Growing up, was there someone or something that pushed you to pursue this career?

As a kid, I wanted to be a ballet dancer and I took dance lessons with a teacher from the Paris Opera Ballet. I also studied classical piano. My parents always gave importance to artistic fields when raising me and my brother and sister. I guess they knew from the beginning that I was inclined to go for an artistic career. Yet, when I decided to become a perfumer, my father insisted that I obtain a Master degree in Luxury Marketing beforehand.

I am thankful to him today as it helped me immensely. My family never tried to dissuade me but instead always gave me the tools to build myself up. All that I have learned from them shows through my work.

Why is smell so important to you? What is your favorite scent?

Smell is important because it is part of capturing the complexity of a human being. It increases your feeling of wellness and you can play with scents all year long. However, all of the senses are important to me. They are part of your humanity. Finally, it is my way to express myself, the same way a writer uses words, a painter with colors or a composer with music.

I do not have any favorite scents. As a perfumer, when it comes to my personal taste, the ones I have in mind for the future are always for me the most intriguing and appealing. In fact, the most exciting in life is always what lies ahead. So, I guess they are my favorite, even if they are not yet created.

In your own words, what does beauty mean to you? Where does true beauty come from?

I love natural sophistication. It is hard to define but I guess it comes with a sense of natural and inner beauty. It is not a question of perfection, as I don’t believe it exists, more a sense of balance. It is neither a question of what you wear or how you look. It is more an inner attitude that exults from the inside to the outside. Beauty comes from within.

To anyone thinking of becoming a perfumer/ business owner, what kind of advice would you give them?

Becoming a perfumer and managing a business are 2 distinct things. Never think you are satisfied; never think you are done.

Who are you when you aren’t a perfumer? What are some hobbies of yours?

Before Covid, I used go to the Opera to see classic Ballet or modern dance or hear Opera and music. I play the piano when I have some time on my own. I love Bach, Debussy and Chopin, Ravel and Mozart. They are my favorite composers. Since I have a terrasse in my new home, I enjoy gardening very much. It brings me peace  and lots of joy.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

Bringing the world of scent to a new level of consciences, to new ways to wear or experiment fragrances is really something I am more and more looking at in the future. I believe it is part of my mission in the world of fragrances to open new paths and question my era about the importance, meaning and place of fragrances.

I do believe it is also the modernity of it: breaking, not the rules, but the boundaries. You must play the game. Otherwise, you are outside the place to be, but no one has ever forbidden not to push the boundaries nor break them eventually.

Further, in the very tough world some people live in, I know I have been blessed. You must give back to life, what life has been given you. It is a mission, a duty.

Interviewee Francis Kurkdjian @maisonfranciskurkdjian
Interview Alexandra Bonnet @alexbonnetwrites