Wearing a custom-made pinstriped suit from his regular tailor in London and a pair of rose-tinted sunglasses, Frédéric Malle looks gracious and relaxed as he greets visitors at Bloomingdale’s in The Dubai Mall. The French perfumer and entrepreneur was in the UAE earlier this year to launch Superstitious, his latest perfume, crafted in collaboration with fashion designer Alber Elbaz. Malle’s grandfather, Serge Heftler Louiche, was the founder of Parfums Christian Dior, while his mother created Poison for Dior, and worked there for most of her career. Malle, then, couldn’t help but be drawn to the industry, despite previously dabbling with photography, advertising and even economics. What sets Malle apart from other noses, though, is that he is the founder of a “perfume publishing house” called Editions de Parfums. “I started Editions in 2000 because I thought that mass marketing was going to kill perfumery. The one-size-fit-all fragrances are a gimmick,” says Malle. “Why should everyone smell like their parents or grandparents? So I approached perfumers and asked them to go back to high-quality, innovative scents, to create their own versions and visions, which brands may not allow them to do, but I will.” While Estee Lauder Companies acquired Editions de Parfums in 2014, Malle’s own involvement in the creation of each fragrance is that of an evaluator, and depends entirely on the perfumer. Here are five perfumes that Malle says have held special significance for him over the years – all available from the Editions de Parfums counter at Bloomingdale’s in The Dubai Mall.
“I had always admired Alber [Elbaz]’s work. He is someone who actually made women more beautiful by being respectful towards them, rather than trying to steal the show from them. And that is what I’m trying to do as well. So I called him, and we had lunch. And we realised we are on the same wavelength: we both hate typical back-to-success marketing recipes, and we are both very superstitious. Alber, for instance, will only cut a piece of fabric in one go, and he will never take a pair of scissors from someone’s hand. And me, I am superstitious about everything. Cats, hats, ladders, triangles … you name it. At one point in the process, Alber said the perfume should be less marketing and more superstition. And this is how the name as well as the eye motif, seen on the bottle, came along. In fact, Alber sketched the eye himself. And since he wears a lot of patchouli, the perfume keeps the patchouli, as well as notes of amber, warm vetiver, jasmine and frankincense. It is a very full fragrance and one of my classics. While the others are like someone playing a piano, Superstitious is the whole orchestra, a diamond you can wear all day long.”
“I generally don’t like it when people mix my fragrances with others because we take so long to make them perfect. But here in the Middle East, people love to blend scents, and I am now glad for this because out of it came The Night. I was here in the UAE one time and I passed by a woman, a stranger, who was wearing Portrait of a Lady, created by [perfumer] Dominique Ropion for Editions de Parfums. But she had mixed it with some very good oud. And it smelt delicious. So I ran back to Dominique and we decided to keep the rosy and ambery aspects of Portrait of a Lady, and plugged in a sea of oud from India. And the whole thing became The Night. It is the most expensive Editions perfume – by a long shot – because one-third of it is pure oud, which is a huge amount. It’s like drenching yourself in oud oil. It’s very special. I first came to the UAE in the 1990s, and I love that they wear such distinctive perfumes here. People mix fragrances so intelligently and with such good taste.”
Geranium Pour Monsieur
“It’s what I wear sometimes when I travel. In fact, I am wearing it now, for my trip to Dubai. This one is special to me because it is inspired by the products my father used for his hair, and his mouthwash as well. It has all this minty freshness with a hint of geranium. It’s a very fresh fragrance, and in fact, it gave Dominique and me the idea for the Portrait of a Lady perfume later. Both the perfumes have sandalwood, frankincense and geranium in common. So I also like it because it proved to me that things always come full circle: past, present and future.”
“This I love because it’s the ultimate man’s perfume. And it’s special to me because I was working on it when I moved from France to America, where my children study. So I wanted something nostalgic, something that was a sophisticated, manly and very French scent. To me, this is the smell of Picasso and Hemingway, those very manly men of the Lost Generation. It reminds me also of my favourite perfume from my teenage years, Halston, which my mother had brought back from America because she thought it was interesting. French Lover is also another of my travel perfumes.”
“This is special to me because it was the first perfume under Editions. I created it with Pierre Bourdon, the man behind Cool Waters – one of the most copied scents in the world. And we were sitting together, and he said to me: ‘We are going to do our best with ingredients that are so unusual that those [expletive] are not going to be able to copy us.’ So he built a perfume around iris, which is very difficult to use and very expensive. This scent is like fire under ice – it has iris, which is cool; and then underneath we have vanilla, tonka beans, musk and sandalwood – all very warm. It’s like a nice cashmere.”