Meeting Francis Kurkdjian...

Francis Kurkdjian was in Selfridges in London on 20th September for the promotion of  his latest creation, 'Carven Le Parfum'. It was a privilege to meet him and talk with him after his presentation.

Francis talked about the history of the Carven fragrance house whose founder, Mme Carven is still alive, 102 years old this year. He was keen to create for this couture house as this name is linked to childhood memories. We could smell the first Carven fragrances, Ma Griffe, which was really powdery in the background but at the time was considered to be quite a fresh perfume, and also Vetiver (for Men), which was the starting point for many other men's fragrances in that style. 

The fragrance Francis created was based on the image of Carven which has always been about clothes for the active woman, but also on the femininity, spontaneity of the Parisian woman. Francis told us that he creates an image, a sound, a rhythm in his mind as a starting point to the fragrance; he associates a scent to the image in his mind, which is then broken down into the ingredients he will use to achieve this scent. 20 years perfumery experience enables Francis to work out how to dose each ingredient, as he knows how they interact with each other.

We were shown the base notes of the fragrance first, followed by the heart notes and then the top notes. We smelled the whole fragrance put together afterwards, which is sophisticated, floral sweet fruity woody.

So how did Francis Kurkdjian become such a renowned perfumer? He has created many well-known fragrances: an impressive list:

Many Jean-Paul Gaultier fragrances are his, JPG 2, Fragile, Le Male, Les Fleurs du Male, MaDame.., he is also the author of Elizabeth Arden Green Tea, Green Tea Summer, Spiced Green Tea, Acqua Di Parma Iris Nobile Elie Saab Le Parfum; he also created for Guerlain, Dior, Kenzo, Ungaro, Salvatore Ferragamo, and his latest creations are, Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Beau Male, Ted Lapidus White Soul Gold & Diamonds, and Roger Gallet Fleur de Figuier.

(Francis has also opened his own perfumery shop Paris : Maison Francis Kurkdjian, as he believes that perfumery is an art, which started at the same time as photography, and needs to be developed. He believes in looking forward and not to the past for fragrance creation, which is interesting to hear because so many launches have been inspired by classic fragrances.)

The answer really was a lesson in life : through sheer hard work. Francis told us that many attempts are needed to create a fine fragrance: 250 for this particular one. One could look at this as 249 failures for 1 success. The key is to look at failure as an opportunity to learn and gain experience, and not be afraid of it. In Francis' opinion, people who don't fail tend to not take too many risks in life and not achieve much. 

In an era where perfectionism prevails and failure is taboo, it is interesting to reflect on the fact that Francis got to the top of the prestigious Perfumery World by building on experience from his failed attempts...