The 20th Anniversary Perfume Summit

To celebrate the first twenty years of the perfume publishing house he created in 2000, Frédéric Malle wanted to pay tribute to the perfumers who have accompanied him on this unique journey.

It was in Paris that, on September 24 and 25, 2020, some of the world's greatest perfumers gathered. Under his guidance, they have contributed to restoring the rightful place of perfumery (now referred to as luxury perfumery).

On a stage elegantly adorned with the iconic 20th-anniversary frieze that outlines the chronology of the creation of all the Editions’ perfumes, Frédéric Malle is surrounded by the perfumers from the early days and ever since: Pierre Bourdon, Dominique Ropion, Jean-Claude Ellena, and Maurice Roucel, as well as the newest addition to "Frédéric's family": Anne Flipo. Perfumers Fanny Bal, Bruno Jovanovic, and Julien Rasquinet also joined the star perfumers to participate individually in video recordings, which will be available for viewing very soon.

Hosted by Isabelle Giordano, the event unfolds in the style of a talk show where each participant freely and enthusiastically discusses the subject that unites and excites them: perfume.

Because when you gather perfumers and their publisher, you can be sure that the conversation will not stray from perfume. It will unfold in anecdotes about the creation of specific scents (a word that Pierre Bourdon "detests," just as he dislikes the term "nose," preferring the expression "perfume composer"), in comments on the creative methods of one or another, in confidences about the composition of a forgotten perfume, or in scholarly remarks on the peculiarities of a molecule.

"In decoration, all mixes of objects are possible as long as their visual impact is similar. All kinds of harmonies can be created without needing homogeneity in style or color."
For publisher Frédéric Malle, it is clear that it is both a joy and a pride to gather so many talents around him, who are also comrades-in-arms and friends. There is a great deal of simplicity and generosity in their relationships—qualities that are quite rare in an industry known to be extremely competitive. It is evident that the star perfumers in this profession do not see themselves as stars.

When asked by Isabelle Giordano about his background, Frédéric Malle modestly tells us that he was fortunate to be born into a world of perfume and culture, two universes that have surrounded him since he was five years old. He describes himself as "a jack-of-all-trades in perfume" (meaning an expert in all facets of the industry). As for the origin of the name of the brand he created 20 years ago, he reveals that the name is a tribute to the company "les nouvelles éditions de films," which his father had created for his uncle, Louis Malle. Regarding his role as a perfume publisher, he defines it as that of a collaborator and a midwife to perfumers, a role very similar to that of his friend, publisher Manuel Carcassonne.

Dominique Ropion

Maurice Roucel

Jean-Claude Ellena

The conversation is filled with numerous anecdotes, such as his encounter with photographer Irving Penn in New York when he worked for Christian Lacroix perfumes, and his interest in the Bauhaus movement, which strongly influenced the spirit and design of the unique bottle in which all the perfumes of the collection are offered.

Each of the perfumers present around the table shared their motivations for joining Frédéric Malle's project in 2000, which is worth noting for its innovative spirit and unique character. Jean-Claude Ellena (creator of BIGARADE CONCENTRÉE in 2002, L’EAU D’HIVER in 2003, and ROSE & CUIR in 2019) paid tribute to Frédéric Malle's contribution to the profession when he had the idea of asking perfumers to sign their creations, thus giving them the status of artists. He pointed out that this is a form of commitment that not all perfumers are ready to make.

Anne Flipo, the latest addition to Frédéric Malle's "club of perfumers", does not hesitate to describe the collaboration as "brilliant," marked by consistently productive exchanges: "we built the story together, as a duo."

Pierre Bourdon

Bruno Jovanovic

Anne Flipo

En réalité, tels des musiciens ou des peintres, les parfumeurs ont chacun leur style et leur écriture qui correspond à leur personnalité. Sur une même idée, « chacun fera un tableau différent », et c’est aussi le talent de Frédéric Malle de savoir proposer telle idée au parfumeur qu’il pressent le meilleur pour la développer.

Pierre Bourdon (IRIS POUDRE en 2000, FRENCH LOVER en 2007) rappelle que le mode de distribution en self-service mis en place dans les années 1990 a eu comme incidence de changer drastiquement la manière de créer le parfum. Ce qu’on appelle les « top notes » sont devenues capitales car destinées à séduire immédiatement la personne qui passe désormais peu de temps à choisir son parfum. On est passé de « la séduction dans la durée », faisant allusion aux qualités premières recherchées dans un parfum qui sont de nimber la personne d’une aura à diffusion lente, « à la séduction pour vendre ». Et c’est pourquoi le projet de Frédéric Malle en 2000 est venu si à propos : il a permis aux grands parfumeurs de revenir à l’essence de leur métier, c’est à dire innover, faire des créations dont ils sont « fiers ». Pour lui, le risque et le courage sont les valeurs indispensables d’un grand parfumeur, comme elles le sont également pour les grands artistes.

Fanny Bal

Julien Rasquinet

As for the "natural versus synthetic" debate, the perfumers and their publisher respond in unison and speak in harmony. They remind us that perfumery is a technological art, given that contemporary perfumery emerged alongside the rise of chemistry in the late 19th century. Grand perfumers like Coty and Guerlain displayed their talents during that era. For Anne Flipo, it's evident that "natural has its limits," and Maurice Roucel openly admits to needing "all the letters to write." So, there's no question of sanctifying the natural ingredient at the expense of the synthetic molecule. The latter is indeed indispensable for bringing certain scents to life. However, both the publisher and the perfumers agree that ecological awareness is crucial, and it's essential to seek renewable sources when using natural ingredients.

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