Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle
How can one create smart, avant-garde perfumes in today’s over-marketed environment? Frédéric Malle believes the solution lies in restoring the free work setting enjoyed by perfumers in the past, so conducive to the development of fragrances we now consider iconic. Malle aims to remove all the obstacles, everything that sooner or later interferes with the creative process. Malle simply asks perfumers to create their “ideal” fragrance and breaks with the usual marketing briefs and cost restrictions. Each of the perfumers’ creations is presented in the same refined, cylindrical bottle, which has become an emblem of Editions de Parfums. There’s absolutely no chance of confusing Editions de Parfums creations with commercial fragrances or so-called made-to-measure scents. Here, the perfumes are full-fledged works of art limited only by the imagination of their composers. Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle acts as a liaison between the public and today’s greatest noses providing an opportunity for customers to own a creation signed by a master.
“Editions de Parfums” can be translated from the French as “Perfume Publishing House” and that was exactly the arrangement Frédéric Malle had in mind. Just as a literary publisher provides an opportunity and infrastructure to enable his authors to write, Malle wanted to offer his perfumers full freedom to express themselves. Frédéric Malle grew up in a family involved in perfumery: his grandfather Serge Heftler founded Parfums Christian Dior. He then worked in the industry himself for years, starting in 1986 at the prestigious perfume creation labs of Roure Bertrand Dupont. Through these experiences he has a deep knowledge of the raw materials used in perfumes and a strong sense of olfactory balance. Malle is an “evaluator”, the insider’s term for the specialist who draws on his understanding of fragrance structure and accords to critique a fragrance composition. Perfumers call on him to assess their works in progress and to exchange ideas. His involvement depends on the project and ranges from total non-intervention to sleeves-rolled-up creative partnerships with the noses.
Fragrance development with Malle is a drawn-out process, typically lasting between 6 and 18 months. Starting from a general idea – an olfactory “sketch” reflecting an emotion, for example, or a mix of two or three raw materials as if they were colors in an abstract painting – the perfumer gradually builds a full-scale composition, tinkering and problem-solving until a perfect balance is achieved. The challenge is to polish and perfect without losing the impact and personality of the original idea.
“Eliminate all that is superfluous, merely decorative” – that is Frédéric Malle’s personal obsession and really the only rule he imposes on the house perfumers. He also requests that each fragrance be designed to embrace the body of each wearer rather than just be a “pretty scent.”
Despite Frédéric Malle’s strong ideas and because Editions de Parfums was created to allow each perfumer the fullest expression of his or her creative ideas and the house perfumers are themselves forceful individuals, their work does not add up to a defined house style. Just the opposite – their creations are of a striking diversity.