Francis Kurkdjian: the king of perfume creation

Hidden behind "Le Mâle" by Jean-Paul Gaultier,"Eau Noire" by Dior and "Rose Barbare" by Guerlain, Francis Kurkdjian is a brilliant man, dynamic, sensitive and smiling. This Armenian man, raised to take great pride of the Republic, addicted to dance, piano and stage, built his career by default (as he says). Hesitating between dance and piano, his heart will finally choose Perfume as a career at the age of 15 years old. Conversation with Katya Pellegrino.
Francis Kurkdjian
Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Portrait

Who is Francis Kurkdjian ?

Born at Brou S/Chantereine in the French countryside, my father was an engineer and my mother was working for the French Education. I've got a lot of admiration for my father who, thanks to his courage and willingness, succeeded in receiving his instruction in a religious school, qualifying himself to reach the job he has (computer engineer). I was really sporty thanks to my mum and dad, i was practicing athleticism, cross country, dance and rhythmic gymnastic. I was addicted to dance on stage cause I could go further. I tried to become a professional dancer but failed at the entrance contest so, after a reading of a VSD article, i fell in love with perfume, 2nd most powerful industry in France. I was also addicted to fashion. I grew up in a loving family, full of respect for their host country, after the Armenian massacre.

Francis Kurkdjian

You studied at Sup de Luxe in Paris, how does it help you ?

When I was 14-15 years old, I already wanted to create perfumes. I wanted to study in a perfume school but my father didn't want it that much so, we made a deal of me studying in a management school (Sup de Luxe) before. At this time, Michel Guten was Lancel CEO and he communicated his human values to me. I was in love with Sup de Luxe great lectures, inviting famous personalities as Elisabeth Guigoux, Alain Dominique Perrin, Alain Boucheron... The school was well-known for its network. During my graduation ceremony, I was congratulated for my essay about perfume industry and Chantal Roos was there (woman behind the success of Opium by YSL, Odyssée by Issey Miyake...). I was introduced to her and then, we had a meeting where she told me about a project to create a new fragrance for Jean-Paul Gaultier : "Le Mâle" was born...

Le Mâle Jean-Paul Gaultier
Le Mâle by Jean-Paul Gaultier

What did you do after such a success?

Seeing the worldwide success of "Le mâle", I was living a dream. Then, I faced several failures that helped me renewing myself. I learnt how to concentrate at best to create and not fail. In this job, there is no concession at all.
After "Le Mâle", I went to New York for three years and a half, working for Quest House. "Green Tea" was my second success, created for Elizabeth Arden in New York.

What is your inspiration to create a fragrance?

My inspiration comes from my past, my memories. I've got such a background helping me to renew myself. To me, working is reflecting above all. As a musician does, I write my partition to create .

What is your definition of perfume?

He's linked to the verb, the word, humanity. He's caused by humans. To me, the humanity expresses itself olfactively.

Eau Noire Dior
Eau Noire by Dior

In 2001, you created your own perfume workshop...

I was the first one to create an on-demand workshop. I started feeling bad and frustrated not to work directly with brands but creating in my little corner. I would have loved to be part of a House. The tailor-made helped me in abandoning these frustrations and free myself. My role model for that is Karl Lagerfeld, the way he sees fashion and re-invents it. "L'Atelier" allows me to understand what I am capable of.

Is the creation of a fragrance a kind of art?

An artist and a perfumer don't have the same status. A craftsman is not paid on a project but a perfumer is. According to Kant, art is not the representation of a beautiful thing but, the beautiful representation of a thing! To me, there is an art of perfume but perfume is not an art. Perfume is a decorative art that is broken down in the time. By contrast, perfume demands an artistic approach.

What are your upcoming projects?

I launched a perfumed leatherwork. I was inspired by a book about perfume from the 17th Century. I created a playback of the expertise from the 17th Century with small pockets, business card holders made of crocodile...

Francis Kurkdjian
Pieces of leatherwork by Francis Kurkdjian House

What do you think of The Scent, first event dedicated to niche and Art fragrances in Dubai (January 23rd - 25th 2018 ) ?

I really think it's a beautiful idea to organize this fair dedicated to niche fragrances, promoting the knowledge and hard work of unrecognized perfumers who will promote their fragrances, rare ingredients and original bottles to the Middle East and International Market.
Décembre 2017
Maison Francis Kurkdjian
5 Rue d'Alger, 75001 Paris

Francis Kurkdjian House creations:

A la rose, Féminin pluriel, Amyris, APOM, Lumière Noire, Le Beau Parfum, Aqua Vitae, Aqua Universalis, 754, Oud Silk Mood, Oud Satin Mood, Oud Velvet Mood, Oud Cashmere Mood, Oud, Cologne pour le matin, Absolue pour le matin, Cologne pour le soir, Absolue pour le soir.

His creations for several brands:

Jean Paul Gaultier Le Mâle, 1995
Elizabeth Arden Green Tea, 1999
Jean Paul Gaultier Fragile, 1999
Escada Lily Chic, year 2000 Edition
Lancôme Miracle Homme, 2001
Versace Versus Time for pleasures, 2002
Yves Saint Laurent Kouros Eau d'été, 2002
Giorgio Armani Armani Mania, 2002
Kenzo KenzoKi Lotus blanc, 2002
Lancôme Miracle Homme l'Aquatonic, 2003
Narciso Rodriguez For Her (en collaboration avec Christine Nagel), 2003
Versace Jeans couture Glam, 2003
Van Cleef & Arpel Summer and Autumn, 2004
Yves Saint Laurent Kouros Cologne Sport, 2004
Iris Nobile d'Acqua di Parma (en collaboration avec Françoise Caron), 2004
Emanuel Ungaro Apparition (with Françoise Caron), 2004
Joop! Muse, 2004
Lancaster Aquazur, 2004
Cologne Blanche and Eau Noire de Dior, 2005
Silver Shadow by Davidoff, 2005
Guerlain Rose Barbare, 2005
Jean Paul Gaultier Gaultier Puissance2, 2005
Lancaster Aquasun, 2005
Lanvin Rumeur, 2006
Ferragamo F by Ferragamo, 2006
C'est la fête by Christian Lacroix (with Jean Jacques), 2007
Emanuel Ungaro Le Parfum, 2007
Indult Isvaraya, 2007 - Manakara, 2007 - Thiota, 2007
Jean Paul Gaultier Fleur du Mâle, 2007
Juliette Has a Gun Miss Charming, 2007 - Lady Vengeance, 2007
Narciso Rodriguez For Him, 2007
Indult Isvaraya for Colette C16, 2008
Jean Paul Gaultier Eau d'Amour, 2008 - Ligne de beauté Monsieur (with Nathalie Le Cann), 2008 - MaDame, 2008