Frédéric Malle, joined in conversation by Perfumer Carlos Benaïm, will speak about design, the creative process, the fragrances themselves, and their ingredients and histories. Following their presentation Rosetta Elkin, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at Harvard GSD, will join the two for a question/answer period and discussion.
Carlos Benaïm (left image) was born in Tangier, Morocco, and spent his childhood in close contact with natural ingredients that gave him a taste for beauty. He studied chemistry at the University of Toulouse and the Ecole Nationale Superieure de Chemie in Toulouse before joining International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc. (IFF), based in New York. At IFF he would create several major fragrances for the cosmetics industry, including Polo Green and Polo Blue by Ralph Lauren, Euphoria and Eternity for Men by Calvin Klein, White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor, Fierce by Abercrombie & Fitch, Jasmin Noir by Bulgari, Prada Amber by Prada, Armani Code for Women by Giorgio Armani, Flowerbomb and Spicebomb by Viktor & Rolf, and others. For his work he has won nine FiFi awards and a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Perfumers; in 2013 he was named the first Master Perfumer at IFF; in 2014 he was named perfumer of the year.
You have seen successes and failures for a lifetime. What makes the difference? It takes many different things, of course, but the one irreducible piece is that you have to give something of yourself. The fragrance has to have a piece of oneself. You try to please the consumer and you suddenly have to listen and understand the customer and consumer preferences deeply. But I have found that what really moves the consumer is when they feel the intense emotional involvement of the perfumer behind his creation. Perfume is more than a product. At its best, it is a piece of art; and I would call that the power of the creative mind. Paradoxically the other irreducible fact is the power of collaboration, because nobody does it alone. —From Carlos Benaïm’s acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award at Fragrance Foundation awards, 2014.
Frédéric Malle (right image) was born in Paris into a family deeply involved in perfume and the arts, including his grandfather, who worked closely with Dior to create Parfums Christian Dior; his mother, who was art director of the Dior house of fragrance; and his uncle, the film director Louis Malle. After studying art history at NYU, seeking to master every aspect of the perfume trade, Frédéric Malle worked at French ad agency Havas International and at fragrance lab Roure under master perfumer Jean Amic before establishing Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle in Paris in 2000, which soon expanded to department stores and stand-alone boutiques in New York, Rome, and London.
Rejecting the norms of mass produced fragrance, seeking a return to luxury and creativity, Malle has kept his company on a carefully controlled scale in order to empower the fragrance creators while offering the customer an exceptional experience. He has developed his fragrances through collaborations with well-known master perfumers of today, including Dominique Ropion, Jean-Claude Ellena, Maurice Roucel, Olivia Giacobetti, Pierre Bourdon, Edmond Roudnitska, and Michel Roudnitska.
Malle regards fragrance creation as analogous to publishing a book, with the nose as the author, the name of the fragrance as the title, and himself as editor in chief. This metaphor inspired the sophisticated yet restrained brand identity of Editions de Parfums. His shop interiors—including the Greenwich Village store designed with architect Steven Holl—include Malle’s own invention: the “smelling column” that first appeared in the boutique in Barney’s New York, which allow a customer to experience the scent and appreciate its complexity in isolation from the surrounding air.
So much money is spent on marketing and ensuring that the scent will sell in large quantities that the actual fragrance quality is lost and the creative freedom of the perfumer is stifled.
Supported by the Rouse Visiting Artist Fund.
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