Kurkdjian comes full circle with his latest projects.
If you’re in any way interested in perfumes, you have likely smelled the creations of Francis Kurkdjian. The French-Armenian master perfumer has a flare for captivating generations with his chemistry. He has been an industry staple for fragrance enthusiasts for three decades, creating some of the world’s most well-known and best-selling scents.
These days, the perfumer is working on an incredible array of projects that promises to meld together his personal history with that of iconic cities like New York and Versailles. Kurkdjian tells us about his start as a perfumer and gives us a peek into what he is concocting next.
Behind The Master
Born in Paris, Kurkdjian originally dreamed of being a ballet dancer but found himself infatuated with his sister’s perfume collection at 13 or 14 years old, sparking a lifelong love for the craft. Supported by his family, Kurkdjian began his journey as an aspiring perfumer. “My aunt bought me some essential oils out of the pharmacy nearby where I live and I started to mix,” he tells Vogue Philippines, “…I still have the notes.”
At 21, the ambitious youngster entered the Institut Supérieur International du Parfum, de la Cosmétique et de l’Aromatique Alimentaire or ISIPCA, a world-renowned perfume school located in none other than the city of Versailles, which housed the likes of King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and Napoleon Bonaparte. The school was founded by Jean-Jacques Guerlain, in 1970.
Just two years after he graduated, at 24 years of age, Kurdijan went on to create the scent called Le Male for designer Jean Paul Gaultier. This went on to become the best-selling perfume in the world, solidifying the perfumer’s status in the industry as a tour de force.
He has since gone on to design fragrances for the likes of Burberry, Elie Saab, and Narciso Rodriguez, and founded his eponymous fragrance house Maison Francis Kurkdjian in 2009. His scent, Baccarat Rouge 540, was originally released in 2015 for a limited run but became so well-loved that it eventually became part of his permanent line of fragrances. After being picked up by TikTok, and despite Kurkdjian not even being on the platform himself, Baccarat Rouge went on to be known as “The scent of 2021.”
Pièce de Résistance
Despite an impressive three decades in the industry, Kurkdjian is showing no signs of slowing down his craft and eagerness to create. “I start off with an idea. Trying to think [of different] types of feelings,” he says. Yet he tells us how some scents and emotions continue to elude him. “Conceptual feelings like peace and love and happiness, I would say [these are] impossible feelings to capture because they are very personal.”
This year, besides being named the creative director of Christian Dior Parfums, he released a brand new fragrance under his own label called “724,” which was inspired by urban landscapes and big cities like New York.
“I have a special link to New York,” the perfumer says to us, “because I used to live in New York and I lived there for four years.”
Garden of Delight
In March 2023, one of Kurkdjian is bringing to life a project that marks the full circle of his career. Returning to the city where he learned his craft, Kurkdjian finds himself in collaboration with the Palace of Versailles itself to open the Perfumer’s Garden, alongside Châteauneuf Orangery.
The Palace’s overflowing and lush gardens have long been associated with the birthplace of the perfumer’s profession. Fragrances were infused with every aspect possible of the court’s lives, from scented fans and gloves to personal hygiene.
With the help of Maison Francis Kurkdjian, the former glory of these gardens will be restored for a new era of admirers to see. Come 2023, the Trianon gardeners will have everything from Japanese cherry blossoms to roses, jasmine, and hyacinth will be in full bloom.