Hubert Burda Media

Prints Charming

There is no compromise in the art of perfumery, says FRÉDÉRIC MALLE. 

Your concept of getting the best in the industry to create fragrances with no limit in cost or timeline is new to Singapore. What made you certain that it would work here?
Frédéric Malle is a publishing house for perfumers. We launch when we are ready. I am adamant about this because that is the level of luxury I believe in. When I met Michael Tay (of Malmaison by The Hour Glass), I found him to be a sophisticated man with impeccable taste who understood my philosophy completely. If he is successful in Asia, then Asia is ready for our concept of perfumery.
How is the process of fragrance selection at your counters like?
Our fragrance specialists go through a series of questions with the clients. We try to assess their personality and have a better idea of their character. It’s a process of elimination till we arrive at something that they love.
How do you select your team of perfumers?
I used to pick perfumers whose fragrances I admired such as Pierre Bourdon of Davidoff Cool Water. Being a consultant in the industry also meant that I knew them personally and we had tremendous mutual respect for each other. Today, mass market perfumery has become grossly uninteresting and young perfumers are not given the proper space to express themselves. This makes them hard to spot so I depend on recommendations from senior perfumers who are usually my friends.
You’re said to be against the idea of bespoke fragrances, why?
A real bespoke fragrance is something that starts from a white sheet of paper to arouse one’s ideas or desires. People who want bespoke fragrances don’t have either [laughs]. It’s like asking Picasso to create an artwork based on your idea which will result in something awful. To me, they might as well buy fragrances that are the best in the category made with the finest ingredients with no limits — like how fragrances are made at Frédéric Malle.
Is the perfume industry as whimsical as it seems?
Not in the way people think; but it is fascinating as it involves top-notch chemists who are brilliant at what they do. I am happy to give recognition to each of them, which is why you’ll find their names printed on the bottle.
Celebrities as ambassadors — yay or nay?
I don’t need it. If I were to work with one, I would rather the person be a real source of inspiration and not merely rent his or her name and ride on their fame. If I click with someone, I would consider working with him or her.
Your grandfather founded Parfum Christian Dior. What were his wisest words to you?
There is no compromise in perfumery.
What was he known for?
His love for women.
Top advice for picking a scent?
Don’t think of the brand; think about the product. Ask yourself: “Do I like this? Can I wear it every day? Would I be comfortable? Is it me or my best friend?”
Your first fragrance?
Baby Dior. It was made for me by my mum.
Scent obsession of the moment?
Sandalwood. Last year it was patchouli.
Your idea of an ultimate indulgence?
Being asleep in my bed.