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quarta-feira, 2 de março de 2016

Monsieur, the New Masculine Fragrance of Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

by: Serguey Borisov

The outstanding perfume art director Frederic Malle visited Moscow in the beginning of February 2016. The reason was a new start for Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle in Russia (now with all the mighty forces of Estee Lauder Inc behind it). The occasion was the launch of Monsieur, the new masculine fragrance. It should be noted that the visit was not part of promotional world tour – the genial perfume producer Mr. Malle came to present the new Monsieur only to Moscow. I was lucky enough to be able to ask some questions and hear the explanations of Frederic Malle about his new fragrance, the history of the house and on the state of perfumery in general, and I would like to share some of them here.
Out of all perfumers in the world, Frederic Malle chose perfumer Bruno Jovanovic to be the creator of the new fragrance. Bruno is one of the few young perfumers who are able to work from scratch (the talented Olivier Polge, now engaged in Chanel, has also been mentioned). The collaboration of the perfumer and the art-director began with scented candles (Marius & JeannetteNotre Dame, and Chez Monsieur), continued with a very long creative process for a Dries Van Noten fragrance, and now they created the new fragrance Monsieur Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle.
Frederic Malle: "I`ve been working with Bruno for 5 years now. It was a challenge for him, as he was going to be put next to Dominique (Ropion), Pierre Bourdon, Jean-Claude Ellena – all the guys that have been working with me. I gave them the  freedom to create and then you know what happened – my collection came about. People will compare his work with the creations already in my collection. I gave him a choice as to what to work with and his favorite raw material is one of the most classical raw materials: patchouli. I love patchouli, I always wanted to make one, so we agreed on that. We decided to make a patchouli more inclined for men, so that was the first brick in the foundation.
And then the idea was to do a patchouli as we did a tuberose in our Carnal Flower, using what you could call a Photoshopped raw material: extend the legs, add good make up. To do that, we started with the selection of a fine material - a product ofmolecular distillation called Patchouli Coeur, created by IFF. Next, we basically gave them a better top, good-looking top notes – so we chose mandarine and mandarine aldehyde. We knew that in the past there were some patchouli perfumes where the material worked with aldehydes very well, so that's why we chose a beginning like that.
Then we stepped back - because that's how we always work - and we started working on the base – adding incense to some beautiful synthetic ambers like Amber Xtreme. They are used in many modern fragrances today, and if you choose them well, they are very good and it gives a great diffusion to the fragrances, you can feel it. We also added  some sweet Sucrasol – which is all about vanilla and caramel, but not exactly vanilla. And I think from one company to another the material name is different. It brings a round feeling and some sweetness, which we wanted because the fragrance contains just an enormous amount of patchouli. There is no fragrance on the market that contains about 50% of it, nor has there ever been.
Then, to put things together, we decided to create a sort of leathery effect, but today with the new IFRA regulations that`s a complicated thing, so we worked with suede. To get a suede effect, bizarrely enough, most perfumers use saffron, I mean Safranal, an excellent materialwhich has helped us to make a fresh saffron-suedeaccord that extends all the way to the patchouli base notesAnd the last thing we did,to tie all the initial notes together, was adding a quite rarely used materialwhich is slightly pricey and unusual - it enhances an alcoholic liqueur shadealready present in patchouli in trace amounts: rhum absolute. Those are all the mechanics of the scent,its engine if you want. So if I`d picture that chronologically: Mandarine, Mandarine Aldehyde, Rhum Absolute, then a lot of Patchouli, then you have the Suede, and finally, all that ambery vanilla. And there`s a little bit of musk in the back, for rounding the edges; it almost has no smell, but it blurs the sides. You know when you want that certain piano sound, you step on the pedal? Or the trumpet mute. I mean that the musk does that thing. That`s the mechanic of it.
Richard AvedonDovima with elephants, 1955
Often when I work on a fragrance, I sort of see a silhouette… Do you remember the Avedon picture of the very beautiful girl in a Dior dress designed by Yves Saint-Laurent –  the girl between two elephants? I had this image when I worked on Portrait of A Lady. And I was like “well, she should be like that”. To me that`s the way to work, because it`s my job – to keep perfumers on track, to stay on track.
When you work on a fragrance, you try things and then there`s always the opportunity to change the course, thinking “oh, that would be pretty!” And there’re so many fragrances, especially on the niche market, where you can almost hear all those “oh, that’s pretty, let's go there!”
I think that one of the strong things we do with Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle is that we decide to do something and we stick with it, trying to make it as beautiful as we can (it could always be better but we really aim at our best) in that chosen direction. And if we want to do something else, we do another fragrance. But you can’t do ten things at the same time. When creating Monsieur I had before my eyes the image of my father's friendsfamous people of that time - Visconti, Agnelli dePortago, Mark BirlaDark-haired man who were naturally elegant but in a very informal way, they were never trying, they were never too much, and they were actually quite successful with the girls but they never tried too hard. They had so much style but it looked effortless. I had their image in my mind – and every image has a smell to me. That`s why now we add an image to the fragrance – which is actually a piece of one of the suits I wear. But it`s the illustration I had in my head, shot by one of the best photographers.
I could go even further – yes, I smell colors, and see smells. A lot of people do; see the fragrance, hear the fragrance, smell the colours, etc. – it works like that for me, too.
For instance, at the moment I work with Dominique Ropion on something new and I sort of disliked something that to me smelled RED. I have a perfumer education and know materials well, but in this case I didn't quite understand what it was, and I did not want to look into the formula as it makes you less neutral, so I told him: “There`s something RED in it that needs to go!”, and he understood me perfectly!

From this long citation of the great Frédéric Malle, in which he describes the perfume's development so perfectly, let’s turn to the perfume itself. If I would have been asked to describe the unique Monsieur with one sentence – it would be a laconic paradox like: “He left the room, and stayed in it”. Let me explain in more detail. As an art director, Frédéric Malle creates neoclassic French perfumes – a new interpretation of the classic forms in French perfumery. Classic in that it brings the perfect harmony and concision – there’s no need to repeat, to amplify, to duplicate, or to decorate with frills; a classical forms appears when one “cuts off all unnecessary things” to find the simplest formula.This is the secret of Monsieur's uniqueness, not some unique combination of notes and accords. The perfume smells new due to the most contemporary perfume materials – yes, already used in other fragrances, for other occasions, chosen for their own purposes. Patchouli Coeur as the purest form of Patchouli oil, Safranal instead of leathery Birch tar or quinolines, Amber Xtreme instead of real ambergris tincture, Sucrasol instead of sweet balsamic vanilla and vanillin, new synthetic musks instead of musk tincture, mandarin and tangerine aldehyde instead of bergamot.
Indeed, the wonderful future of perfumery is in the hands of chemists. Replace the unique and most modern perfume raw materials with the old things – all at once, or one at a time – and if you can create harmonious scents, they will be different perfumes of the same subject. Patchouli – Amber – Saffron – Vanilla – Musk. The accord could be the starting point for perfumes you might find in Montale andBoadicea The Victorious collections, from Rich Hippie and Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab to Christian Dior and Molinard (more than five hundred patchouli perfumes in the Fragrantica database!).
“What, you think we've never smelled patchouli perfumes?” I am sure that you did. And if you do not like patchouli – that is not a reason for hasty opinions. Do not rush to hang tags if you do not see the beauty, or do not understand it. It’s just a different and special patchouli perfume and not “another patchouli fragrance” or “another Oriental fragrance for the Middle Eastern market”. (Actually, it`s far removed from musky noise).
The issue of quality is usually limited by the ability to see, hear or feel the quality  – otherwise, it would seem that the king is always naked. Fashionistas would distinguish the quality of Burberry trench coats from the quality of a Banana Republic trench just by touch. Wine lovers will discern the nuances of a good Riesling and simple table wine by taste and smell. Music fans will perfectly hear the priorities of a warm tube sound compared to pure and harsh digital sound. People who know patchouli of different origins and types would immediately feel the difference in the scent of Patchouli Coeur, which has a powerful and clear woody smell without any musty, camphor, or moldy basement shades. And this difference can be felt inMonsieur – a fit, elegant, respectable, structured and easy-going fragrance. If you are not a patchouli fan, and really want to understand it, you just need two products of different execution for simultaneous comparison, and some time, accuracy and attention to details. If you do not want to understand - just set it aside, and smell something else, something from your own favorite families.
At a meeting with journalists, Frédéric Malle mentioned a man who was his father's friend. He did not have knowledge of notes and fragrances, but he always wore vetiver scents, and he used all the vetivers on the market. He did not know what vetiver was, where and how it grows, what it smells like and what it combines best with and he had no signature cologne, he wore different colognes – but he always unerringly chose those with a prominent vetiver note, even when it was not specified in the title. TheMonsieur just knew what he liked. And he knew a thing or two about elegance.

Photo: Jane Wonder;  Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle.

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