Creating art and selling out
Art, Frederic Malle argues, is in demand. “Why do we want to hang a painting on our walls and look at it day after day? Because it gives an amazing energy, because it’s a moment in that artist’s existence. Fragrances are works of art – you get to wear that energy.”
The Frenchman’s thoughts on fragrances are worth listening to. The nephew of film director Louis Malle and grandson of the founder of Parfums Christian Dior revolutionised the industry in 2000 by launching a company that works directly with ‘noses’ to create the distinct and unusual, however long it takes. He revives unfashionable ingredients and explores new ones. Packaging is minimal, marketing non-existent.
If that sounds like a recipe for unprofitability, it hasn’t been. Indeed, last January his company was acquired by Lauder – a move which, he says, has enhanced his independence since this creative spirit is precisely what the cosmetics giant has bought into. The company is now on a store expansion drive, opening in London last summer.
Certainly Malle argues that there is, at last, a move away from the mass-marketed, celebrity-endorsed fragrances back to their original conception.
“A good fragrance is a luxury and luxury is not cheap,” he says. “But it lasts. You want to enjoy it. My suit was made in 1999. It wasn’t cheap. Yet I’m still wearing it. That’s the same kind of value people want with fragrances now. Soon celebrities are going to have to go back to acting again.”