Fragrances, just like fashion, is a reflection of the times and its wearer. Typically, during the summer, we celebrate zesty and refreshing essences. This holds especially true for individuals who lead very active lifestyles. This was the common case in past years, before the Coronavirus pandemic hit, forcing the entire world to stay locked down in their homes.
This time of year marks the peak of summer in the Philippines, where, for over 50 days now, people have been quarantined in their residences. Garments for going out as well as the designer accessories we once called “must-haves” are, much like the parties and events, cancelled. These days, fashion and beauty consumers are more interested in products that add comfort to the fact that they must stay home. “I still wear my fragrances sometimes. Just cause,” shared a good friend, Fons.
As with all other industries, the business of fragrance is learning to adapt to unprecedented times. Beyond reacting to the crisis, they are looking forward and ahead towards a new world order that is poised for drastic changes in consumption behavior and patterns. Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s CEO and Co-Creator, Marc Chaya, begins, “Our maison has demonstrated resilience in an economic environment disrupted by serious and tragic health crises that have led to the closure of boutiques and point of sales in most countries” That the company was born during the great financial crisis of 2009 says volumes about the team’s ability to adapt and thrive during difficult times. “We have kept, since inception, a lean and agile organization backed by strong talents focused on our brand fundamentals: creativity, craftsmanship and authenticity. I would like to think that those fundamentals are agnostic to a crisis environment.”
At the core of these ideals at Maison Francis Kurkdjian is its very own master perfumer, Francis Kurkdjian. Beyond creating fragrances as a cosmetic or beauty product, he crafts scents the way a tailor would his best suit. Marc affirms, “Our fragrance collection is thought as a fragrance wardrobe where each scent is designed to fit a certain mood, occasion. That way, men and women are able to express themselves through perfume.”
Emotions and Experiences Over Trends
The creative process for Francis anchors heavily on experiences so that every new scent tells a story or conveys real emotion. “My sources of inspiration include culture, art, fashion, couture and my own personal experience and vision.” The deep personal association that Francis brings into his creations make his body of work timeless and enduring—even during a crisis. He expounds, “I stay away from trends. I follow my artistic vision and feeling about the contemporary world we live in. I want clients to feel different and not be concerned about wearing something that’s outdated. I want to give them the freedom to create their own fragrance wardrobe.” It is this connection with emotion and personal experiences that add value to the scents from Maison Francis Kurkdjian. Francis adds with candor, “Following trends can wash out creativity and make people feel as though everybody should do the same thing.
Return To Extraordinary Craft With Soul
Seasonal cycles in the luxury world, for many years, effected a rapid, hurried pace on craft and creation. At Maison Francis Kurkdjian, letting a good idea marinate, gestate and evolve has and continues to be a non negotiable. Francis explains, “It takes up to 18 months to create a new fragrance. First, there is a time of reflection during which I envision the creative territory I want to explore. At this stage it is not about the scent itself, it is about its purpose, meaning. Perfume is truly a mirror of our time in a very unique sensory way.”
The master perfumer also reveals that during this creative process the name of the scent precedes the actual creation of the fragrance. “It sums up what I want to say, the emotion I felt and the story that I want to tell.” Only then will the visionary begin working on the formula and selecting essences to bring to life his masterpiece.
Year of La Rose and relevance of fragrances post lockdown
His latest creation, L’Eau A La Rose, is homage to the female empowerment. Francis reimagines the timeless bloom into a contemporary sensorial experience infusing delicate rose essences with tangy essences of pear and lychee. Francis explains, “It is a modern approach to a them that is sometimes seen as old fashioned: rose in fragrance… with this scent I wanted to design the olfactive territory of a modern rose.”
The perfumer is confident that scents will remain relevant even as we define the beauty and wellness landscape post-COVID. “I believe fresh fragrances will remain very popular. Freshness is a universal concept. It conveys a feeling of cleanness and health, which, with the current situation will be a key value. It makes you feel good, and gives an overall feeling of wellbeing and comfort.” More to his point, dear friend and respected work colleague Suki who is an avid collector of fragrances shares, “In the last 50 days of quarantine, I’ve used an EDT five times just to remind me of my old normal. I’ve switched to an EDG and Eau Fraiche just because it’s sweltering hot.”
A New Fragrance Experience
Adapting to a new global retail eco-system will be the focus for Maison Francis Kurkdjian, although this has been in the works even before the crisis hit. “We are seeing strong momentum, whether through our own website or through our partner online retailers,” says Marc. The challenge, he details, will lie greatly in recreating a new customer experience where “safety becomes a key enabler.” Other items apart form the body scents are also of key interest for consumers—home fragrances, scented soaps and candles.
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Costs will also be cut significantly with launches being moved to 2021. As this develops, Francis reveals that he is coming up with new scents for the years 2021 and 2022. It is indication of the continued and unchanged focus of the label to “create uplifting journeys through fragrances.” When asked what his next scent story will be about, he responds, “You will have to wait and find out what is to come!”
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