The Moscow Museum of Modern Art celebrates its 20th anniversary with pomp - the exhibition "99/19", which is curated by 20 professionals from various fields: from chef Vladimir Mukhin to ballet dancer Diana Vishneva, including Ilya Lagutenko, Kirill Serebrennikov and Vladimir Sorokin … Frédéric Malle, founder of Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, is responsible for the perfumery. Just as gallery owners collect paintings, he collects fragrances. Malle used to be a perfumer himself, but in the 90s he left the business. He took up his own brand and created conditions under which talented "noses" could act the way they want, and not as marketers say. What is especially valuable: each bottle has the name of the author. Atypical for fragrances, but normal for works of art.
You seem to have a lot in common with the gallery owners. Collecting fragrances in a brand collection, do you think you are doing art?
- Of course. I work with the best perfumers and clearly understand that they are artists. I do not forbid any experiments. On the contrary, I encourage bold ideas. Only in such conditions are perfumes worthy of being called works of art obtained. A good example is Portrait Of A Lady, which we worked on with my fellow perfumer Dominique Ropion. As a result, the composition seemed too luxurious to us. So much as if it has nothing to do with real life. Let me explain: in our time there is not much chic, so we were afraid that the audience simply would not understand the perfume. But we did not intentionally simplify it. We decided that even if the fragrance does not work commercially, then at least Dominik and I will have something to be proud of. But the audience liked the perfume. And now I understand why. Even in everyday life, there are attributes of luxury. For instance,if you add expensive jewelry to a modest black dress, it will look completely different - beautiful, solemn, elegant. Portrait Of A Lady as a precious accessory. By the way, here in Moscow I met a girl whom he is very suitable for, the actress Renata Litvinova. As if made for her. And I also chose this perfume to perfume my hall at the MMOMA exhibition. There are 11 works by contemporary artists. Out of the impressive list of options offered by the organizers, I liked them the most (including works by Joan Miró and Francisco Infante-Arana. - "RBC Style").actress Renata Litvinova. As if made for her. And I also chose this perfume to perfume my hall at the MMOMA exhibition. There are 11 works by contemporary artists. Out of the impressive list of options offered by the organizers, I liked them the most (including works by Joan Miró and Francisco Infante-Arana. - "RBC Style").actress Renata Litvinova. As if made for her. And I also chose this perfume to perfume my hall at the MMOMA exhibition. There are 11 works by contemporary artists. Out of the impressive list of options offered by the organizers, I liked them the most (including works by Joan Miró and Francisco Infante-Arana. - "RBC Style").
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- How does the work on a perfume begin: do you first compose a formula or are you looking for artistic images, for example, at an exhibition?
- I never start with art. The first step is the formula. But I like to associate a ready-made fragrance with a picture or a song, and sometimes with a person. Before Music For A While had a name, I was driving and listening to a French podcast of classical music. The composition of Henry Purcell “Music For A While” started playing - and there was no doubt about what name to give the new product: the melody took possession of me, and my thoughts went somewhere far away. Just like a lavender perfume. But it happens that I associate a fragrance with a person: I always imagine that a stylish Californian girl is wearing a Carnal Flower.
- People who do not understand art are often guided by the price and are guided by the principle "the more expensive the object, the more it is art." Do you think they are right?
- That is why some people think that any niche is an art. But everything is not so simple here. A good scent doesn't have to be expensive. The main thing is that he conquered, bewitched, addictive. Of course, it is important to understand that the situation in the market for commercial and niche perfumery is different. In the first case, fragrances are released to please everyone, including the price. A lot of money is invested in their advertising. Therefore, people learn about such fragrances quickly - and fall in love with them immediately. And of course, here in the first place is not the composition itself, but the image that marketers create. There are exceptions though. For example, Terre D'Hermes, which Jean-Claude Ellena made for Hermès or Jacques Polge's Coco Mademoiselle for Chanel. Over the past 20 years, there have been few such complex, beautiful, self-contained fragrances on the luxury market. In my opinion,they can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
The niche perfumery segment is a different story. There are, of course, more standing perfumes here. But, as a rule, all these scents make the same "noses". And there is a pseudonisha - this is when perfumers try to arrange a provocation just for the sake of provocation, or they want to seem highly artistic, but in the end they make a bad taste. As a rule, such “specialists” come from the commercial perfumery segment. Simply because they were not talented and hardworking enough to take a high position in a major brand. And now they seem to be trying to make a niche, but they cannot get rid of the bad habit: copy what they have already seen.
- How do you choose which perfumers to work with?
- We have known each other for a long time, are friends and often see many of them in Paris. This Friday, for example, we are meeting with Dominik. By the way, we must not forget to buy movie tickets … So, we love our job. Therefore, discussing matters for us is not boring at all. And recently I saw Jean-Claude Ellena. We gave interviews to Korean journalists. And during the breaks we discussed materials for a new perfume. In the morning there were many questions, but by the end of the day we found interesting solutions.
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- Every artist knows what a creative crisis is. Have you had situations when the work was especially difficult?
- Oh yeah. When Dominic and I were working on Collone Indelebille. It really was not easy for us: 20 attempts, no less. The idea was to show what pure musk smells like. But since this ingredient is used by many brands, we wanted to find a new, gentle sound. It took a long time to choose what to combine it with, and then settled on one of the first versions with white flowers. By the way, I often return to the first versions. Sometimes, if an idea is too good and I painstakingly try to implement it, it turns out in a bad sense of the word, an ideal scent - too emasculated and lifeless. With perfumes, just like with people. Girls rarely fall in love with men who are 100% perfect. Imperfect ones are much more interesting.
- Art beyond time and trends. But why do we so often talk about what perfume ingredients are in fashion right now?
- I believe that perfumery should also be out of trend. Journalists, of course, love to ask: what's the hottest ingredient right now? But fragrances are not about trends. Everything is much simpler. When one brand comes out with a perfume that becomes a bestseller, other market players try to repeat its success. A simple example: Mugler has Angel - a trend for fragrances with gourmand notes. I compare this fashion for specific components to music playing in the background in a restaurant. It does not prevent us from speaking, but it creates additional noise. So, often 30% of the scent is not the voice of the perfumer, but the background music.
There are only 15–20 ingredients that everyone uses now, from woody notes and musk to vanilla and praline. Brands add such notes to perfumes to hedge and please more people. But practice shows that genuine works of perfumery art sound without this background music. They are good on their own, like Shalimar, Guerlain or Chanel No. 5. After all, when you want to do something special, you don't need to look at those who did it before you. Better to turn off the background music - and sound it yourself. This is my principle.>