“Albert [Elbaz] came to me with the worst, and the most beautiful, sentence: he said that he wanted to make the smell of a dress, of the inside of a dress,” says Frédéric Malle, the founder of Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle and the man who many agree has given perfumery its punch back, as he recounts working on his most recent collaboration.
Launched in 2000, Malle, who comes from fragrant stock (his grandfather founded Parfums Christian Dior), is the “editor” of a carefully considered list of perfumes each authored by a highly skilled nose. Malle’s emphasis on shining a spotlight on the nose – on the person behind the fragrance – has evolved into a new range of fragrance portraits that encapsulate the essence of creatives who inspire him. Dries Van Noten was the first to be captured by Malle in 2013 and now, four years later, it is the turn of fellow fashion designer Alber Elbaz to be “painted”.
Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe
Having worked at Guy Laroche, Yves Saint Laurent and Lanvin, Elbaz designs for women to look powerful, beautiful and intelligent. He makes classic dresses with a weird and funky spin; like a spooky onyx gemstone suspended on a voile covered décolleté. An Elbaz perfume would be architectural, timeless, classical, it would be “all about making other people feel beautiful” says Malle.
Working with the nose Dominique Ropion – the man behind the hugely successful Portrait of a Lady and Carnal Flower fragrances and who “is probably the best existing perfumer today” – Malle has found the essence of Elbaz in a floral aldehydic, one of the most architecturally complex and classical smelling of perfumes. “Of course, the great floral aldehydes are Chanel No. 5, Lanvin’s Arpège, Estée Lauder’s White Linen and no one has touched this type of fragrance for years,” explains Malle. And Superstitious, the name Malle and Elbaz agreed upon for the scent, is elegant, overtly feminine, like the draping of an Elbaz dress it’s dries down into a sensuous, naughty, powdery scent. The notes of Turkish rose, Egyptian jasmine, patchouli grow together and intertwine like a climbing plant, never quite overwhelming one another, almost imperceptible from the earthy, dirtier, punkier smells of amber, sandalwood, vetiver, musk and apricot skin.
Of Elbaz’s bottle illustration, a golden eye, Malle explains, “The packaging in black, deep black like a lacquer – there is nothing more classical than that. Then you have strict gold edging and then there is a scribble, as though done by a child. A talented child, not the average child. To me this is Albert: he embodies the duality between the serious and the playful.”
Superstitious is available now, exclusively at Liberty, £158 for 50ml, and worldwide 1 April.