We love fragrances, we love so many things about them, we especially love the ‘story’ behind the creation of the fragrance, we love to getting caught up of how it came to be, so we can spritz it on and be whisked away to a secret garden or a romantic date in some exotic location feeling like we’re the only people who exist in the world right then. Not only the story, there’s something so luxurious in the way a delicate perfume settles onto your skin, you inhale the scented notes as they layer their way onto your skin, how they do that is intoxicating to say the least. We love fragrances so much that often we forget how much hard work and devotion goes into creating each perfume so we jumped at the chance to look into the life and inspiration of Dior’s head perfumer, Francois Demachy.
Francois Demachy grew up in the 1950s in Grasse, a beautiful town in the French Alps Maritimes region. He acknowledges that his childhood was the most influential in shaping his future and the way he came to perceiving the world around him. He said, “In Grasse, you are constantly confronted with perfume, whether to you like it not. In my youth, the flower trucks would come down in August and the fragrance of lavender would float through the air”. As Francois grew up, his father ran a pharmacy, which in those times was the only place one could purchase perfume, so Francois was truly raised in a world of perfume.
As he grew older, he eventually had the opportunity to work in perfume factories to begin working his way up in the industry, and by 1972 he was invited to enrol at the perfumery school of the factory to which he had dedicated his youth. After finishing his training, he worked with Chanel until he finally came to the helm of the Louis Vuitton Group, heading the Dior fragrance department.
When it comes to developing a new fragrance, Francois paints a rather romantic tale:
“We are like musicians in the end, and we can play perfumes in a certain styles – it’s like classical music”, he says. Creating fragrances, however, is not as simple as picking scents and blending them together. The perfume world is constantly changing, especially now that new synthetic compounds are being introduced and science is making developments in the extraction and distillation of natural substances. With all this science to consider, Francois still finds a truly sentimental heart to draw his inspiration – in his spare time he loves to ‘collect’ emotions by attending shows, visiting museums and going to the opera. His biggest inspiration of all, however, is his love for women.
“I need the image of a woman to inspire me – a woman I find attractive, a fantasy woman. If you don’t love women, you can’t create perfumes. Perfume is seduction, an extension of the process”.
He stresses though, that the image of the woman is not all that matters. He often has a certain woman in mind when creating a fragrance, but believes the fragrances changes personality dependent on its individual wearer.
“I don’t like to put personality on my fragrances,” he says, “I much rather that the individual woman choose the one she feels the best having on her skin”.
Francois is especially loyal to Dior, his beloved brand. To him, Dior represents true eclecticism and the surmounting of new and daring adventures. He characterises their fragrances by the use of high-quality products, which helps to set them apart in a market saturated with fragrances. He loves using natural ingredients, but he is also open-minded to the constantly developing realm of synthetic ingredients and their use in the modern perfume world.
He answered a few quick questions below about his super sensual perception of fragrances:
What is the perfume of tomorrow?
Francois: The perfume of tomorrow will be made of only the purest, most luxurious and most natural ingredients, but it will still be hedonistic and abstract.
What is the fragrance you hold close to your heart?
Francois: The perfume my mother wore, Miss Dior.
How many different scents can you differ? 1’000? More? Just that I know about the relations. Do you train your nose?
Francois: It’s difficult to say but what I can say if that as a perfumer, I need to be very familiar with (be able to recognize and imagine) the 350 – 400 different products with which I work all the time. But I have more than 1500 different ones at my disposal that I have been exposed to at least once. Everyday I train myself and my nose – for instance each day I do a blind smelling test of ten products
Do you recommend using different perfume for day time and night time? What kinds of fragrances? Or maybe it is better to use the one favorite perfume for all day long?
Francois: This is a very personal choice. I personally prefer to wear lighter, cologne-like fragrances in the morning and during the day and heavier fragrances in the evening. But there are no rules in perfumery, thankfully! Each person should wear what perfume fits their mood and their desires.
Are the briefings you are given very specific? Is there a particular person to whom you submit your just-created perfumes, someone you hold in the highest esteem?
Francois: Yes, they are relatively precise, but they often resemble each other to a certain extent. However, I am more interested in the universe in which the perfume is described. The vocabulary used gives me ideas, and certain words are more significant than others. For instance, the word “mystery” brings to my mind certain products and, by association, the word “springtime” evokes others. So it is more the terms used to describe the perfume, as well as the name it is given, that encourage my creativity. As for who I submit my trials, I must say that the people in my entourage are very important, even those who have nothing to do with perfume. The opinions of all of them are vital to me and their criticisms are even more precious.
What are your thoughts, and Dior’s, regarding the use of natural vs. synthetic ingredients? Is there a difference in quality?
Francois: I don’t compare them or oppose the two because I believe that there are high quality synthetics just as there are high quality natural ingredients. I would say that synthetics need naturals more than naturals need synthetics, but the two are both vital elements in perfumery. At Dior I like to use many naturals but I need the synthetics to reinforce and enhance the structure of my fragrances.
A smell from your childhood?
Francois: The smell of the jasmine fields in Grasse.
You have created many perfumes, and major ones at that. But is there a fragrance that you still dream of capturing?
Francois: Roses! Up to now it hasn’t worked, but I would so like to capture the precise scent of roses. There are so many varieties and each is perfectly exquisite. Their aromas reveal everything about them: their shape, their color, their character. And just when you think you know them inside out, there are always surprises, new things to discover in roses. For someone who is in the profession, the ultimate perfume can only ever be the next one to be created. But roses are a different matter altogether, and more. No doubt they are my fantasy perfume. Perhaps I’m better off never actually attempting to create such a perfume; this way the desire will remain intact.
Dior’s latest fragrance to arrive on counters is J’Adore Voile de Parfum, you can read about it here.
Ahhhh Dior, we love you so.
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