Frédéric Malle Celebrates The Big 1-0 At Barneys
Frédéric Malle’s long-standing relationship with Barneys is one of the more successful partnerships the retailer can lay claim to. “We have stars at Barneys, then we have superstars, and Frédéric is one of our superstars,” the store’s CEO, Mark Lee, said at a dinner last night at his home, where friends and fans had gathered to toast ten years of Editions Frédéric Malle in the U.S. “We make a good couple,” Malle replied modestly, even though the success he has had with his range of fine fragrance is certainly deserving of a little bit of bragging.
“What I like to do is new things—to break boundaries,” Malle admits, which is presumably why he has managed to attract the talents of some of the world’s most renowned perfumers, like Maurice Roucel and Dominique Ropion, who are given carte blanche to produce olfactory art for Malle. “That’s what these guys like to do with me because it’s such a free world, my company, whether it’s high-tech or trashy or expensive.” The collaborations, which Malle says grow out of conversations and ideas, have produced such undisputed hits as Ropion’s tuberose-heavy, musk-tinged Carnal Flower and the rose and patchouli-laced Portrait of a Lady; others remain acquired tastes, even to Malle himself. “If you said to your world, you want a signature fragrance by me, this is that,” he says of Roucel’s Musc Ravageur. “It was controversial because no one wanted that fragrance. But I smelled it, I loved it, we did it.”
Malle is quick to point out that he is merely curating work from a stable of contributors—”I don’t really consider myself an artist. I work with artists. I have this great privilege in life,” he insists—but he has put pen to paper, or mouse to mousepad, rather, to create new, original packaging to celebrate his “healthy ten-year marriage” with Barneys. “I have this funny brain,” he says, alluding to his synesthesia, which allows him to see colors, layers and textures when he smells—visuals he has now illustrated on a limited series of 200 boxes for the 18 scents in his library. The artwork is something of a consolation prize for people in his inner circle who were expecting a new perfume this month, he jokes. “I thought it was going to be ready for Christmas, but I blew it! Some people at Barneys aren’t very happy with me. But they got my pretty pictures instead.”