As evidenced above, listening to Frédéric Malle speak on the subject of fragrance is to hear a true artist delving into their work. He is able to bring us inside the process of working with his expert noses on composing his creative scents, revealing the romantic way concept meets science. In the case of Cologne Indélébile, it took Malle and Dominique Ropion two years to perfect the paradox they sought to capture: seductive and innocent at the same time. Below, Malle shares further insight into this exciting new cologne.
“Cologne Indélébile is a very difficult scent to describe.
It can be done in two different ways. In one way, it comes across as a regular haute-cologne, except that it’s done with better ingredients than most: lemon, bergamot, neroli, and all that. But then, it develops into something a bit different. It seems there’s almost a magnet in the back—something soothing and attractive. It says ‘I am clean’ but also ‘I am incredibly sexy.’ The perk is that it is very, very long-lasting. The other way to describe this fragrance is upside down—to see it as a very, very clean musk with a cologne top to it. There’s more than what meets the eye.”
“I wanted to take advantage of the double nature of musk.
Musk has been used in detergents, skin care, and everything that has to do with being clean and pure. The public associates these smells with purity and cleanliness, which translates to innocence. But the real nature of musk and the animalic musk that this was inspired by is as close to an aphrodisiac as a fragrance can be. You have products that are incredibly sexual, which are now seen as incredibly clean. That was the idea for the fragrance—creating the perfect double agent. It’s sort of like in Nabokov’s Lolita. We exaggerated the innocent side by adding this cologne accord on top of musk.”
“It all started with very geeky conversation between myself and Dominique Ropion.
I’ve been working with him for 25 years, and we were chatting about the double nature of musk and how interesting it was. It took half an hour to come up with the main characteristic of this fragrance, and many people would have been happy with what we came up with. But, we have become complete megalomaniacs trying to make things that will be classic and worn for 20 years! We tried to really keep the innocence and attraction of that first sketch and perfect it, which took two years in the end!”
“We have a very curatorial approach to perfume.
We work with different authors, so think of us a bit like a gallery that shows very different types of artists. I studied art history at school. I grew up liking Jackson Pollack as much as I liked van Dyck, and you grow to understand that in every art—including fragrance—technique and energy is what really makes a classic. We don’t have a line or taste that we follow. Instead, one can find a bit of everything in our collection. Having said that, the common elements to all fragrances we publish is that they’re quite sexy. I mean, that’s the name of the game! Whether it’s shouting ‘I’m clean and fresh”, or more lavish like Portrait of a Lady. We have very pared down formulas, and even though they can feel very big, they are actually very simple.”