Article: "Frédéric Malle and Simon Doonan consider the seductive allure of vulgarity"


Well-known member
Apr 2, 2021
Simon: These smelling columns were incredibly large. Everyone called them ‘Beam Me Up Scotty’ because they were similar to Star Trek. You should take it from here and explain how you came up with this idea for these columns.

Frédéric: It’s very simple. They are exactly what mirrors are to garments. Before these existed, when someone smelled a perfume on those little blotters, it was like seeing a picture too close. You can only see the details and you don’t have the full effect. So I created this chamber—it’s like a huge tube of glass—which allows you to smell the perfume as it’s expanded. It’s as if you were following yourself. It’s giving you an impression of what trail you will leave behind if wearing the perfume.

Simon: Why is it better than the traditional way of, you know, when the sales associate rubs it on your skin?

Frédéric: I think that perfumes are a little bit like theatrical decor. If you see a jungle at a theater, you will feel that it’s a real jungle from your seat, but when you are actually on stage beside the leaves, you realize that they’re made of plastic. If you want to really live the illusion of the perfume, you have to have a little distance.

Yet everybody feels more comfortable smelling test strips, because most into fragrances lean conservative with their thinking. Those who think you need that giant scent column to experience what Frederic is talking about just lacks creativity.

Common Lackey
Basenotes Plus
Jan 6, 2012
Is there any actual proof that Malle's parents worked on the perfumes he claims? Such as Eau Sauvage. It seems like bullshit.

Apparently legit. Both his parents worked at Christian Dior, and his mother was the Art Director there for Parfums Dior.

I loved hearing that Malle was running around Paris as a youngster in the "vulgar" Halston Z-14. And I'm very much in agreement with his feeling that beauty needs a flaw to be truly desirable, whether we're talking about perfumes or people:

Frédéric: When a perfume is too pretty, it’s too perfect, I look for the dash of vulgarity and we sometimes put a little bit in. It’s like people that are too perfect, you’d never want to sleep with them. You don’t want to wake up in the morning with perfection. First of all, perfection makes you feel ugly and horrible. But perfection is incredibly boring. You have to have a little humor.

mr. reasonable

Well-known member
Jan 1, 2009
Thanks for this - great interview. I have met Frederic a couple of times when he was launching stuff in HK - very entertaining and humble guy - lots of fun stories about working with JC Ellena 'He said (about L'Eau d'Hiver) "No vanilla - ABSOLUTELY NO VANILLA - so . . . no vanilla in that one" :grin: and D. Ropion - "We created this new one we both love but probably only about 200 people on the planet would buy it! So, that'll never appear." I suggested I might be one of them and he could free to shoot me a sample of the work in progress (no luck, unfortunately) :)


Frag Bomber 1st Squadron
Basenotes Plus
Jun 28, 2009
Great sharing! Made me want to revisit ‘Angelique Sous la Pluie’…

I’m not against people wearing whole crates of perfume.” - Frederic Malle.

Lol. He’s talking about BNers, wasn’t he? :wink:

Latest News