Perfume Portrait by Frédéric Malle a new collection

The designs of Dries van Noten have always made me think of those Nordic interiors, where baroque furniture and modern paintings, or other unexpected combinations, naturally come together. In this part of the world the clean style of each decor and the cool local light allow every element to fully express themselves. Dries Van Noten’s world also shares with these very particular atmospheres a sense of comfort, never sacrificing to the idea of “style at any price,” and never giving way to ostentation.


This aesthetic – composed of very diverse elements put side by side – and this sense of well-being are very close to the way I see my profession. As soon as we decided to work together, my mission was to translate Dries Van Noten’s world into a scent, all the while avoiding to simply translate a few individual elements of that rich alchemy into a scent, as Dries Van Noten’s planet is too complex to be pinned down that way. 

My first move was to ask Bruno Jovanovic to work on this project, as he is a great listener, his perfume technique allows him to master any subject, and he has a taste for warm scents that seemed adapted to my perception of Dries’ desire. Then I tried to make Bruno understand the essence of Dries’ world. I spoke about the different themes and recurrent materials that Dries often uses: Indian embroidery, XVIIIth century engravings, or the very graphic and colorful prints that he juxtaposes to create unexpected harmony – just like a perfumer does. 

I also told Bruno about the sober warmth of Flemish people – the world that Dries comes from – the softness of their cuisine and specifically of their desserts like waffles, speculoos biscuits or sugar tarts. I insisted that the sum of these elements generates the unique atmosphere that we needed to convey. This is how Bruno came up with the idea of creating a perfume built around natural sandalwood, which he chose for its softness and its character, and the fact that it is simultaneously exotic and evocative of the tradition of “great classic perfumes.”

To the milky smell of Santal Mysore he added the vanilla sweetness of Flemish pastries with a hint of vanilla, sacrasol (sulfurol) and Peruvian balm. This monumental warmth is tempered by a large dose of jasmine absolute and a musk accord. A trace of saffron and patchouli gives this ensemble, already very distinct, a unique – almost leathery – vibration. An overdose of lemon and bergamot offers a boost to this particularly contemporary structure and gives it the timeless aspect of the great perfumes of the beginning of the XXth century.

This very short formula, composed of very precious materials, generates a sober but distinct sensuality. It is, in my eyes, a fair parallel to Dries van Noten’s world.

F.M.

Exclusively at Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, 898 Madison Avenue, New York and all Barneys New York Stores Retail: 50ml Spray: $185; 100 ml Spray: $265

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