The garage door lifted and an elegantly appointed stage with subtle lighting was revealed. Excitement filled the air as we took our seats and waited for the man known as “the nose” behind Dior fragrances to take the stage.
This week (August 20th through the 25th) is the Festival Mode & Design in Montreal. The annual event was kicked off with this elegant visitor from France. (The event was sold out!) François Demachy has been creating perfumes for Dior since 2006. He reinvented Miss Dior Absolutely Blooming for the fashion house and designed many new perfumes, most notably Sauvage. Before working with Dior, he created perfumes at Chanel. You may not know his face, but you definitely know his life’s work.
Creating Perfume is a Secret Art
Listening to François describe making perfume, you realize quickly that his talent is rare. “We all have intense olfactory senses, but ours is trained, and there are not many of us” he told Quebec’s fashion insider Stéphane Le Duc. Dior has 700 registered products, or scents, in their catalogue with new ones coming in every day. He knows them all, “in theory” he laughs. The two traits required to create extraordinary perfume in his opinion are “curiosity and doubt.” Like a painter who runs into the museum in the middle of the night to touch up a painting, he is never quite finished creating a perfume. He is always smelling new scents and thinking about new combinations of scents even “in the middle of the night”.
When in Grasse, this is where he works!
You Need Quality Ingredients to Cook
“I want to cook!” he says of creating perfume. In 2006 Dior offered him a chance to have creative freedom and gave him access to excellent ingredients. Did you know that it takes 3,000 kilograms of flowers just to make 1 kilogram of essential oil? The labour needed to make perfume represents 80% the cost. No wonder perfumes can be expensive! He also appreciates that Dior has diverse perfumes that aren’t simply one note. Their perfume experts also hailed from his native Grasse (the perfume capital of the world), so he felt he was in excellent company at Dior.
Here is Francois at work in the flower fields.
Making Perfume is Not Intellectual
When Francois was read a beautiful poetic description of his work and was asked to respond, he replied “I am unable to intellectualize creating perfume. For me it is about emotions!” The audience was charmed. A smell can trigger memories, images and feelings. Growing up in Grasse, he fell in love with flowers and the smells of the region like “the trucks that transported lavender”. He worked in several perfume factories and although his parents wanted him to study dentistry, he simply couldn’t give up his passion.
Dior Protects Flower Farmers in Grasse
Considering the amount of flowers Dior alone needs every year, it was encouraging to learn they have formed a collective of sorts to protect the livelihood of the farmers and to assure the quality of the flowers. Francois was adamant that it their responsibility to do so. Chanel also does the same.
Dior Releases “Joy by Dior” and it is an Explosion of Delicious Plush Scents!
How exciting to be able to smell Dior’s latest perfume on the day it is launched! Samples were passed around to the audience and we all closed our eyes to smell Joy. I can tell you that François has succeeded in creating a perfume that is an explosion of plush floral, musky, sexy and mysterious scents. Jennifer Lawrence is the face of Joy and Francois enjoyed creating a common language with this young star as they talked about the new perfume.
I had the opportunity to briefly chat with the artist. I asked him what his favorite flower is. “Roses” he replied, “because they are universal.” Considering the abundance of rose used in the intoxicating Joy by Dior, this new perfume will surely be a universal success and a long-time classic. As François says, he must create a scent not of the time, but “ahead of it”.