November 20, 2020

The Creatives: Frédéric Malle & Carlos Benaïm

#TFFCreatives with Frédéric Malle & Carlos Benaïm, moderated by Linda G. Levy

Watch the full webinar here!

Written by April Long

“What was more important—the cobalt blue, or Van Gogh?” This is just one of the thought-provoking questions posited today, when The Fragrance Foundation President Linda G. Levy hosted a very special webinar edition of The Creatives, featuring an intimate conversation between fragrance publisher Frédéric Malle and esteemed perfumer Carlos Benaïm. The captivating discussion provided a deep dive into the collaborative process between two of the most famous and influential personalities in perfume, a meeting of the minds that has resulted in such masterpieces as Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia and Music For A While. 

The hour-long event kicked off with a video created by Malle looking back at his origins and how he came to launch Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums in 2000, “to put perfume back at the center of the conversation.” Levy then launched the pair into recollections of their first encounter:  Malle brought Benaïm into the Editions de Parfums family when he called him to create a candle collection, something not previously done by a fine fragrance perfumer of such stature. The fruit of that daring pursuit have now become classics, including Jurassic Flower, Rosa Rugosa, and Casablanca Lily.

Malle describes Benaïm as “a super modernist” with a deep knowledge and appreciation for historical perfumery; Benaïm talks about Malle’s contribution to the world of perfume, describing him as a “revolutionary,” and recalling the era before Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, when perfumers were treated like ghost writers. “It would be like hearing a new song by an anonymous artist, but it was sung by Beyoncé.” The industry, and perfumers specifically, he says, “owe Frédéric an enormous debt of gratitude” for bringing them into the spotlight. 

Malle and Benaïm also discuss their shared ideology about fragrance as art, and how style ultimately trumps ingredients when it comes to the finished work. Malle set out to show the world that there could be great modern perfumery just as there is great modern art, and, he says, “the style of the perfume is the most important thing, just like the style of a writer or a painter” is more important than the words or the pigment they use. 

Finally, they reflect on the changes they have seen in the market over the past 20 years, and what they look forward to in the future, with Malle noting how 2020 has taught so many of us that fragrance can be soothing and reassuring and predicting that more fragrances will be developed to be comforting in the years ahead. He also looks forward to working with the young generation of perfumers, who he describes as “ambitious, free, and hungry for creation,” who came of age in this new era of fine perfumery. Benaïm sees “a complete renewal of the perfumer’s palette in 20 years” as more green and sustainable options come to market, and predicts that advances in both naturals and synthetics will continue to propel the industry forward. Regardless, the desire for fragrance is something eternal. “There is a necessity of art to fulfill each of the senses,” says Benaïm. “There is art for the eyes, music for the ears. It is the same with smell. You need to nourish it with art.” 

Thanks to the triumphs of Frédéric Malle and Carlos Benaïm, our noses will never be under-nourished.