Recreating an icon is, by definition, a challenge. Doing it for one of the world’s best-known fashion houses after stepping into the shoes of a prominent predecessor could well make the task daunting. But when I meet Dior’s new perfume creator, Francis Kurkdjian, at the Hotel Le Majestic in Cannes while it’s fizzing with A-listers for the film festival, he seems to have taken the project in his stride.
In case you haven’t registered the name, Kurkdjian came to Dior already a rock star in the fragrance world. His eponymous brand, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, has had worldwide success, thanks to the perfumer’s unapologetically bold concentrations and minimalist style. Needless to say, Kurkdjian was doing very well before Dior came knocking. But, he admits, the house of Dior had an allure that was impossible to refuse.
Creating A New Floral Fragrance
The perfumer says he grew up with Dior: an adopted aunt was a designer at the atelier, Avenue Montaigne (where Dior still stands today) was close by, and his father habitually wore the scent Sauvage when Kurkdjian was a child (“I stole his bottle for a while,” he says).
Kurkdjian also worked in the same office as perfumer Calice Becker while she created the original J’adore in 1999. So joining the house brings a poetic symmetry. It has also had the surprising effect of opening other, untapped parts of Kurkdjian’s psyche.
“The beauty of having these two hats is I can express things that I have deeply anchored in my personality and my personal life.” Kurkdjian’s love of flowers and gardening are elements of his life he hasn’t shown to the world until now. “I never talked about gardening so I’m enjoying the opportunity to express my love for flowers.”
Kurkdjian of course now has access to Domaine de Manon, Dior’s gardens in Grasse in the South of France, where the May rose and jasmine are grown for J’adore. “I now have the most beautiful playground to talk about roses and jasmine in my own way,” he says.
Dior’s New Launch For 2023
Kurkdjian’s first brief in his new role at Dior was to create a new iteration of J’adore. It’s one of the brand’s most iconic (and loved) fragrances, so creating a scent that would stand strong next to the original would be no small ask.
It is of course famously fronted by marie claire cover girl Charlize Theron who is continuing to front the campaign for this new iteration
For L’Or de J’adore, Kurkdjian went for gold. Literally. Cutting directly to the heart of the original and refining it down to its essence.
“I am known for being sharp and straight to the point in terms of perfume,” he explains. “[As a person] I am very kind but I am direct and I want my raw material to be how I am, in a way.” Zooming in on notes of May rose, jasmine, violet and lily of the valley, the concentration levels of L’Or de J’adore have been ramped up for a sensual and refined floral fragrance that is both minimalist and masterfully sophisticated.
“I see it as a concentration rather than a new version,” says Kurkdjian of this creation. “I love the very deep side of what is in the heart of J’adore.”
Paying Tribute To The House’s Heritage
Taking inspiration from Christian Dior’s ideology to “respect tradition, dare to be bold”, Kurkdjian’s L’Or de J’adore walks the line between paying homage to the house’s heritage while also bringing us a new fragrance, which is firmly in the zeitgeist.
“I applaud François Demachy,” says Kurkdjian of his predecessor. “He was the first perfumer to work in-house at Dior Parfums [and] the work he’s accomplished is immeasurable. He is leaving me a beautiful legacy and I intend to see it live on and flourish.”
“I think you need to be able to move back and forth between the past and the present,” says Kurkdjian. “You need to steep yourself in the history, then step back from it, to be able to find the quintessence of it while providing a contemporary vision of it.”
The perfumer explains it’s what he has left out that allows L’Or de J’adore to resonate for the modern day. “I learnt that when I was a young perfumer; how to shorten the formula while still keeping the purpose and meaningfulness,” he says. “The idea is, instead of having 10 different shades of rose, you keep only two or three. So you can imagine that your ‘painting’ will change, but the spirit of it will remain.”
Dior L’Or de J’adore, $295 at Dior
Gold – a defining material for the fashion house since Christian Dior opened in 1946 with an interior in gilt, neo-classical style – was a cue for Kurkdjian’s inspiration. “On the surface, gold feels like it could just be about luxury, decadence and unreachable attributes. We have deconstructed that to make [this fragrance] feel like something people can tap into,” he says. “There’s gold in all of us.”
Kurkdjian’s way of cutting to the heart of things is perhaps a lesson for all of us to put our best selves forward. Lovers of J’adore will recognise echoes of it in Kurkdjian’s pared-back incarnation.
But be prepared for more sensuality, and a fresh new attitude when you spray L’Or de J’adore. Even the bottle with its beautifully hammered metal cap exudes a modern vibe that’s set to gain new followers. A new icon in the making? Watch this space.
Shop the Dior L’Or de J’adore fragrance at Dior.com.au