Heady Mas­ter

Dior per­fumer François Demachy on the ben­e­fits of be­ing in-house and still hav­ing doubts.

Fashion (Canada) - - People - By Lesa Han­nah

T hough his fa­ther wanted him to be a doc­tor, François Demachy felt the siren call of ’60s-era re­bel­lion and de­cided “hell no.” “I re­fused any au­thor­ity,” re­calls the 69-year-old French­man, on a re­cent visit to Mon­treal to give a talk about his long ca­reer in fra­grance at the Fash­ion & De­sign Fes­ti­val. He even­tu­ally be­gan study­ing den­tistry, a de­ci­sion he made on his own, s’il vous plaît, but as a teen, he also worked in Grasse’s fra­grance fac­to­ries to make ex­tra money. And in­evitably, as one does when one grows up gras­sois, he de­cided to pur­sue per­fumery.

To­day, Demachy is the ex­clu­sive per­fumer for Dior, a post he has held since 2006. There, he has free rein to choose in­gre­di­ents—one of the ben­e­fits of be­ing in-house. “I don’t have any price con­straints,” he says. He also gets the de­tails up­front for his next project, some­thing he ac­tu­ally prefers. “That’s an­other ad­van­tage: know­ing the name and the shape of the bot­tle very early,” he says. In­stead of feel­ing re­stricted, these de­tails de­crease the num­ber of direc­tions he can go in and he’s able to whit­tle them down to two or three.

With Joy by Dior ( from $90), which launched in Septem­ber, he in­ter­preted the word “joy” less as a feel­ing, which to him is “very per­sonal,” and more as the idea of light. “It’s the same thing for al­most ev­ery­body,” he says. To con­vey the con­cept, he ze­roed in on musk notes: “When you smell them, you feel com­fort­able but also com­pletely sur­rounded by the scent, the same way you’re com­pletely sur­rounded by light.” He toyed with many ver­sions, play­ing with the con­struc­tion of in­gre­di­ents, but the com­pany kept com­ing back to one of his first 10 pro­pos­als. It in­cludes a huge amount of a new mol­e­cule called “su­per hedione.” “It brings some breath to the per­fume,” he says.

Though Demachy has been cre­at­ing com­po­si­tions for over 40 years, he still ex­pe­ri­ences un­cer­tainty when it comes to his work—which he con­sid­ers an im­por­tant trait in a per­fumer. “If you know some­thing for sure, that means you’re not sure,” he says. “Hav­ing a bit of doubt helps to drive you much fur­ther. It keeps you cu­ri­ous.” That said, it can of­ten mean that after work­ing two years on a scent, it’s dif­fi­cult to let it go. In fact, once in a while he’ll en­counter a fra­grance he com­posed years ear­lier and think about how he might change it. “I’ll smell the per­fume on a woman on the street and think ‘There’s some­thing...’”

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