Marc Chaya on how he found his place in the scent industry, expansion 
and the story of a Maison Francis Kurkdjian fragrance.

Since founding Maison Francis Kurkdjian in 2009 next to master perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, the CEO and Co-Founder built a fragrance house that stands apart in the scent industry. He came at the launch of their two new fragrances, OUD Extrait de parfum and OUD silk mood at BEAUTIK HAUTE PARFUMERIE, and later took the time for a Q&A.

MR: How did you come to be part of the scent industry? How did you choose this path?
MC: I think this path choose me, and that it was a magical fit! When I was a child I was very creative and sensitive and very dragged towards drawing, architecture, fashion, art and music. However in Lebanon where I grew up, society in general and my father in particular valued more science than Arts. I ended up focusing on math, science and later on economics and business management. While none of these fields was a natural forte for me at the time, I still managed to have great results and turned out to be excellent in these fields. My first professional experience was at Ernst & Young, a global auditing and management consulting firm, where I had a very fast and diversified trajectory, becoming a Partner at 32, in less then 10 years, which was a record. I realize now that it was the association of my innate creativity with my acquired business drive that allowed me to experience several field at EY, from auditing and finance, to working on creating and managing a children’s TV channel and finally leading the global telecoms markets where skills such as strategy and forward thinking, marketing, communication and business development where key. 

"I think this path choose me, and that it was a magical fit!

It was at that time that I met Francis Kurkdjian at a birthday party. We started out by becoming friends and I was taken by how little recognition perfumers had at the time. He asked me for some business advice I started naturally working with him on a path to put him back at the center stage in the perfume world. We would work together on several business opportunities, spend hours on creating the visual identity and architecture for his website and brainstorm a lot on the fragrance industry and the strategies to help him express his talent beyond the perfume bottle, through art installations for example. We also spent time travelling for vacations and we would share a lot around our mutual appreciation for art, ballet dancing and other creative fields.
In 2009, we both decided it was the right time to co-found Maison Francis Kurkdjian. So as I said at the beginning, it was my encounter with Francis that brought me into the fragrance world!

The Maison is a balance between my role as a CEO and Francis’s role as a perfumer, and that has been the recipe to our success. I see my role as enabling the right virtuous echo system for Francis’s talent as a perfumer to blossom, but also for every talent within our company, as we are surrounded by an amazing team. I am a sound business men with a strong creative drive and Francis is a celebrated perfumer with strong business sensibility. We both have left and right brain. My primary focus is strategy, marketing, sales and business management while Francis’ focus is to compose extraordinary fragrances and we both work together in order to insure beautiful aesthetics and a sound creative direction.

MR: Maison Francis Kurkdjian because of its unique repertoire of scents (you once describe it as a creator of fragrances, more than a label) and the way it conducts the business, it is now a reference. When people say Maison Francis Kurkdjian, they automatically associate it with Francis Kurkdjian and you, with exceptional know-how, expensive ingredients and with finding “exceptional”, every single time, in one of your bottles. Next to LVMH it will become even bigger. How are you going to approach this expansion without losing your identity (there are brands that as they grow, tend to lose that). Are you going to follow the same set of rules that made this Parisian house so successful and unique?
MC: LVMH is an amazing world leading luxury group that values creativity and entrepreneurship. So nothing from what you describe above will change. It can only go better! Francis and I are still 100% involved in the business and will continue to be true to our vision and values.

MR: You have registered a couple of very interesting artistic collaborations so far. There are niche brands out there, such as Byredo, that joined forces with other names and extend their range to include in their offering products that reflect both of their aesthetic. Is this something that you consider doing in the future?
MC: We are never interested in using a collaboration only for the sake of launching or promoting a new product. We are a creative house and as in any creative fields, sometimes beautiful encounters happen and they lead to beautiful unplanned realization. It was the case of our partnership with crystal house of Baccarat. Collaboration between crystal makers and perfumers is an old tradition, so when Baccarat contacted us for the creation of a bespoke perfume for their 250th anniversary, it made a lot of sense to say yes. We both admired their craft and history and Francis was very interested in exploring how the alchemy of creating crystal could be interpreted in a perfume. This is how Rouge 540 was born. It was supposed to be a limited edition of 250 crystal bottles only. But, the perfume was unbelievably good and the story very beautiful, so we decided to take the collaboration to a new level by releasing it as part of our collection in 2016.

MR: How does the story of a fragrance begin? And usually how long does it take from its inception until it actually finds its way into a store? Does it all starts with an ingredient or a person/personality in mind?

"Francis Kurkdjian always needs a name to start working. 
It helps him to define a territory for his creation."

MC: It's the inspiration that comes first and then the creative process — we don't have a perceived marketing strategy. We have a creator and then our marketing is at the service of his vision. So Francis is the one coming to us with ideas and what he has in mind, and I'm the first person that he consults — as his business partner, the brand's CEO and as his sounding board. Then we see together when we want to launch it — asking if we are ready, where it fits in our fragrance wardrobe and what season is suitable. So many things come to play when you decide to launch a new scent.
Francis Kurkdjian always needs a name to start working. It helps him to define a territory for his creation. He then sees the scent in his mind and starts using his palette of essential oils to make his vision come to life. Creating a perfume is not just a technical process consisting of mixing essential oils in a lab and putting them on the market if they smell good. It is a creative artistic process. After the fragrance’s creation, comes the time to produce, manufacture, distribute and communicate. The entire process takes about 18 months and it is a real team effort as every step is done internally - from thought to finish.

MR: OUD Extraitde parfum and OUD silk mood, today’s launches, because of their uncommonly mix of ingredients, stand as expected as two unique scents in Maison Francis Kurkdjian’ s repertoire. How would you describe them? And whom do you see wearing them?

MC: OUD Extrait de parfum is an olfactory treasure born of sand, wind and gold. It has the same silhouette and olfactory rhythm as the Eau de parfum, but the most precious raw materials unfold to convey a new, denser, intensified depth. The sweetness of the middle notes is magnified in the Extrait by a plant-derived musk – ambrettolide – which brings a slightly more animalic and floral facet reminiscent of iris. Lastly, sweeter, more gourmand base notes galvanize the most precious note of all: oud from Laos. 
OUD silk mood is a fabric-inspired fragrance featuring oud wood, one of the world’s most expensive raw material. Evoking the soft, airy touch of silk, OUD silk mood is a precious, enveloping and an integral part of the French approach to orientalism, a blend of Orient and Occident. Fringed with Bulgarian rose absolute, papyrus and blue chamomile, oud wood from Laos is rounded out with elegance.

"Actually, choosing a fragrance from Maison Francis Kurkdjian 
is a promise of wearing a state of the art scent, 
crafted in the heritage of French perfumery."

Everyone that is looking for an elegant, dressed-up and sensual scent can wear these fragrances. Actually, choosing a fragrance from Maison Francis Kurkdjian is a promise of wearing a state of the art scent, crafted in the heritage of French perfumery.

MR: For people who look for the exceptional and deliver that, fragrance is personal. So, how do you choose yours? What fragrance are you wearing now and what does your fragrance says about you (because a fragrance says so much about its owner)?
MC: The Maison Francis Kurkdjian collection was created as a fragrance wardrobe, so that we can choose a scent every day based on our mood, what we are wearing and what part of our personality we want to put forwards. Sometimes we want to be fresh, other times sexy but not too loud and sometimes we want to be dramatically expressive. Fragrance is this invisible accessory that allows that. I tend to choose my perfume daily based on my outfit and my mood!

MR: Do you wear just one fragrance or you pick one, depending your mood?
MC: I would wear Amyris men, masculin Pluriel or Rouge 540 on a normal business day, Aqua Universalis on a hot sunny day and Oud Satin mood or Grand soir at a black tie event!

MR: You travel a lot. What do you always carry with yourself?
MC: A comfortable pair of cotton pants and a cashmere sweater for long haul travels and my iPhone!

MR: Where do you live now?
MC: Half in New York city and half in Paris. The 2 cities that I love the most!

MR: Your favorite restaurant there?
MC: In New York: EN Japanese Brasserie in west village for the food and the energy of the space. In Paris: L’Ambassade d’Auvergne, for its delicious and authentic traditional cuisine, not to forget the impressive wine list!

MR: On your playlist?
MC: I am an apple music fan and love their curated playlists.

MR: Your favorite magazine? Do you have one that you always come back to, or collect?
MC: Architectural Digest.

MR: The last book you finished reading?
MC: I am currently about to finish Confusion of feelings by Stefan Zweig.

MR: An advice you would give to yourself ten years ago?
MC: To always listen to my intuition.