How STELLA skincare’s scent was created
How STELLA skincare’s scent was created
Everyone who meets Francis Kurkdjian falls in love. It is a fact. Perhaps an unsurprising one when you consider he is the perfumer behind dozens of fragrances, whose purpose is to seduce, to make you dream, to bring the magical world of a fragrance to life. Having spent more than 30 years developing some of the most well-known and exciting scents, he was the person Stella McCartney turned to when she wanted to create her own for STELLA skincare. If the impossible was going to be made possible, that would only happen with Francis – a perfectionist, a force of positivity, a natural pioneer.
We spoke to Francis from his office in Paris to understand more about the scent of STELLA skincare, his partnership with Stella and why fragrance is not just an art but a science too.
What was it like to create ‘High Cliff’, was it a challenge for you?
Francis: The challenge was always to perfectly fit Stella’s vision – which she has had for many years, but this was more than a creative vision, this was about asking, ‘how it can be clean, sustainable, biodegradable?’ And what does sustainable even mean now? Natural ingredients, such as essentials oils, use a lot of water, so is that sustainable? It raised a lot of questions and challenges and we wanted to ensure we could prove everything, too.
There’s always a notion that fragrance is completely romantic, and yes, some of it is. But it is also science. Beauty is science. It’s an evolving thing. But what I can say is that what we have done, is best in class within the world of beauty as of today. In some ways that was a challenge but it was that very challenge that attracted me to the project. I learnt so many things, I have also implemented some ideas I had for quite some time. The values Stella stands for are so clear, so coherent, for so many years.
How did you choose the ingredients for the scent?
Francis: I first thought I would be creating a scent and adapting it to the constraints of the projects. But very soon, I understood I cannot do so, as my perfumer's palette had to be in phase with the goal we wanted to achieve. Started as I always do, on the scent and then we worked our way through it, replacing and reducing the amount of ingredients. Again, that element of science is there! From over a thousand ingredients, I was left with about 35. It was one of the most interesting projects I have worked on in the last five years. It was a different way to think and a totally different approach. We used data to look at traceability of each ingredient, its extraction process, its biodegradability.
Can you describe the scent and its ingredients?
Francis: We wanted that natural, easy-breezy feeling of Scotland. The vision is easy to understand and to translate. It is about feelings. The tricky part is how to do it. I landed on a scent that everyone loved quickly, and then spent time fine-tuning the formula, really checking that we needed everything and re-reviewing the data on it. Was it green enough? Was it the very best possible choice? Much like an artist may try to reduce their colours, I constantly challenged myself, can I create the same feeling and the same fragrance with less ingredients. In the end we selected just twelve.
There’s a trend towards bringing scent back to cosmetic products, was this something you discussed?
Francis: At the beginning Stella wanted as little scent as possible, she is clear in her vision and it is about using as few ingredients as possible, to minimise the environmental impact - which is why we selected just 12 ingredients for the final formula. However, as we explored, we both started to discuss the scent as an extension of the product. I love that the final scent aligns with Stella's clear vision but also gives the customer extra sensorial enjoyment.
What did you learn from the project?
Francis: So much. That nature teaches you. That it is not about us, it is about her.
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