The conversation with Serge Lutens could hardly be contained within the boundaries of the journalistic term “interview”. Rather, it is some kind of study, touching a momentary state of his mind, a journey and a narrative about gained experience and fragments of an extraordinary life… The famous French perfumer allowed us to take a peek into his journey since 1942, when he was born, up until the present day. He, who manages to transform words into sensations, and then into… fragrances, shares that “the true partner in creating a perfume is the perfume itself”. He gives them names which sound like book titles – novels, which we want to read more than just once.
We asked him about the renowned anti-perfume L’Eau Serge Lutens and about what he remembers from his work for the house of Dior, while he challenged us to find extraordinary abstraction and profundity into what he said. Codes which we are still rereading and deciphering, notes of surrealism in the story, creative interweaving of real and imaginary objects… the talk with Serge Lutens is anything but usual.
After we have already looked into the story of the French perfumer, today we are reaching the climax in our attempt to find out straight from him what his world, where he composes perfumes with a soul, is like. Here is what Monsieur Lutens revealed to us:
Each beginning is difficult. Yours, however, apart from everything else also looks quite extraordinary. Which moment of your life could you define as the most fortuitous and as a turning point?
My birth in Lille, in the north of France, 1942.
Did you know Christian Dior personally? Tell us what you remember about your work with the fashion house.
Christian Dior had already passed away when I was hired by the house in 1967 in order to take care of the creation of the first make-up line for the brand. Despite this fact, I was working daily with fashion designer Marc Bohan. Dior introduced me to the social world, which I had been neglecting up until then. I learned a lot from there. I loved certain things, I despised others with a passion, but all of them had a huge impact on a part of my life.
You tell stories and legends about the perfumes you create as though their existence is not a coincidence. Is this how the idea about a fragrance is born – in the form of words, or is it that the formula comes first?
A perfume, this is a creation. It is within me, under my skin. It belongs as much to words as it does to essences. My fragrances represent my momentary state of mind while I am creating them: unclear, furious… their names are titles, like novels and films.
It appears that each fragrance carries its own personality, just like women have theirs. But when you create scents, do you think about the same lady every time, or does each scent belong to a different fictional character?
This woman has many facets, but she is unique. A figment of my imagination. There is something wonderful about experiencing loss during childhood – it needs to be made up for!
How long is the process of creating a fragrance, from the idea to its final completion and putting the product in the packaging?
This takes at least two years, but at times it could reach as many as twelve years – the time which you take to find the key, as it was with Chêne and Vétiver oriental. Until this happens, there is no completion.
You love travelling. Which place did you find the most magical?
There is no place, but a description: the small room where I work on my writing. This is the room, the armchair, the pile of books, notebooks and pens… I need to be there in order to write. I need to be within myself in order to come out.
How did the idea come of creating this virtually unthinkable creation, the anti-perfume L’Eau Serge Lutens?
I am a bit sceptical about thoughts, I believe more in needs. I find that the world nowadays is over-perfumed, and I was also longing for a pure scent redolent of white laundry and water. Luxury starts with purity and in this sense – definitely with a shower!
What is common about all the fragrances you have created so far?
My state of mind and myself in this state.
If you had to use one word to describe the fragrances you create, which one would it be, if this is possible at all?
Is the perfume enough? What else could a woman need?
If not a man, then I don’t know what.
You like black. Why black? What connotations does it evoke in your mind?
Black protects me, this is the colour of the shy, armour of pride, a pretence. This colour protects me, this is the night within every day.
Do you describe yourself as a creator?
I cannot describe myself, this is impossible. I am what I am at the moment when I am working and creating, and this transforms me.
We understand that the contents of the bottle are not the only important thing. The packaging, the label, the box – all these things need to be taken into consideration for the final look of the product. Do you take care of this whole process on your own and do you have any opinion on marketing at all?
Marketing is a science which is used only for sales, not sensitivity. This is the weapon of the mindless.
Which is the most difficult part about creating a perfume?
Nothing is difficult, this is unwilling willingness. The true partner in creating a perfume is the perfume itself. It makes me follow the path of what I have to say and do.
Which is the perfume which has not been created yet – the fragrance of the future, of your dreams, probably something unheard of, unread, unsmelled up until now?
The perfume of resurrection.
What was the scent of your childhood? Would you create a fragrance, thinking about your past?
The past is within us, it belongs to us, and it guides our actions, our behaviour. There is no point in going back or getting upset about what it used to be. It was in us and it will die with us.
Interview: Stefy Stoeva
Brought to you by Everet Sofia
Photos: Serge Lutens, Personal Archive; Credits