To create his latest fragrance, 724, perfumer Francis Kurkdjian set himself a seeming contradictory ambition: a fragrance inspired by the city that didn’t smell like the city but rather, the way you felt within it. Or perhaps the better description is: how you position yourself within it.
“There is something about big cities that elevates you, electrifies you in a way,” explains Kurkdjian. “I grew up just outside of Paris, where I live and work today, but I lived in New York for a few years.” From there, the 53-year-old spent time in some of the world’s most exciting cities: Sydney, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, Manila, Moscow, London, Berlin… Despite their differences, he explains, these locations all share a similarly magnetic energy.
This energy – and the way it buoys you along for the ride when you immerse yourself into its current – is what Kurkdjian has captured in the fresh, invigorating notes of 724. A floral that’s not sweet; a fresh scent that isn’t citrus; and underneath it all a musk that’s not quite squeaky clean nor veering into animalic territory – 724 represents that arcane feeling of possibility.
If you’ve moved to a big city from a small country town, you know what this is. Or if you’re the kind of person who finds themselves revived, rejuvenated, by cities that never sleep – you know how this feels. It’s the feeling that Kurkdjian felt when he was living in New York, the city which perhaps had the biggest influence on the 724 and its olfactive fingerprint.
“What struck me instantly when I went [to New York] was the effervescence of the city, its uplifting and thrilling energy,” he tells ICON.
“I walked the streets in the early morning, passing by the laundries and seeing the thick white vapour they released in the brisk morning air. It felt so comfortable and always put me in a good mood!”
The blend of bergamot, jasmine, mock orange, aldehydes over the top of white musks and sandalwood create a fragrance that is as versatile and comfortable as your favourite white T-shirt. It’s radiant, with brisque, uplifting qualities normally found in a cologne before discovering a warmer, intimate skin scent in the dry down.
These deliberate complexities are what, says Kurkdjian, makes a city so incredible a place to be in.
“724 is not about the smell of the city,” he explains. “I did not want it to be cliché and translate the sensation of dirt or smoke you could think of when mentioning big cities. 724 Is about you, about feeling good in the city.
“Something that makes you feel that everything is possible,” he explains. “And 724, is all that. It is about the effervescence that big cities across the globe have in common.”
Having launched his eponymous fragrance line back in 2009, Kurkdjian has cemented himself as one of the industry’s most intriguing creators. And if you’re not overly familiar with the name, you’ve definitely smelt something created by the French nose.
Tapped by the likes of Dior, Guerlain, Narciso Rodriguez and Versace, Kurkdjian has developed a signature style – that is, one that is no signature at all. Where some perfumers have a note, an accord or even a way of blending, Kurkdjian has achieved what the true artist always wishes with his fragrances – the work speaks for itself, not the perfumer. “When I create, I do not have a specific profile in my mind,” he explains. “I focus on the story I want to tell, on a specific emotion or feeling. I want people to feel these emotions and above all, I want them to feel good wearing my creations.”
Perhaps is most famous work is his 2015 release, Baccarat Rouge 540. A powerhouse of ambers, saffron and cedar that has only recently begun to find its way into the mainstream and not just spoken of in hushed reverence within the online fragrance community.
Which does he wear himself? “I actually don’t wear any fragrance!
“I also don’t have a favourite one. Each creation had their meaning and purpose, they’re all important in their own way. As a perfumer, when it comes to my personal taste, the fragrances I have in mind for the future are always the most intriguing and exciting to me. Because the most thrilling in life is always what lies ahead.”