Serge Lutens plays with words as subtly as he blends fragrances. In Marrakech, where he chooses to live, this leading light in France's fine perfume industry talked to us about his favourite topic and his new ultra-luxe Section d’Or collection.
The phrase "an obscure object of desire" borrowed from Luis Buñuel's film fits Serge Lutens's singular, sombre, confidential world like a glove. Hairdresser, makeup artist, photographer, filmmaker, illustrator, artistic director... the man has many strings to his bow, some of which he has cut loose over the years, retaining only the most important. A Commander of France's Order of Arts and Letters, Lutens sees a strong link between perfume and literature, with words enabling him to say what perfume cannot, and vice versa. "Doing is our only recourse for being happy in life," he stated in 2008. This winter the perfumer is launching a dozen new products, including engraved editions of L’Orpheline, Louve and Jeux de Peau (1), sublime powder compacts, lip colour, a spray case and, most importantly, his Section d’Or line of high-end perfumes, the first of which, L’Incendiaire (2), took him seven years to perfect. For Section d’Or, Monsieur Lutens sets no limits in either his choice of ingredients or the crafting of the bottle: a bevelled black flacon presented like a jewel wrapped in genuine Japanese origami; its manufacturing saved a French factory.
Yes, lines and loops, if on our skin it writes something we dare not reveal. An audacity for the shy.
If it takes us back to one and if that brings us back to ourselves.
A mirror that reflects us in reverse but shows us as we are.
Charity begins at home! After all, it's a first-person act of faith directed at those we choose.
If so, it is ourselves and just like life it evolves.
The one that makes us who we are, wherever we may be.
Black, I hope!
The least sensible possible.
Appearances can be deceptive – beware of the superficial! If it must be worn, it has to be in the first person singular.
If it doesn't overcome that, it isn't right for you.
If it deviates from life it's dangerous; a real story, OK, but not a fairy story.
It reveals one.
One that blinds us but in which we should see ourselves.
If it tells us our truth.
1942 Born during the war, in Northern France. "Separated from his mother when he was just weeks old, his personality was indelibly marked by this original abandonment," reads the beginning of his official biography.
1958 Adopted black as his colour.
1962 Left Lille and the hairdresser's where he had been given a job "against his will", for Paris.
1967 Artistic director for the launch of the Christian Dior makeup line.
1968 Scent shock when he discovered Morocco; a branch of Atlas cedarwood picked up from the ground stayed in his memory until the 1992 creation of his first cult perfume: Féminité du Bois.
1974 Bought a house amidst Marrakech's palm trees as his permanent home.
1980 First collaboration with Shiseido, enabling the Japanese cosmetics group to establish a visual identity that would sweep the world.
1992 The creation of Féminité du Bois and the opening of Les Salons du Palais-Royal in Paris, "the first perfume house for demanding people", introduced a new vision of perfume by restoring its credentials.
2000 The Serge Lutens brand launched. The Palais Royal perfume collection comprises 37 fragrances including the celebrated Tubéreuse Criminelle and Cuir Mauresque. The Rectangulaire collection comprises 24 perfumes.
(1) between 15 and 30 bottles available at €500-900
(2) 50ml, €450
Jardins du Palais-Royal,
142 Galerie de Valois, Paris 1er - Tél. 01 49 27 09 09,
By Mireille Sartore