Scent Treks through Time ~ Francis Kurkdjian / Geza Schoen / Jessica Buchanan

18th June, 2008

Editor's note: These interviews are the fourth part of a series in which Marian Bendeth explores what a panel of modern perfumers would say if they could travel back to the time of their choosing, to meet, chat and co-create with a perfumer of the past. An introduction to the series and table of contents is here.


Francis Kurkdjian

Senior Perfumer, Takasago

Creations: Narciso Rodriguez for Her and for Him, Le Male, Ma Dame, Lady Vengeance, Miss Charming, Rumeur de Lanvin, Rose Babare de Guerlain, Arden Green Tea (more...)

Marian Bendeth: If it was possible to travel back in time to any particular century and decade of you’re choice to meet your number one inspirational perfumer...

Francis Kurkdjian: I do not really have a ‘role model’ in perfume. But, that said, I admire the work of Edmond Roudnitska, of Ernest Beaux and the path and creativity of François Coty and of Pierre François Pascal Guerlain.

MB: When would you travel to, and who would you meet?

20th century.

For real inspiration, in the past and to the present, I look to Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent: Their vision included a totality in which perfume was but one of the fingers of the hand. What fascinates me about these creators is their capacity to project into reality that which they perceive in the spirit and the air of their times; their ability to break all the existing codes, to invent a style totally different yet, at the same time, universal and fluid, one that extends to the design of the rim of a flacon that will hold the fragrance that they deem to be the scent of their time: Chanel No 5 and Opium defy time but still remain the perfect barometers of the period in which they appeared.

MB: What specific questions would you want to learn from them?

If I could have been in the company of Coco Chanel or YSL, I would have loved to simply be in their workrooms, to see and to hear what they did and said, to witness and try to understand how genius functioned, to see the birth of something timeless, of a creation so powerful as to transcend time.

I would like to see more artistic collaborations between creative people. Think about the fact that Chanel, Picasso and Stravinsky used to work together on Diaghilev ballet!!! Who can say that today?


Geza Shoen

Perfumer, Escentric Molecules

Creations: Diesel, French Connection, Rosa Maya / Cologne04 – REN, Infusion – Bombay Sapphire, all the escentrics (escentric 01 pictured), Wode – Boudicca (more...)

I would travel to 2000 B.C. – some old Egyptian herbal – ceremony maestro. Can you imagine the raw purity of things back then!?

MB: Who you would want to meet?

Thats hard to answer ! They were all unknown :)

MB: What specific questions would you want to learn from them?

I think I would have been more interested to see its effect on the ladies. Imagine those jasmin wax cones they put on their heads and when it all melted in the heat while dancing they must have enjoyed the debauchery no?

MB: If you could team up together in that time period, who would you like to co-create a fragrance for?

Well, Cleopatra of course.

MB: If you could bring anything back with you, what would that be?

A confirmed return flight!


Jessica Buchanan

Artist and student of Perfumery, Grasse, France

My inspirational perfumer is imaginary- but only in specific name. I know he existed and he hailed from the land of Al-Andalus- and was a reknowned perfumer there just before the Spanish King and Queen defeated Granada in 1492. This perfumers fame had him in such a revered position within the palace of Al-Hambra that he was retained by the invading royalty and commissioned to continue his work for the family.

When the young Princess Catarina- or Katherine of Aragon- and later the Queen of England- was sent North the marry Arthur, the first in line to the crown (and later to become the first wife of his younger brother, Henry the VIIIth) she brought with her a simple golden Moorish perfume burner as a link- to remind her of the beautiful world she was leaving behind. It is this perfumer, who would have been highly educated in music, sciences, and philosophy who I would like to have learned from.

As for who I would want to co-create a fragrance for ? Katherine of course ! A warm deep floral based on cedar and oud, heavily laden with roses and orange blossom, plus many touches of the subtle materials that this perfumer knew secretly. We would create perfumes for her to burn as well as richly scented spicy oils with which to rub her body. These would we would have sent to her in England to give her solace during her trials in the harsh cold and foul-smelling courts of Royal England. To give her strength and joy and hope- even when she was banished and alone- dying at the end- never having seen her warm and sunny homeland again.

MB: What specific questions would you want to learn from them?

I would like him to teach me the art of blending raw materials, so that when burned- they release the purest lightest fragrance possible. I would want him to teach me how to create perfume in its alchemical interpretation- using orange blossom, jasmine, rose, herbs, honey, woods, and animal secretions that he would have compiled from the surrounding lands.

I would want to bring back with me, to the present, a profound understanding of these natural raw materials, so that I could then work with them within the modern context, but with the sense of deep honour and respect for the art that it truly deserves.

This is what I would love to have the chance to do- to learn this art from a highly developed and refined master and and in the process to have consoled a suffering Queen.


Join Marian again on Tuesday for more scent treks...


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About the author: Marian Bendeth

Marian Bendeth is a Global Fragrance Expert based out of Toronto, Canada. Marian has won six fragrance industry editorial awards for her writing. You can find out more on her website


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