Famed Perfumer Frederic Malle On His Ability to Translate Scents Into Images

n Friday, French perfumer Frederic Malle cut through the evening’s fog to make an appearance at his longtime home, Barneys New York. “I see Barneys as sort of my second wife,” he told us of the store. And just like any good husband, Malle has done something special for his better half: He’s retooled the bottles of some of his most famous fragrances to include his abstract sketches on their labels.
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n Friday, French perfumer Frederic Malle cut through the evening’s fog to make an appearance at his longtime home, Barneys New York. “I see Barneys as sort of my second wife,” he told us of the store. And just like any good husband, Malle has done something special for his better half: He’s retooled the bottles of some of his most famous fragrances to include his abstract sketches on their labels.
Photo: BFA

Photo: BFA

On Friday, French perfumer Frederic Malle cut through the evening’s fog to make an appearance at his longtime home, Barneys New York.

“I see Barneys as sort of my second wife,” he told us of the store. And just like any good husband, Malle has done something special for his better half: He’s retooled the bottles of some of his most famous fragrances to include his abstract sketches on their labels.

The preferred perfume connoisseur of many a fashion girl, Malle’s distinctively French taste has lived in Barneys’ fragrance halls since 2002. And to celebrate their 10-year partnership, the limited-edition bottles, produced in runs of 200, are a Barneys exclusive. “I wanted to do something special for them because they have been supporting me for all of these years. They have helped me grow from a medium-sized business to something quite important,” Malle told Fashionista.

But Malle’s 18 sketches may be a window into his hidden talents. Each image is a visual reflection of the fragrance inside. “This capacity to translate scents into images is called synthesia,” he wrote in a release. Malle uses, “Photoshop, its many layers and its many brushes to illustrate the layers and textures that I smell when smelling these scents.”

But in person, he’s more humble about the whole thing. “I’m not multitalented, it just so happens that when I smell things, I see them, so I just put them on paper and they just came out,” Malle told us.

“The fragrances are really well balanced so its easy to draw something well balanced from them,” he elaborated, “It’s easier to paint a beautiful person than an ugly person and it’s the same thing with fragrances.”