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Dries van Noten – A perfume portrait, by Frédéric Malle -February 22, 2013 New Fragrance Listing


The new fragrance from Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle just launched in Paris and New York on February 15, 2013. It’s called Dries van Noten par Frédéric Malle, and Gwen returned from Paris this week with a 50 ml. bottle in its black box with the bright-red linen cover.

I hear questions: who is Dries van Noten, and why has Frédéric Malle named a perfume after him?

First  -  Dries van Noten, Age 54,  is a Belgian fashion designer, known for his innovative layered designs and unique use of colours, original patterns, and textures in his garments. The New York Times describes him as “one of fashion’s most cerebral designers” but his path has not been haute couture. Van Noten’s personal style is much more reserved and hands-on, so his four collections per year are100% ready-to-wear, never advertised, and  available in his own store in Antwerp, and through selected retailers, like Barney’s in NYC...source: Wikipedia

Second - Malle and van Noten have been friends for a long time, so when FM decided to expand his creative strategy beyond using important “noses”, and build a new collection using interesting people as inspiration, Van Noten was his first choice. The two men admire and respect each other’s work, and from a business perspective, creating a fragrance around the designer was a good fit for the two brands.

On the DvN website, there is a video interview with Malle and van Noten, which is worth spending the 15 minutes it takes to view it all the way through. The two are sitting side by side, responding to questions about the new perfume, and the experience of making it together along with the its creator, the young perfumer Bruno Jovanovic.  It’s a fascinating glimpse into the creative process they used, and their feelings about the result of their year-long journey together. (You’ll learn some of what I’m writing about here.)

Malle says he sees raw materials - perfume notes - like colours, so developing the scent for Dries was like painting his portrait. Malle was the Creative Director who worked closely with Bruno Jovanovic, the Artist – Malle came up with the design brief and guided the many iterations of the scent, refining it to fit his image of his friend. Bruno brought fabulous technique and great imagination into the process. Dries, on the other hand, experienced this process as the Subject - from a distance, offering his reactions and opinions, but with no real control on the final product, which was a real switch for him. He says that, through the finished perfume, he got to “feel how people see him”.

And what is Dries van Noten's portrait like?  Malle says the scent is very special, and it fits him perfectly.

Photo - - Dries van Noten

It starts with a “bowl of comfort”, the creamy soft base of vanilla and Mysore sandalwood, which is then deepened with patchouli, rounded with musk and jasmine, and brightened by adding the “colours” of safran, clove, nutmeg, lemon and bergamot. Just like Dries’s designs – comfortable to wear, layered, textured and colourful.

Dries says the scent is unusual, not in the sense to be different or to disturb, but to be intriguing. To him, the scent feels like it has personality and comfort, there is a feeling of ease in it. Malle says he feels it has an understated sensuality.

They are both right. Malle uses traditional perfume notes in Dries van Noten, so at the outset it smells comforting and very familiar, but it evolves in an unusual way, seemingly from the bottom up, and back down again. The Sandalwood and vanilla are there from beginning to end, variously layered with safran, spices, and citrus notes. Sulfurol, a yeasty gourmand note is the link which keeps the accords connected, infusing Dries van Noten with the cozy-comfort factor, softening the spices and giving the scent a cashmere finish.

Dries van Noten, the scent, portrays the designer as a traditionalist, with a creative heart, quiet, reserved, with great depth, warmth, and appeal, and also, like Malle says, an understated sensuality - it’s definitely there, too. It goes from feeling citrus fresh to gourmand to spicy to woody and rotates through these “coloured” accords, which is what makes it so very unusual – the “intriguing” sensation that Dries identifies. It’s a quiet scent easily worn by both men and women, with soft sillage which is deceptively and deliciously persistent.

In the interview, FM says that he admires how Dries’ design aesthetic allows people to make his designs their own. In fact, DvN invites people to put their personal stamp on his clothing designs by layering or combining them as they choose, with things of their own. His designs transform into personal style. It makes sense then, that Dries says he envisions his scent transforming in the same way – his scent will become the personal scent of the wearer, a scent for anyone to wear, anyone who “wants to tell something, or has something to tell”.

Malle has, in fact, painted a wonderful perfume portrait of his friend. And it definitely is a portrait. Malle wants us to understand that. Why else would the black box have a mirror finish on the inside, so that when you remove the bottle from its cradle, you see your own face reflected back at you? The portrait becomes you, the scent becomes yours, just as Dries envisions.

Dries van Noten par Frédéric Malle is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $8.00 for 1 ml.