For Harper's Bazaar Arabia's October issue, French perfumer Frédéric Malle shares what a standard day in the life looks like. Let's just say, it involves biking down fifth avenue, baking soufflés for dinner, and testing out perfumes in his sleep. You know, the usual.
The first thing I do is smell my arms as I always have four fragrance trials on them (two on each). I sleep with the perfumes on and it allows me to judge them subconsciously. I sleep light, I wear nothing. Sometimes I walk the dog (a Vizsla called Elvis) in the park, early, which allows me to go back to my senses. I’m a bit of a megalomaniac, so I pretend to myself the park is mine. I’m not really a morning person. I never wake up refreshed and revived, I wake up in a haze and hope that it’s not going to last too long. In New York you have so much water pressure you feel like you’re under Niagara Falls, so here I’m a shower person. I use Le Labo shampoo, my own Vetiver Extraordinaire Shaving Cream, which I absolutely adore, and the aftershave balm which comes with it. I have a Bang & Olufsen speaker which allows me to listen to French radio or music. In the morning I do everything slowly, it’s horrible. What I wear really depends on the light, I look outside and then I decide on the colours. I have suits and jackets made by the same tailor I’ve been to for years, Anderson & Sheppard. I wear jeans or velvet pants, usually from Levi’s or J.Crew. For shirts, I wear John Smedley, Lacoste or Turnbull & Asser. It’s a simple recipe. I wear Philippe Starck glasses, I read the New York Times and I drink Darjeeling. For breakfast, I’m horribly French – I have toast with butter and jam.
Lipstick Rose perfume, Dhs1,106, Frédéric Malle
I leave home and either bike down Fifth Avenue to my office – to try and convince myself I’m a healthy person – or I take the bus. I live on Fifth Avenue but very high up, past 96th street, on the 15th floor. I had a great friend in PR called Eleanor Lambert and when I used to visit Eleanor in her apartment in the ’90s, facing the reservoirs, I always dreamt of having that view. When you go home after a frantic day in a very noisy city, you have this oasis of calm.
The Silver Spoon cookbook, Dhs210 at Noon
When I arrive in the office, I generally smell the blotters from the day before. I do it in the morning because I smell better in the morning. You’re not tired, you’re fresh, you haven’t eaten too much, and it’s also a moment of quiet. Then I usually start talking to Europe. My main office is still in Paris, I talk to my team there every day for a couple of hours and then by the end of the morning the rest of my day begins. My little office faces towards the west side of the park and generally, my door is open. I see my team as an extension of myself, I initiate the projects and then let them gallop as much as possible. Then I let them come back to me and I either think it’s wonderful, or I refine it, or question it. I really don’t take myself seriously. I always underestimate my authority, but I know exactly what I want so I don’t beat around the bush; I don’t waste time trying to be super nice. That’s why I believe perfumers like working with me – I never mislead them out of trying to be nice or through a lack of courage. What I love the most about work is exchanging with people who are artistic, people that excel in their fields. I hate emails. I’m flooded with them. I get 50 a day. I also really get a huge amount of pleasure in simple things which are very well designed. For instance, at the office, I bought these very nice teacups from Alessi – I couldn’t bear the teacups we had before.
I’m annoyingly French and I have to stop for lunch. Firstly, it’s a break and secondly, I don’t snack in between meals. Sometimes I go by myself because I need the silence and I need to refocus. But sometimes it’s nice to have an exchange with someone in a more informal way. I often eat fish, a light lunch, very rarely pasta.
If I don’t have too many annoying emails I work on designs and art direction with the New York team. I smell anything I didn’t have time to smell in the morning. I try not to look at my computer during the day and instead do my emails in a batch at the end of the day – so I’m not disturbed by these things which I think are very intrusive. Sometimes I just escape from the office and go and see an art exhibition. I usually spend at least a week of every month in Paris, and every few weeks I go to a different continent. In September I’ll be sleeping in 11 different beds. I travel all the time. My favourite hotel is the Aman Summer Palace in Beijing.
Frédéric has a love of travelling to interesting places, such as Morocco
I go to the gym at the Racquet Club, I try to do this twice a week. I work out on all the torture machines, I swim a little bit and there’s a hammam, which is very nice.
If I don’t go to the gym, I leave later. Sometimes I stay in with my wife, Marie, and watch a TV series in the evening. My favourite recently was the one inspired by Rupert Murdoch – who is a terrible person – called Succession. Also, the Swedish series, The Bridge. Either someone leaves something for us, or sometimes I cook – it’s a relaxing thing for me. We cook very simple French food like soufflés. If I’m feeling ambitious – generally only at the weekend – I’ll look at a cookbook; my favourite is The Silver Spoon. I go to work events as little as possible. What I really like is to have dinner with friends. I try to spend Fridays at the house in Long Island. This is where I can do more in-depth work and where time stops a little bit. I have a grey Ferrari which I drive there; it’s a pure expression of my neurotic self. It has an entirely natural leather interior, hand stitched in off-white. I even decided on the thickness of the thread myself. The house sits on a cliff overlooking the bay, it has a gunite pool and the view is amazing.
TV series, Succession
I go to bed. I’m one of these people that hangs on looking at stupid things – TV series, the internet. We’re building the house in Long Island so I look at furniture and decoration a lot. I drag on until midnight sometimes. My bedroom has seagrass on the floor, a desk that was my father’s and a bed, which is green velvet. There are books on my bedside table. The last book I read was éric Vuillard’s L’Ordre du Jour. We have Noguchi lights, very old-world upholstery and contemporary art. I like to put things together which shouldn’t go together, like something very modern with something 18th century. On the walls there is a red chintz motif from the ’30s – similar in feel to Diana Vreeland’s drawing room. They say that red in a bedroom makes you crazy, but I hope it’s not true.
From the October 2018 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia