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For his newest scent, Aqua Vitae, or “water of life,” Francis Kurkdjian was inspired by “the space between two people, especially two lovers,” he said. “Aqua Vitae is not just about yourself, but yourself for the other [person], your partner. There is an intimacy, which is more seductive and more sensual. I wanted to work on the idea that perfume is also essential to life.”
Following his fresh scent Aqua Universalis, which is a top seller for the brand, Aqua Vitae, $175 for 2.5 oz. and $245 for 6.8 oz., is meant as “something more related to the skin,” said Kurkdjian.
“To me, a piece of clothing is alive when it’s out of the hanger and goes on the body and to me perfume is the same. It gets its life when it’s on the skin, not the blotter.”
Although the brand would not discuss numbers, insiders believe Aqua Vitae, which rolls out to 180 global doors this month, could generate between $3 million and $5 million at retail in its first year.
According to Kurkdjian, inspiration for the scent took some time and came unexpectedly during a vacation on the rustic island of Formentera, in the Balearic Islands off the coast of Ibiza.
“For the very first time, I was blank. I couldn’t come up with something,” said Kurkdjian.“I was not happy when I left Paris. I knew that when I returned I had to deal with that so I was kind of…my brain was open to suggestions basically.”
During one of his days on the island, which Kurkdjian said is “very low key” and without running water, he took a motorcycle ride, something he cannot do in large cities because his nose is insured.
“When you motorcycle you have the flow of the hot air to your face, at the same time you have the speed of the cycling, so you get a feeling that is kind of lukewarm smell and feeling,” said Kurkdjian. “This is what gave me the idea of working around for Aqua Vitae.”
The scent, a blend of Calabrian lemon, Sicilian mandarin, Brazilian tonka bean, vanilla infusion, hedoine and guaiac wood, features a “fresh impact as a central and a warm background, which is not sweet and not sticky,” said Kurkdjian. “It’s very hard for me to describe [but], its like basically, when you are on vacation, all of a sudden you feel that life is very [much] about simple things and when you have a kind of serenity….Something like when you smell your skin after sunbathing.”
When discussing the notes in the juice, Kurkdjian makes the point that finer ingredients do not necessarily mean a finer fragrance. “It’s like painting,” he said.
“A painter doesn’t invent a new color to be creative and have his own style,” he continued. “It’s the way he thinks of his craft is what makes him unique. It’s not like you buy a crop of bergamot and your perfume is going to be much better. It doesn’t work that way. The price of the Picasso is not done because of the price of the paints.”
To get the word out for Aqua Vitae, the brand will launch “on-counter activities,” utilize department store publications and offer deluxe sampling. In addition, Kurkdjian will make personal appearances in select Neiman Marcus doors and Bergdorf Goodman. He will also travel to stores in Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, the U.K., France and Germany.
Next up for the celebrated perfumer? Although he remained mum on details, Kurkdjian said he is working on a larger-scale scented project, utilizing pinwheels, an idea that came from his young niece, who loves to twirl in ballerina skirts. “She gave me the idea to do scented pinwheels, which will be part of a launch next year,” he said. “Half of my job is dedicated to olfactive installation. To me, it’s a new path.”