COURTESY PARFUMS CHRISTIAN DIOR
When I first met Dior master perfumer François Demachy in 2019 at a fragrance launch event in New York City, I was utterly starstruck—his hands (and nose) were part of a formative part of my teenage years. At age 14, my dad had taken me shopping at Neiman Marcus to choose my first perfume, an essential rite of passage for any Middle Eastern girl. That day, I was a Syrian Goldilocks, my nose slightly wrinkling no with each puff of scent (and coffee beans in between!) that never smelled just right. That was until I picked up a rectangular bottle filled with golden juice and a silver bow. At the time, I wasn’t quite astute enough to know I was smelling strawberry and mandarin orange intermingling with rose, jasmine, and patchouli. All I knew was that I had officially found the fragrance that I become the scent soundtrack for some of the most incredible memories of the next five years: Miss Dior Chérie, the now discontinued iconic fragrance.
I’m not alone in having my life scented by Demachy. His influence on the world of fragrance has been so inspiring that filmmakers Clément Beauvais and Arthur de Kersauson followed Demachy for two years, recording Nose, a film that follows his nose as he travels for ingredients that make Dior’s signature scent.
The pair chased him up green hills in Indonesia to meet patchouli farmers, through the vineyard trees in Italy picking the fruit that will become bergamot, and possibly the most critical locale of all: the world’s perfume capital, Grasse, France.
“Making a lasting fragrance is like composing a symphony,” says former Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire beauty director Erin Flaherty in Nose. “It takes a lot of thought and distillation to home in on the thousands of raw materials that are available. You have to come up with a concept, sometimes very clear, sometimes it’s very abstract, but the palette is as vast as the human imagination.”
Some of Demachy’s compositions during his time as the master perfumer for the French fashion house include J’adore Absolu, Miss Dior Rose N’Roses, and Joy by Dior. It’s a far cry from the very first fragrance he made for Dior: A scent that would whet the appetites of cows. However, his first authentic perfume was Emanuel Ungaro Diva, created for his wife and adored by actress Sophia Loren.
“Perfume is about emotions,” Demarchy shares while on screen. “It leads to seduction and desire, which is what drives all perfumes.”
I was lucky enough to experience Nose in something completely innovative, which the Dior team calls “odorama”—seven scent strips similar to the samples you’d get in a magazine. Each was numbered and perfectly cued down to the second, so while Demarchy sat in the Dior labs discussing Elemi— an ingredient I’ve never even heard of before— it didn’t leave me wondering; I just opened up the sample and sniffed.
The hour-long movie is a feast for the senses (especially when odorama is involved).
“A scent is like love,” Demarchy says. “You can’t explain it.” Strangely enough, after watching “Nose,” the scent itself was explained very well with all the right notes.
Nose is now streaming. You can find it on:
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