The Nerdy Perfume Blog

Francis Kurkdjian: Come at me, Bro

Oh, it is ON, Francis Kurkdjian. It is on like Donkey Kong.

Persolaise has just posted an… interesting interview with Mr. Kurkdjian, and I now feel obligated to defend the honor of perfumistas everywhere. Do not think that I will go easy on you because you are a gorgeous Armenian man, Mr. Kurkdjian. Let the record show that I am wholly immune to your soulful brown eyes and sharply tailored pinstripes.

Wholly immune. Ahem.

Mr. KurkdjIan begins by positing that Guerlain L’Heure Bleue smells like “burnt latex”. Burnt latex? What kind of tasty-ass burnt latex have you been smelling, Mr. Kurkdjian? How do you even know what burnt latex smells like?

Mr. Kurkdjian then tells us why he hates perfumistas: “What I hate about perfumistas now is that they try to force everybody to do things in the same way, to love the same way… You can’t say that you have to like Shalimar or Mitsouko or L’Heure Bleue.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a straw man argument. A straw man argument, as per Wikipedia, is “based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position”. Please find me these mythical perfumistas who try to force all the unworthy L’Heure Bleue-haters to convert to Guerlainism or forever be banished from Asgard. Let me give you a hint, Mr. Kurkdjian: that doesn’t actually happen. That’s not a thing. I have never, ever seen a perfumista be dismissed for sharing a differing opinion over a perfume.  What is this, Charlie the Unicorn? “Shun the non-believers! Shuuuuuuun!”

The perfumista community is one of the most tolerant and friendly spots on the internet. Seriously, bloggers on practically every other subject receive daily death threat emails for endorsing Apple over Windows or Special K over General Mills. The most serious threat I have ever received in two years of perfume blogging was from a mildly aggravated lady who told me that I had lost all credibility by favoring Beyoncé over Whitney Houston (may her memory be a blessing).

Mr. Kurkdjian goes on to turn up his nose at perfume critics. He states, “There are no best [perfume critics]. They’re so boring. And the reason they’re so boring is that, to prove their legitimacy, they try to drop ingredient names, chemical names, just to prove to their readers that they have the know-how.” Dude, only like four of us do that. I can literally name them all right now: Luca Turin, Chandler Burr, Octavian Coifan, Denyse Beaulieu. The rest of us say over and over that we have no scientific qualifications whatsoever and could not be less interested in “chemical names”. Please refer to Robin’s “about me” section on Now Smell This, the biggest perfume blog around, which states, “If you are wondering what qualifications I have for writing this blog, the answer is simple: none. I just like perfume.” What now, Mr. Kurkdjian? What now?

By the way, everyone, please note that our monthly forced Guerlainism conversions have been rescheduled for next Tuesday. Don’t forget your pitchforks!

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44 Responses to “Francis Kurkdjian: Come at me, Bro”

  1. klytaemnestra

    Pinstripes and dapper hat aside, what a douche.

    And as someone who’s scorched latex w/ a heat gun before, I assure you L’Heure Bleue smells nothing like it.

    Reply
    • Ari

      I was honestly surprised that he would allow himself to be quoted saying that. Most perfumers have the discretion to say “Oh, I don’t really read perfume blogs.”

      Reply
  2. Patty

    Since when is anyone forced to like L’Heure Bleue? On the contrary, there are plenty of LHB haters in perfumista-land who aren’t afraid to state their position. I get a big kick out of reading comments that hate on the frags I love – I do have a sense of humor! If anything, reading the blogs has forced me to expand my horizons and test things I assume I wouldn’t like. After that, I may like it or not, but at least I’ve opened my mind and become more knowledgeable. Note to Mr. K.: None of your stuff has impressed me so far.

    Reply
    • Ari

      There are haters of every famous fragrance under the sun! And their opinions are all equally valuable!

      Reply
  3. mals86

    CRAP. And here I was thinking that Francis was Ma Nose Man. I usually have good luck with his stuff. Dang it, I KNOW I have a pitchfork around here somewhere. There HAS to be a pitchfork… this is a farm, never mind that nobody has actually pitched hay with a fork since the invention of TRACTORS…

    (Sidenote: I wonder if he’s talking about Basenotes? Because I saw some pro/anti Creed stuff going on over there for awhiles, with all kindsa name-calling.)

    (Other sidenote: The heck with Guerlains. Early Cotys just kick their butts, iffen you ask me. YES, EVEN L’HEURE BLEUE is less interesting than its inspiration, L’Origan. Go ahead, y’all, direct your pitchforks at me. Dare ya.)

    Reply
    • Patty

      I’d never do that, mals86! If only the Cotys had stayed true to themselves we might not be talking about the Guerlains today. L’Origan was a favorite of my mom’s, and even though it was a shadow of its former self, I could see the connection with LHB.

      Reply
    • Ari

      willread below also brought up the possibility of forums. I guess that I didn’t really take them into consideration, as I don’t read any regularly. Someone better informed than me will have to write another post on that!

      No pitchforks, but I am surprised! I find L’Origan prettier than L’Heure Bleue, but no more interesting.

      Reply
      • mals86

        I “technically” have accounts at MUA and Basenotes, but I found MUA really clique-y, and Basenotes seems full of testosterone-poisoned guys completely willing to take written potshots at each other over their opinions. I visit Fragrantica pretty frequently because they have good notes lists, but I stopped posting regularly in the forums a couple of years ago because there was so much of the “What’s the sexiest perfume for a girl to wear, guys only please?” discussion. Also there’s some “how dare you hate on Euphoria, you b*tch?” stuff.

        (Please note that I’m not suggesting that the presence of testosterone is automatically poisoning men. Just that sometimes the testosterone levels sneak up on the poor dears and they just HAVE to reach out and smack someone, figuratively speaking.)

        Reply
    • susan

      On the topic of L’Origan and L’Heure Bleue, how’s about this…:

      http://1000fragrances.blogspot.com/2012/03/lheure-bleue-guerlain-and-origan-coty.html

      Interesting but very polemical (which is what people love/hate about Octavian, alternately, I think).

      I actually don’t take too big of exception to what Francis K. had to say; in fact I largely agree with him about people blogging about specific molecules/chemistry when they don’t have the training to do so. I’ve become increasingly skeptical about that kind of thing in recent months. I also agree with him that art always has a frame, a cultural context, and there’s no way to truly pull money/commercialization out of art. I can see where there “I don’t like perfumistas” might rub some the wrong way, but I’m just letting that roll off my back…

      I think too, that I have some sympathy for him re: LHB. I actually don’t have super strong feelings about LHB one way or the other; it’s probably my fave of the classic Guerlains, but overall I’m not really a Guerlain fan at all, sadly. I actually think I just prefer contemporary perfumery on the whole and I am not going to get caught up in some fantasy of a lost perfume world and try to buy every vintage bottle that’s out there. There are some vintage things I would like to try (original Cotys, cough cough) and there are some things that might have been better in the past, but there were some things that were worse too.

      I say all this, and I’m not even much of a fan of FK’s creations. I can’t think of a one I’ve enjoyed! :(

      Reply
  4. Olfactoria

    Guerlainism for all! Convert or be gone! We want the world to reek of burnt latex! ;)

    Thanks Ari, all you’ve said – my thoughts exactly!

    Reply
  5. Dionne

    I’d heard that the industry wasn’t used to criticism, but now I’m starting to see it firsthand. So he creates perfumes for the masses, but we’re not allowed to talk about what he’s doing? Does anyone else find that really, really odd?

    Oh no, you linked to Charlie the Unicorn – my kids find the video hilarious and have played it many time, that voice drives me crazy. May I put in a request for Badger, Badger or Trevor the Magician or Potter Puppet Pals for a future post? Those make me laugh.

    Reply
    • Ari

      This is one of the very few firsthand examples of someone involved with the perfume industry openly dismissing perfume critics, actually. Most are discreet enough to say that they simply don’t read perfume blogs. (I recall an interview with Maurice Roucel where he said that he only read Bois de Jasmin- wise choice!) But I have definitely felt the sentiment before. It’s actually kind of nice to have those suspicions confirmed.

      I will do everything in my power to find an excuse to incorporate Potter Puppet Pals into a future post!

      Reply
  6. willread

    It seems some of the ‘perfumistas’ live in bubbles too. There is a lot of name-calling and flaming on various forums. Different brands have their little police squads, so it’s not all peace and unity in the perfumista world. There are also many more than the four you mentioned that throw around chemicals. Many more.

    I also agree with him that many (far from all) reviews on the perfumista blogs are boring. There, I said it.

    On the other hand, FK talks about the ignorance of the process. Frankly I don’t give a crap how a perfume came about. Only the end product matters. It’s like directors complaining about the restraints in the movie industry, bla bla.

    And: anyone who doesn’t like L’Heure Bleue should be burnt alive. Then we will see about the burnt latex smell :)

    Reply
    • Ari

      willread, I do not keep up with any of the perfume forums, so I am definitely willing to concede that they are my blind spot. So the forums are less civil than the discourse on most perfume blogs?

      Now, why didn’t I think of L’Heure Bleue-related burning-at-the-stake? No witch hunt would be complete without one!

      Reply
      • Aubrey

        You’re not on MUA or the Facebook group? You are missing out, lady.

        Reply
  7. Elisa

    Excuse my language, but what a prick! He’s actually dissing his core audience? Go suck a bag of orange blossoms, FK.

    Reply
  8. Michael

    I personally would take some of what Kurkdjian is saying with a pinch of salt. Remember, Persolaise did state that he said a lot of this with a smile and some charm, in what is, I presume, a fairly informal interview.

    Reply
  9. Vanessa

    I would like to give Mr Kurkdjian APOMM – A Piece Of My Mind…

    I don’t care for L’Heure Bleue myself – it is a fuddy duddy sneezefest to my mind, but that is just me. Now I don’t think anyone will jump out of the blogosphere and nobble/hobble me for saying so, but somewhere at the back of my mind I still imagine that my failure to appreciate this iconic scent, along with its stable-behemoths of Shalimar and Mitsouko *might* just possibly make me a bit of a Philistine. And arguably I must have got that idea from somewhere. Though there again I may just be going through a paranoid phase…. :- )

    Btw, let us not forget that Mr K was the man who encouraged Pierre Guillaume to stick at perfumery, so for that alone we are most grateful.

    Reply
    • Ari

      I definitely agree that there is an IDEA that we should all appreciate the classics. However, I don’t think I’ve ever really encountered anyone hell-set on enforcing that idea onto other perfume lovers. You are surely no Philistine, lady!

      Reply
      • Vanessa

        No indeed, Ari – it is just something in the air. I feel the same about indie and natural perfumes actually. Can’t explain it, can’t put my finger on it, haven’t got a shred of evidence, it is just an “idea” that is out there that I am tuning into.

        On a small typographical note, FK may just possibly come at you in for inserting an extra “i” in his name… : – ) ; – )

        Reply
  10. Lia

    I laugh so hard reading this! i never smell a burn latex but a fresh dried latex from the tree has a pretty nasty smell. I really doubt L’Heure Bleue like burnt latex tho.

    Reply
    • Ari

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed it, Lia! And I have learned something new- I had no idea that latex comes from a tree!! (Not sure where I thought it came from…)

      Reply
      • Lia

        Haha now you know it! Here in my country there are a lot of rubber plantations, I used to play around one of my late grandfather’s when I was a kid. Actually, the milky fluid that comes from rubber trees is a natural source of latex but i believe there is a synthetic one though.

        Reply
  11. Notas & Acordes

    Ari dear, we think Mr. Kurkdjian is perfectly entitled to his opinion. We try to be patient and understand his point of view and emerge better people ourselves, not by trying to conform to his views -mind you- but by seeing another face of this issue.
    Different opinions make us richer even if we don’t agree with them.

    We have as much fun writing our blog -that’s why we do it- as reading yours and other fellow perfumistas’. We will continue to do so and disregard handsome Mr. K’s opninion on blogs and fragrance criticism.
    Fragrance inspires us and we like to inspire other people with it in a country where niche perfumery is relatively recent and unknown.

    We love many of his creations and will love them regardless of his opinion. We wouldn’t mind having a few Picassos or Dalis and those guys were not really nice people, you know.

    It’s always nice to read you.

    Reply
  12. Natalie

    I was also moderately annoyed, but then read Vanessa’s comment about FK encouraging PG to stick at perfumery. All is forgiven. Or at least ignored for now.

    Reply
  13. Natalie

    P.S. He wants to talk boring, he should go smell the perfume he created for Elie Saab, then get back to me.

    Reply
    • Vanessa

      He might well respond that Elie Saab is not so much a perfume as a “product”, an intriguing philosophical debate going on now over on Persolaise’s blog!

      Reply
    • Ari

      You just don’t understand, Natalie, because all you want to talk about is the scent. You have to look at the perfume as a WHOLE PRODUCT. Duh.

      Reply
  14. Bryan

    I don’t know, guys. Just reading this post has me immediately associating Mr. Kurkdjian’s words with my personal experiences on perfume forums, namely basenotes, which esteemed noses actually do frequent (Andy Tauer just posted today).

    Gotta say, there’s an awful lot of name-dropping, chemical listing, and pontificating that goes on there. Some of it is interesting – most of it is not. Obviously these are not published perfume critics, but the internet makes everyone a viable critic nowadays. I’d hazard to say that this is what makes it a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it’s nice that everyone has a voice. On the other, not everyone knows how to put cogent thoughts down, but everyone tries anyway.

    Too bad Francis doesn’t like the perfume blogosphere. But hey, more for us.

    Reply
    • Elisa Gabbert (@egabbert)

      Do the guys on Basenotes call themselves “perfumistas”? I guess, like “barista,” it could be gender-neutral, but I mostly see women perfume bloggers using it. And I realize Basenotes is not all men, but it does seem to slant that way.

      I feel like forums make even less claim to authority than blogs do — it’s just people talking on the Internet. I for one find it interesting to _speculate_ about what ingredients/chemicals might be in a perfume. I don’t see how it’s different from home cooks trying to guess the ingredients in a restaurant dish. Both seem harmless, and it’s natural for a hobbyist to try to make connections.

      Also, sorry (to Ari and her readers) for my crudeness in the above comment. I was kidding around, but realized later it sounded a little harsh. I do think FK’s comments about “perfumistas” are weirdly intolerant/hostile to his audience/fans, but he said some things (in the interview) that really made me laugh too.

      Reply
      • flittersniffer

        I know what you mean about forums making even less claim to authority than blogs, but of course some of the people hanging out in the forums are also writing reviews on Basenotes in another section of the site, and some of those are as forthright as all get out or however the phrase goes! Once you are reviewing in a public domain, you might as well be blogging, arguably?

        Reply

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