My Best Life: Frédéric Malle Talks Bespoke Suits, Fine Wine, and the Pens He Can't Live Without
Inside a perfumer's olfactory empire.
"I'm a specialist in perfumery," says Frédéric Malle, "but I like to keep a broad scope." The 55-year-old Parisian transplant, whose grandfather founded Parfums Christian Dior, finds the term "Renaissance man" pompous, but it's hard to think of anyone in the fragrance industry who borrows elements from art, architecture, and even automobiles as skillfully as he has with Editions de Parfums.
Editions, the collection of haute scents Malle founded in 2000, works "like a publishing house for noses," with each bottle featuring both the name of the scent and the perfumer who helped create it. Malle has collaborated with nine of France's most famous perfumers—including Jean-Claude Ellena of Hermès, and Cool Water creator Pierre Bourdon—to build a permanent catalog of 17 fragrances. The scents capture everything from the essence of clouds to "the portrait of someone's skin," as is the case with Dan Tes Bras, Malle's latest fragrance from Guerlain and Gucci consultant Maurice Roucel. "I never get ideas from the market," says Malle. "I'm always hunting for something, usually in books or traveling." Here, the tireless perfumer uncorks a few of the things that inhabit his fragrant world. And for more on style icons, check how Nate Berkus Lives His Best Life.
"As a kid, I used to wear my father's old suits from Anderson & Sheppard. I bought a linen suit there recently. The color is amazing, and they washed the fabric three times before cutting it. Everything about it is accomplished and like a Bauhaus object—the function defines the form."
"I like to surround myself with art. I own a piece called 'A Sapling Held by a Post' by a Canadian photographer named Jeff Wall. I buy things like that because I believe they have an energy on an aesthetic level that inspires my work and what I'm doing."
"Château Lafite is like the Mona Lisa, I love it, but this family called de Montille makes the best burgundy wines I know. The whites are fabulous. I like their red Pommard Les Rugiens and the white Puligny Montrachet. There's no room for improvisation; you can feel the guy behind it." For more on the secrets of amazing wine, check How To Start a Wine Collection By the World's #1 Wine Expert.
My Favorite Film
"Le Feu follet was made by my uncle, Louis Malle. The movie always touches me because it shows the world I come from. It really shows St. Germain in the '60s. It also inspired our fragrance Bois d'Orage."
"Each camera is made for a certain type of picture. I have a Leica that I take everywhere, and at home I use a Hasselblad H3D for private still lifes and portraits."
"I'm growing a great liking for those Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pens. They're like a Montblanc, but they're pure plastic, and once they're out of ink, that's it. You just throw them away."
Ed Note: A version of this story originally ran in the November 2008 issue of Best Life.