Jean Paul Gautier Fleur du Male, 2007

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Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian

Looking back, Francis Kurkdjian’s Jean Paul Gaultier Fleur du Male marks the time when Kurkdjian was pivoting his career from work for designer labels and the more rarified niche lines to his own line. Fleur du Male was released in 2007.  2009 saw the first perfumes from Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

Designer, but with a twist, Fleur du Male Fleur du Male matched and surpassed the Gaultier brand which had beaten its enfant terrible schtick to death by this time. Technically a flanker, Fleur was released 12 years after le Male, also by Kurkdjian for Gaultier. Matching the Gaultier sensibility, Fleur du Male is an effusive fragrance that speaks with waving hands and superlatives. Daring and lovely, it was a strong statement that breathed some beauty back into a dull mainstream masculine market.

The fougère made it masculine, the huge orange blossom note made it fey, the locker room sensibility made it gay. It was boisterous and affable, typical of the fougère genre. The enormous floral flourish ties in with a sweaty, steamy locker room vibe. The result is a fragrance tailored to the gym queen sensibility of the 1990s and early millennium. It targeted an early middle-aged gay set who remembered the 1990s nostalgically as a time when gyms had become the new bars, steroids had surpassed poppers and the cruising took place in the showers rather than the dimly lit bars of the previous decades.

The perfume bottle is recognizable from le Male and both are derived from the Schiaparelli Shocking bottle (1937 ). It is a sort of trophy, a nude Oscar, a robotically idealized male form in white. It’s a nod to the clone look/life that fits hand-in-glove with gym queen-dom. It gives the impressions of some sort of fetish, in all senses of the word, at the same time that it looks like an insertable sex toy. Where it’s easy to dismiss the cheap eroticism of the le Male bottle, the same shape has a new meaning in Fleur du Male. The white marble-like bottle, a young male nude in a  standing pose, is a salute to the kouros. The perfume it contains, a musky, orange blossom fougère, is a nod to YSL Kouros, its predecessor. Nice touch.

Fleur du Male hints at some of Francis Kurkdjian’s later work for his own line where woody, spicy and floral notes were used to bend traditional forms to convey more contemporary tastes. The allure of recognizable classical perfumery drew the wearer closer and then came the twist, the surprise. It was a smart, successful use of the ‘change from within’ strategy, a that trend continues in Kurkdjian’s own line.

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