Visionary Perfumer Frédéric Malle on the Decor in Visconti Films

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Frédéric is wearing his own clothes and accessoriesPhotography by Casper Sejersen, Styling by Nell Kalonji

“It becomes about this shift between the old and new world,” says Malle, of the movie sets that inspire the blend of traditional and contemporary in his work

“I grew up in a family which was close to the cinema. My uncle was a movie director and my father, a banker, was also his producer. I used to go to the movies two or three times every weekend and it’s the decor in those movies that has travelled with me ever since. In Visconti’s Conversation Piece, there’s an old scholar who owns a palazzo in Rome. There are two apartments on top of one another: his beautiful, conservative, old masters-filled apartment on the bottom and upstairs, a flat he rents out to a young couple which is all white and modern, like Cy Twombly’s studio. It becomes about this shift between the old and new world. It still feels relevant today. I always thought that I was equipped for change because I’m a curious person but I’ve realised that it doesn’t take much to become an old schmuck. This film is about transition, it helps to keep me cautious.”

The visionary perfumer Frédéric Malle grew up in Paris in an apartment much like that in Conversation Piece. “You’d go upstairs to the greenhouse, and all this Eames furniture, and you’d have modernity, and you’d go downstairs to old-world Paris. That’s why I’m so frenzied perhaps. Today, I like to play with those elements, to mix them.” His time at Parfums Christian Dior – established by his grandfather in 1947 – taught him the yin and yang of perfumery: the contrast between the modern, minimal chic of Dior and the evocative classics. In the 1990s he redefined the then-commercialised industry, founding his own label and offering a portfolio of perfumers a space for olfactory artistic freedom.

Hair: Blake Erik at Statement Artists using Hairstory. Make-up: Susie Sobol at Julian Watson Agency. Set design: Ian Salter at Frank Reps. Digital tech: Frederike Heide. Photographic assistants: Christopher Parente and Max Bernetz. Styling assistants: Rebecca Perlmutar, Kat Banas and Athena Zammit. Make-up assistant: Ayaka Nihei. Set-design assistant: George de Lacey. Production: Artistry London. Post-production: Studio Private

The Spring/Summer 2018 issue of AnOther Magazine is out now.