Reimagining Perfumery

Creative Director Christopher Chong is reinventing international luxury fragrance brand Amouage.

When Was The Defining Moment For You That You Knew Your Passion Lies In Perfumes?

A lot of things happen to us by chance. You could spend your entire life preparing to embark on a certain career and it ends up being nothing but just a dream. The time in my life that I dedicated to opera was exactly that, and an opportunity with Amouage just happened to come along by chance. Although my background is in music and fashion, I feel strongly that the world of perfume is where I was destined to be and that everything I did before prepared me for this moment, my work with Amouage. Creativity in all its forms has always been intensely fascinating to me, even when I was a child. Art, music, theatre and fragrance – they are all processes in which the intangible is made tangible. Whereas previously I expressed my creativity thorough song, now I share it through the artistry of perfume making. If you think about it, composing an aria is not at all dissimilar to creating scent. Both translate mood, memories and thought into a form that is larger than life.

Who Were Your Influences From The Perfume World That Shaped Your Taste And Style? Is There One Fragrance That Has Stayed In Your Memory For The Longest Of Time?

I have always been fascinated with perfumes from the early half of the 20th century. I believe that was the Golden Age of ne perfumery. I adore the classics like Caron’s Tabac Blond, En Avion and Guerlain’s Jicky. Maybe with some luck my creations will be considered as classics in the future.

Where Do You Find Inspiration? And Do You Need To Be Inspired Before Creating Or Do You Feel The Nature Of Your Role In The Company Means Action Must Come Before Inspiration?

I certainly don’t go looking for inspiration. I nd it comes in a moment, sneaks up unexpectedly. It can be triggered by almost anything – the lilt in a soprano’s phrasing, a half-heard whisper, a eeting glance, a feeling from long ago, a fragment of a dream. Once inspiration takes hold and begins to flow though, I’m carried me away on a whirlwind of creativity and a torrent of emotion, blending and distilling thoughts, images, colours, sensations, sounds. Then, voilà. The concept is there and the story for the next fragrance is revealed.

How Would You Define Amouage? And What Do You Believe Sets It Apart From The Competition?

Honesty. Integrity. Creativity. That’s Amouage. What makes our brand distinctive is our creative integrity. Because we are not limited to making perfumes that are on trend, we get to experiment with ingredients and our sole focus throughout the development process is on making beautiful and unique fragrances. Our customers are drawn to the brand for this reason. We tell a different story and our narratives link the fragrances in a nonlinear way to one another, giving the brand a chance to build a deeper, more memorable connection with customers.

In Your 10 Years As Creative Director Of Amouage, What Have You Found To Be The Most Challenging Aspect?

The greatest challenge for me is trying to create something different and distinct every year – but I relish this and revel in experimenting with the olfactive palette, exploring the outer reaches of my creativity and fantasy. And I do think my understanding of musical phrasing has given me an extra advantage in creating perfumes that are unique and different from one another.

Your Latest Creation Is Titled ‘figment’. Can You Tell Us A Little About It And What The Name Represents?

The latest fragrance, Figment, quite literally represents a ‘ gment’ of my imagination. It’s an expression of the Bhutan of my imagination. Neither fantasy nor reality, it is an olfactory hologram, composed of the fragments that make up the intense beauty of life. This fragrance manifested itself in my imagination as the most perfect opera, viewed across space and time through antique enamelled opera glasses. It comes to life for me on a stage adorned with a profusion of silk threaded oral embroideries that gradually transform into a delicate divine garden.

What Has Been Your Proudest Achievement To Date In Amouage?

After ten years of designing ne fragrances and promoting Amouage I believe my proudest achievement is I am still here and doing what I love. I have seen competitive brands come and go. The perfume industry has changed a lot during this period and there has been many challenges, but I still feel fresh with each new creation. I am just happy that the buzz, energy and excitement are still the same as the rst day I entered the perfume industry.

How Would You Compare Gcc Perfume Markets With Those Of New York And London?

There is a rising trend in perfumes created to target this part of the world but as a global brand, we have never placed too much importance or focus on one cultural identity and are more about luxury rather than cultural speci city. Our fragrances are enjoyed by sophisticated, con dent and internationally aware customers who are not afraid to stand out from the crowd by wearing something unusual and different, and who appreciate true mastery in perfume creation. I think the Middle East is a great market for us because people here are exactly that – con dent and daring. They know what they like, and they’re not afraid to stand out. Aside from that, in the Middle East, fragrance isn’t just for vanity. It’s actually deeply engrained in the Middle Eastern culture, with many meanings, metaphors, and uses for different scents.

Can Gcc Rival Such Long Established International Cities? What Would It Take?

Absolutely. I actually think these long established cities are starting to rival the GCC! The fact that many prominent perfume brands are catering speci cally to this region says something about the Middle East.

How Would You Describe The Person That Amouage Perfumes Are Made For?

Sophisticated. Con dent. Daring.

How Do You See The Future Of The Perfume Industry? Do You Predict A Certain Trend To Take Over Soon?

We tend not to follow the global trend. Our brand DNA is about creating something different and unique rather than trailing behind a trend. Our customers are drawn to Amouage because they understand and appreciate the ne art of perfumery and thus they come to us for scents that have a philosophical air to them. It is about a way of life that is beyond convention.

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