Francis Kurkdijan’s Olfactory Odes to Paris

From the quiet moments of sunrise to the shimmering lights of nightfall, Petit Matin and Grand paint a sensory portrait of the City of Light

By Ingrid Wood

Francis Kurkdijan has always had a fragrance wardrobe philosophy, encouraging perfume lovers to explore the different facets of the eponymous Maison’s fragrance creations as well as play with their own personality and changing needs.

“My creations are an invitation to choose the scent that suits you daily because I like the idea that each woman and man can express a part of themselves through perfume,” he says.

While he broke on to the fragrance scene when he created La Male for Jean Paul Gaultier in 1995, followed by other best-selling perfumes for brands such as Elie Saab, Burberry, Nina Ricci, and Narciso Rodriguez, it was when he started his own Maison with Lebanese-French businessman Marc Chaya that he was able to explore new bespoke fragrance avenues.

Born in Paris to Armenian parents, the French capital is still home for Francis and the place that inspires him most. “Paris is the only place where I can practice my work as a perfumer,” he says. “I need life, noise, people, greyness, gold on a dome of Les Invalides… I need the Seine, my Ponts des Arts.”

Naturally, it is also the place that led to the creation of two scents that are very close to his heart. “I always ask myself the question: What do I want to do? What do I want to say?” explains Francis of how he starts out on a fragrance creative journey. And with Petit Matin and Grand Soir, it was how to capture the fleeting moments, the magic and beauty of the City of Light, from dawn to dusk. “These unique, most cherished moments inspired me to create a duo of perfumes that can be experienced like an olfactory getaway in the heart of the city.”


Loosely translated as “the little morning”, Petit Matin is all about the rise of dawn and the excitement of a new day. It’s about getting out early to enjoy the almost deserted streets, strolling through the parks as the sun rises, and savouring that first cup of coffee at a sidewalk café. The smells of freshness are captured through the bright and radiant orange blossom, essences of lavender, and the aromatic litsea cubeba plant, while a hawthorn accord gives a powdery sweetness and a musky accord underlines the base notes. The bottle captures how the sun’s rays peak through rooftops, catching glass and the water of the Seine, giving the effect of a glittering veil.


Grand Soir or “the big light” calls to mind the vibrancy and mystery associated with the night, where every bridge, monument, and corner is illuminated with light and the sky changes from pink to honey to amber. The scent starts with the musky and slightly sweet cistus labdanum and is paired with lavender and cinnamon tree leaves, while a warm vanilla amber accord gives a sensual edge. The bottle picks up on how the evening is tinged with a copper halo as the light bounces off gold sculptures and domes.

If you’re not familiar with Paris, these two scents are a unique olfactory take on the city. And if you are intimately acquainted, it’s a must-have duo to remind you of why the City of Light is so enchanting. Allow the scents to evolve and ask yourself how you feel and what memories they evoke. Petit Matin and Grand Soir are available in 70ml for R3 620 at Skins Cosmetics.

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