An Unexplainable Warmth From The Garden | Francis Kurkdjian and Jean-Michel Othoniel Collaborate on L'Or de J'adore

Via Issue 188, The Eternal Flame Issue!

Photographed by

No items found.

Styled by

No items found.
No items found.
Gold Rose By Jean-Michel Othoniel: A Work Of 24-Carat Gilded Bronze And Crystal. Upon Request At Select Dior Boutiques. Photographed by Ugo Cesare.

Long before we know ourselves, we know how to create: a scribble displayed on the fridge, a mud pie in the yard, a mess in a mother’s closet. Creation is the bridge between man and immortality, once in a while cementing a creator’s name into eternity. For Christian Dior, beauty was a concept that could be worn, admired, smelled, and remain unexplained. Today, the Dior namesake is carried on, honored by those dedicated to reigniting the visionary’s fire of authenticity.

This fall, the house celebrates those dedicated to this reignition with the release of L’Or de J’adore, the first fragrance created by the new Perfume Creation Director, Francis Kurkdjian. Respecting the traditions that Dior has historically paid to floral scents, Kurkdjian quested for purity, boiling down the fragrance’s essence to absolute necessary notes—jasmine, rose, and ylang-ylang are extended throughout, dancing alongside memories of lily and violet.

Gold Rose By Jean-Michel Othoniel: A Work Of 24-Carat Gilded Bronze And Crystal. Upon Request At Select Dior Boutiques. Photographed by Ugo Cesare.

In celebration of the launch and the beginning of a new era for J’adore, the house is releasing an exclusive artistic collaboration with Jean-Michel Othoniel, a contemporary installation artist famed for his architectural pieces, which can be found in gardens, historical sites, and cities worldwide. Encased in a wooden box is a bronze and gold miniature sculpture of a rose, which houses the bottle of L’Or de J’adore. The fragrance bottle is topped with a crystal pearl and accompanied by a bronze-dipped-in-gold necklace, surrounded by a structural corolla, making it impossible for the fragrance bottle to stand alone without the sculpture.

L’Or de J’adore will be unveiled in New York City at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where Othoniel’s new exhibition of site-specific sculptures, The Flowers of Hypnosis, is taking place. Three pieces of varying sizes make up the Gold Lotus series in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden—giving the illusion of real lotus flowers floating in the pond, reflecting light from above and below. The Gold Rose structure stands in the Fragrance Garden, and the Mirror Lotus is situated upon the Lily Pool Terrace, consisting of two towering stainless steel lo- tuses.

Othoniel and Kurkdjian have come together to carry on Dior’s tradition of bringing beauty to the world, reinventing the experience of perfume. In a limited-edition offering in which only 100 will be made, Othoniel’s lotus-shaped structure holds the bottle in which Kurkdjian’s fragrance lives. Together they keep this flame of creation burning, and Dior lives on.


How do you balance both individualism and universality in the fragrances you create?

When you create a perfume, you start first with an idea, which might be personal, that you can share with the creative team around you. And then at some point, you have to think about a larger audience than yourself. First of all, what you are creating has to please you. I am always the first client. It’s impossible to smell something that you don’t like. In the same way that it’s impossible to cook something that you don’t like. That’s impossible. If you cook something, I would say you have to at least like what you’re cooking. Perfume is the same, because not only do you smell it, but you put it on the skin. So, you must enjoy what you are working on.

At some point, within the creative process, you have to think larger than just yourself, bigger than just your team, you have to think intellectually about your audience. It’s more of a feeling that you get. It’s about stepping out of the technical part of the creative process and being more into the emotional part. A great perfume transcends raw materials. A great perfume goes beyond the olfactory pyramid, the great perfume goes beyond name-dropping ingredients. A great perfume becomes a great perfume once you feel it. At some point, perfume becomes just an emotion and not a layer of ingredients.

What was the process of creating L’Or de J’adore?

Very, very, very simple. So, within the name Dior, and within the name J’adore, there is the word or, which means gold in French. And gold is very important to the House of Dior. Jean Cocteau—basically Jean Cocteau is to France what Andy Warhol was for the US—stated that Dior is a contraction of dieu and or, God and gold. So the idea of gold for Dior is very important. It’s one of our pillars. L’Or de J’adore, means the gold within J’adore; the idea was a quest of pure gold. What was the gold within J’adore? And when we started to think about it, we thought it would be relevant first to understand how pure gold is made, and pure gold is made of heating the gold to a certain temperature so the impurities evaporate.

My take was if I had to use the formula of the Eau de Parfum, the original J’adore from 1999, and if intuitively I would evaporate the formula so the most volatile ingredients evaporate, what would be left? It was an idea of using a magnifying glass, digging into the perfume, selecting what is important within the perfume, and zooming back to have the full picture. That was my interpretation of the project. When you do so, basically, you focus on the important part of the perfume, and flowers are the true gold of J’adore.

How does Dior relate to the natural world through its work?

Dior’s perfumer, Edmond Roudnitska, was the first ever perfumer that was able to create a true-to-nature lily bell. Before that time it was impossible not only to extract the smell out of the flower, but it was impossible basically to duplicate the smell. 

In the perfume world, some flowers with a strong scent—we are not able to extract the smell out of them. We call them, between perfumers, “mute flowers,” meaning it’s almost like a silent flower. The reason why we call them mute flowers is because so far, there is no way to extract the scent out of these flowers. Peonies, for perfumers, are a mute flower. Sweet peas are a mute flower. Lilac, hyacinth, big Madonna lilies. Even though they do exist in nature, it’s totally impossible to extract the smell out of them.

The House of Dior was the very first one to be able to reproduce and duplicate the smell [of lily of the valley] in Diorissimo. Since 1947, we have used natural extracts from flowers, or from woods and spices. It’s part of who we are and it’s part of our heritage and DNA.

Christian Dior was very much inspired by flowers. His first collection is known in the US as New Look, but in France as Corolle. Corolle is basically the shape of the flower. We have tulip-shaped dresses, we have many links with nature because since his childhood with his mother, Christian Dior loved gardening. He loved gardens. La Colle Noire, in the South of France, is an amazing garden that is almost a replica. It’s inspired by the one he had in his childhood house. So nature, gardens, and flowers, are very part of us, in a way. This is what I’m trying also to revive as an in-house person right now. I think this is important to me because there are modern ways to activate those memories.

All the partnerships with Othoniel, the one we had in Versailles, last fall, the one we had in Paris at the Petit Palais. The one at the Botanic Garden in New York City, in Othoniel’s creation, there is a strong relationship with nature. There’s something very organic in a way. 


Why are you attracted to gardens? What draws you to them, and how did they help to inspire The Flowers of Hypnosis?

I had the chance to have a grandmother who had a garden, and when I was four, I was helping her to water the plants and vegetables. It was more a garden made to eat, not really flowers. And then I started to travel a lot with my parents, and each time we went to different countries, we visited gardens. And when I started to have art history lessons, I studied gardens at school. I really love it, it’s my passion. I really love the stories about the gardens, the different types of gardens, the architecture, the secret meanings of pavilions and follies, as we say in French, in the middle of the garden. So it’s really something that inspired me.

And since I always thought to try to show my work in gardens, the first show was at the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice in ‘97. It’s where I had my first show in a garden. And then, I wrote a book about the story of flowers because I collected [them] since I was a teenager. So it’s really something, you know, sometimes you ask an artist, ‘What is your hobby?’ And my hobby is gardens.

What was your experience working with Dior? How did it work compared to what you’ve previously created in the past?

I worked with Dior ten years ago on this very small edition of J’adore. At the time I worked on the bottle itself, I brought all the savoir-faire—the [glass] masters from Murano to work on the first edition. Here, my idea was to make a real sculpture to support the amphora where you have the perfume. It’s really to give everybody a small sculpture in bronze that you can handle, you can play with, and you can also have at home. Which is, for me, something totally new. It’s reaching a new public, people who don’t know my work, but will discover it through this collaboration.

The bottom of the bottle is totally round, so you can’t take it out and use it as a normal bottle. You need to go back to the sculpture. So this sort of dialogue between the bottle and the sculpture, they are codependent. In fact, they need to correspond, they need to talk to each other. So it’s really this dialogue of making the bottle something you need to play with, you need to take care of it. It’s also something that will bring you energy. It’s not something static. You put it in this infinite necklace which will turn around in the shape of a rose. So for me, this collaboration was more about making something really special because it’s a new edition of the fragrance. It’s not like when I worked the first time, just working on the content of it. It was not working on the story of it.

How did you think about creating a multi-sensory experience with your work at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden? Do you have a special relationship with the flowers that you’ve represented in The Flowers of Hypnosis?

The garden itself is made up of several gardens, so I chose three gardens that are close together. One of the most iconic of the BBG is the Japanese garden, the oldest Japanese garden in the state. So it’s quite magical because the trees are very big and they are all coming from Japan. In this garden, I wanted to pay homage to the lotus because it’s an important flower in Japanese culture, and I use gold because gold in Japanese culture is also very important. [The sculpture] reflects all of the landscape—you can see in the gold leaves a subtle reflection of what is around. I’m sure the changing of color during the period of the show, which ends in the fall, will reflect yellow, pink, and red, so it will be a totally different atmosphere. And this reflects in the piece itself.

What is great about gardens, is that you have to come back. It’s not a place you see once, and it’s always changing, changing of course with the light, with the season, but it also changes because you move in the gardens. In the Japanese garden you have a path around the pond, so when you turn around the sculptures, they change shape. You have this feeling that they are blooming in fact, because sometimes they can be closed and from another point of view they are totally open. So it’s the idea of the lotus, the lotus is made of several steps, and all the representations of the lotus are linked to spirituality. And in the Japanese garden, it’s fantastic because you have this pavilion on the water, so you can really relax and take the time to look at the piece as a sort of portal of—I don’t know—a spiritual portal. 

Still Life Photographed by Ugo Cesare

Still Life Creative Directed by  Mui-Hai Chu

Francis Kurkdjian Photographed by Claudio Fleitas

Jean-Michel Photographed by Zach Gross

No items found.
No items found.
Dior, L'Or de J'adore, Francis Kurkdjian, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Ugo Cesare, Zach Gross, Claudio Fleitas, Franchesca Baratta, Flaunt Magazine, Issue 188, The Eternal Flame Issue