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Famous Perfumer Uses Rare Neurological ‘Gift’ To Create New Scents

The perfumer creates customized artworks for his packages inspired by his synesthesia -- the ability to see music as colors.

Laura Feinstein
Laura Feinstein on January 2, 2013. @Whatsherrrface

While we’ve been following the work of olfactory mastermind Frédéric Malle for some time now, we were shocked and intrigued to learn that many of Malle’s scents are actually inspired by an interesting quirk in his sensory system; Born with the rare neurological phenomenon Synesthesia, when Malle smells a scent, his brain actually translates the noise into a color scheme. As someone whose passion is perfume, Malle has turned this abnormality into a source of inspiration, allowing himself to envision new scents through a process he’s refined through the years. In order to share his unique world with fans, he created a set of colorful illustrations that will adorn the packaging of each new scent released.

As Malle recently told us:

When smelling fragrances I see colors. This capacity to translate scents into images is called synesthesia. A few years ago, I decided to put these visions that I have when smelling the perfumes of our collection on paper. I used Photoshop, its many layers and its many brushes to illustrate the layers and textures that I smell when smelling these scents. At first the purpose of these images was to explain each perfume not using words.

While I receive inspiration from all things– nature, things I see while walking, design, I certainly am also inspired by these colors.

To celebrate 10 years with Barneys [Malle's US distrubutor], I decided to create a line of packaging with each of these illustrations, so that – for the first time in the history of our brand the exterior expresses what’s inside the bottle.

This limited series of 200 boxes went on sale exclusively at Barneys on November 1st, and was ushered in with  an appearance and scent-experiencing session with Malle himself.

For those looking for a piece of Malle’s art, but who are pretty committed to keeping their scent au naturale, prints of each of these illustrations and 5 portfolios of the set of 18 prints will also be sold at Chelsea Passage in New York, with price points between $320 and $ 5,000. The proceeds of these sales will be going directly to Rockefeller University.

Below, check out some of Malle’s illustrations for yourself:

Scent signing Malle
Malle Illustrations

Frederic Malle

Frederic Malle For Barneys

Thinking...