a journey of the senses by FLACONNEUR
The French photographer, filmmaker, hair stylist, fashion designer and perfume art-director known as Serge Lutens was born March 14, 1942, in the city of Lille in northern France. Lutens’ interests in beauty and fashion seem to have started at an early age. Lutens was taken on as an apprentice in a local hair salon in Lille at the age of fourteen. It was almost two years later on a very busy day at the salon, young Lutens, now sixteen, discovered his passion for hair styling, after being asked to cut the hair of a young lady who was sitting in a chair. Although he had no previous training, he parted the girl’s hair, took the pair of scissors and briskly cut off one large lock of the girl’s hair in a single swoop. The hair fell to the floor and Lutens describes this experience as a turning point in his life and the proverbial severing of an umbilical cord, as he puts it. He attributes this early experience as the basis for his appreciation of beauty as reflected in his work today.
Lutens left Lille in 1962 and moved to Paris where he worked as a designer of makeup, hair and jewelry for the world-renowned Vogue magazine at the age of 20. During his time there, he was fortunate enough to have collaborated with such great photographers such as Richard Avedon, Bob Richardson and Irving Penn.
In 1967, the famous Christian Dior fashion house commissioned Lutens as artistic director. He would create the House of Dior’s new make-up line. Among his accomplishments were mixed powders, pastes and new colors, with the help of his loyal associates.
In 1973 Lutens premiered a series of his photographs that were shown at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Inspired by his work and love of photography, he went on to produce two films. In 1974, he made his first movie, Les Stars and in 1976, Suaire which were shown at the Cannes Film Festival in France.
Serge Lutens moved to Marrakech, Morocco, where he has been living since 1974. The effects of this culturally rich place would soon be felt in the years ahead with the creation of a perfume line, many of which are spicy in nature. His life thus far in Morocco, including the Moroccan culture and the country itself, seems to have provided Lutens with a great deal of inspiration.
The Japanese company Shiseido was interested in commissioning Lutens to develop their product images in 1979. He photographed many advertising campaigns and films, while also designing makeup and packaging. His work for Shiseido won Lutens two ‘Lions d’Or’ at the International Advertising Film Festival.
1982 was the birth date of Nombre Noir, commissioned by Shiseido, Lutens’ first fragrance. The bottle was dressed in a bright and matte black packaging which was a classic symbol of the marketing in the 1990’s. Nombre Noir had moderate success with the public.
Serge Lutens was attracted to the fragrance world, to the point of dedicating a place to it. In 1992 the Palais Royal-Serge Lutens was born. Even though he entered the fragrance industry, he does not lay any claim to being a perfumer. Lutens worked in close cooperation with the perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, who he had met in Japan. Sheldrake has worked for Quest International and created perfumes for Shiseido, Rochas and Avon to name a few. During an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, Lutens was asked whether he wore fragrances himself. Lutens replied “Almost never. I wear fragrance when I go out in the evening. That is to say, three times a year, about. What is a perfume? When everything is finished, one adds it like a jewel.”
The’Serge Lutens’ brand arrived in the beauty marketplace in 2000, with the make-up line named Nécessaire de beauté. For four consecutive years, 2001-2004, Lutens was awarded the “Fifi Award” for best original concept. In 2004 he was selected to participate in “Lille 2004 – European Capital City”, here he erected his “Olfactory Maze,” an installation of concrete and light where he recreated scents from the city of his childhood such as rain, earth and leaves.
The “Sommet du Luxe” awarded Lutens the “Talent d’Or’ in 2006, and in 2007 the French Government gave him the title of “Commandeur” of the Order of Arts and Letters. This is a very prestigious award for anyone in the arts.
“L’eau Serge Lutens” opened a new page on Serge Lutens’ history in 2010. This was a fragrance unlike any other previously released by Lutens. This fragrance, the direct opposite of what you might expect from the master of spice and incense, was clean, crisp and citrus. There has been much criticism of “L’eau Serge,” especially from Serge Lutens fans expecting more deep rich fragrances. The release of “L’eau Serge” is also thought to appeal to the Asian market to which Shiseido planned wide distribution.
Lutens says that he draws inspiration from art, nature and sometimes the particular shade of a leaf or an extraordinary piece of furniture. He takes total control over the development of his product from start to finish. Everything from the creation of the color palette, models, clothing, hairstyles and application of the make-up, it is always full of creativity, always original and all Serge Lutens.