The Fashion Crowd Are Hailing This New Fragrance As A Cult Scent

The partnership meets ‘at the intersection of fashion, perfumery and art.’

acne studios

by Rachael Martin |
Updated on

Few hold such sway in the fragrance sphere as Frédéric Malle. The French perfumer is considered a pioneer in olfactory creation, teaming up with and guiding the world’s greatest perfumers to the ‘very pinnacle of their art.’ The proof? Collaborations with the much celebrated Dominique Ropion on the iconic Portrait of a Lady, and Jean-Claude Ellena on Heaven Can Wait - fragrances that have firmly cemented their cult status in scent circles.

This month, the fragrance doyen has collaborated with the fashion set's favourite every day brand, Acne. Malle launches his newest scent alongside Suzy Le Helley, a young perfumer who has been described as a olfactory prodigy in her own right. Speaking exclusively to Grazia, the duo discuss the story behind the latest scent, Acne Studios by Frédéric Malle. Expect a thrilling mesh of aldehydes, florals, incense, sandalwood and vanilla in a partnership that meets ‘at the intersection of fashion, perfumery and art.’

On the beginnings of the collaboration…

FM: ‘I first wrote to Jonny Johansson [Acne Studios founder] to tell him I was interested in working with him - it was on a whim really. But he already knew about my work and was wearing my perfumes. We met in Paris and he arrived incredibly prepared. Jonny had compiled a document that included the music that he liked, various references that he related too…it was very in depth. I think the brand very much leans on classical pillars with a twist. But on the other hand it’s timeless - you’ll buy the garment and you’ll use it for years. So, I needed to create a fragrance that encapsulated the idea of something that’s timeless but truly modern at once. I worked with several perfumers who competed to bring my conversation with Johnny to life - top perfumers. But Suzy came along and basically beat very senior people to say the least.’

SLH: ‘I know Frédéric was always very attracted to the work of Jonny and he always admired the brand and vice versa - it’s amazing that Jonny was wearing Frédéric Malle fragrances. They were beginning with mutual admiration. Of course, Frédéric meets perfumers often, but I had the chance to meet him around two years ago after another perfumer mentioned my name. Off the back of this, I presented a few accords that represent my personality and my way of working. So, when the brief was born, Frédéric remembered one of my accords and he reached out to me to ask if I could begin to create something and I was thrilled. He knew my style could work so well for a collaboration with Acne.’

On their working relationship…

FM: ‘In the past perfumers have leant on me for ideas, and techniques…general problem solving. They can sometimes be a little bit intimidated because I work with people that are so very good. Suzy was very much different from the beginning. As perfumers go, she’s so young but she’s also so independent and very opinionated. She knows what she wants and she understands the logic of her perfume. Of course, I gave her ideas. I’d maybe say I’d seen a particular note before, but she never expected me to solve her problems. She has a strong character and works hard so it was a collaboration of equals which I loved.  She’s an old soul, so it was very much like working with a very senior perfumer actually.’

SLH: ‘I remember the first time I met Frédéric. I wasn’t afraid or feeling shy. I was just happy - I mean I was super happy about that meeting. I think we just had a natural connection which meant we could work together well. Of course, he’s an amazing person and so impressive. He has true vision and all the vocabulary which made our partnership such a rewarding one. Lucky and excited are the two words to describe how I felt about working with Frédéric.’

On young perfumers emerging in the industry…

FM: ‘There is not just room for young perfumers to join the industry. It is a necessity. The industry has been dominated by those over 60 for years. There’s a need for a replacement and a need for new vision, but to come through so young and to stand out you have to know your craft. So someone like Suzy, while she’s young in age she’s got the technique of a master perfumer - she’s been trained like some of the best and it shows. ’

SLH: ‘I respect my mentors and the more experienced perfumers that’s for sure, but it’s always interesting for someone with new ideas and challenges to come through. We don’t have the same view of the world - everything is evolving. So I hope there will always be space for new personalities and a younger generation in the world of perfumery’

On describing the scent…

SLH: ‘It’s a big luxury floral fragrance. You have a lot of rose and violet which is very central. And then you have this clean, laundry smell which is very present in the beginning. It’s luminous in the first few seconds. You also have something musky which makes it very comfortable.  I always have in mind an Acne scarf - it’s a cocoon and it’s enveloping. We really wanted to find something different, and to create something that has never been done was a great challenge, but I believe we’ve achieved that. And we’re proud of the results. Acne is a strong brand with a strong DNA and the scent needed to reflect that’

FM: ‘I’d describe the scent as comforting. It has that softness for sure. I think colors are involved… hints of pink and yellow. And there’s a breeze. It’s warm and cold at the same time. It has this warm, comforting thing about it…but there is a little pinch too.’

On designing the bottle…

FM: ‘Acne studios has a very strong visual language, but one has to remember that the bottle is a container more than anything. It’s really myself working for Jonny as if I was creating a portrait so I took my own bottle that I had designed years ago and added the very strong pink that is everywhere in his brand. I  added the pink in a very minimal way underneath to give that beautiful visual effect. This makes the bottle very graphic, but also very simple. And there’s the box, too. The box is this simple black and white box with the white is to symbolising the freshness of the perfume. It’s subdued but impactful.’

SLH: ‘Frédéric was very involved with the creation of the bottle. It’s actually only the bottom that’s pink. As the rest of the glass is not coloured, it’s really just the colour of the fragrance that shines through. But with the pink at the bottom there’s the sensation of several colours - it’s so smart. I think there’s a full coherence with this project, from the smell to the bottle to the campaign - it’s all come together beautifully.’

On an Acne Studios x Frédéric Malle muse…

FM: ‘I don’t have one muse for this scent. Acne is a state of mind. It’s a style and it’s an attitude. It’s not one specific person and that’s what I love about it - we don’t feel the need to piggyback off one specific person.’

SLH: ‘What I have in mind is not necessarily one person or one specific gender. To be honest, I had felt it was a more feminine perfume by the end. Yet,  interestingly, the first time I wore it in the street it was a guy who came up to me to ask me what I was wearing. I found that so interesting. And during the Acne studio catwalk I could smell it on both women and guys, and actually I found it even more sexy on guys. So it’s for anyone - but I do like the idea of it being a fragrance for a younger generation.’


Top Notes: Aldehydes
Middle Notes: Rose, Violet, Orange Blossom, Peach Notes
Base Notes: Vanilla, Sandalwood, Frankincense, Musks

Rachael Martin is Grazia’s Junior Beauty Editor where she covers all things beauty, health and wellness.

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