Beauty director Farouk Chekoufi talks to Map of the Heart Co-founders Sarah Blair and Jeffrey Darling about their unique approach to perfume and the successful transition from filmmaking to fragrance.
How did you start Map of the Heart?
It was a concept that was built from a desire to explore more of the senses. As filmmakers we had spent our lives in the worlds of imagery, sound/music and words. Smell was the next frontier.
What do you love most about creating a new fragrance?
Creating the world of each of the hearts and the fragrances that inhabit them; discovering a whole new world of collaborators, a new language and hearing about how people really connect and spending time in Paris where all of our development and production is done.
What does luxury mean for niche brands? And what is your vision for your fragrances?
The luxury in niche for us is that everything we do is driven by the desire to create the best possible product; every detail is examined and considered. This affects the quality of the fragrances, the bottle and the box, to reach the ultimate goal of their stories.
Our vision for our niche perfumes is to create fragrances that provoke and awaken our worlds – that connect on a very intimate level.
Tell us about your relationship with Map of the Heart?
Every time we hold a bottle in our hands we feel an enormous sense of pride, that we, with the great collaborators we have, in particular Pierre Dinand, the legendary bottle designer, Givaudan and our perfumer, Jacques Huclier, and Giovanna Aicardi who works with us in Paris, have created a product that is totally unlike anything else and, as we had hoped, really does speak to people.
Can you tell us about the inspiration for fragrances ‘Black Heart v.2’ and ‘Gold Heart v.4’?
Each fragrance is about an aspect of what it is to live. Black Heart v.2 is our heart of darkness. The inspiration for Black Heart v.2 was around the idea of when you are the edge of life when everything becomes so potent, intense, so sharply into focus – and finally exhilarating. It is the pause between heartbeats.
The fragrance itself was originally a lot softer and we knew that it had to fit the promise of the bottle, which is so luxuriously black and deep so we redid it. We live in Australia near the beach and the bush. Every four years the bush is burnt to clear it of debris and also many of the trees will not regenerate without the heat to pop their seedpods. So fire both destructive and regenerative. The afternoon of the fire, Jeff photographed the burnt trees – the white summer ‘snow’ of ash on the ground with the sun streaming through the smoke. This image was the inspiration for the fragrance.
The fragrance was really developed to be in two parts as opposed to the traditional three parts to reflect the opposites within the Black Heart. We call it an impolite mox of opposites: the eucalyptus and citrus trop notes cut straight through to the deep smoky notes.
The Gold Heart v.4, our heart of peace, was inspired by the Latin poem Eclogue IV by Virgil, which described the Golden Age as a utopia where there is no fear, there is abundance and we have no enemies. This fits perfectly with the concept that gold is traditionally associated with wealth. For us, this idea is true wealth, that we are safe and our families have enough and we respect each other in spite of our differences.
The fragrance was constructed around the ingredient of warm milk as it is the original and universal human nourishment. It is the one ingredient that is common to all humanity. The top notes are cardamon and pepper, which open the fragrance with a metallic luminance. The milk is overdosed with saffron – the golden spice, and the most expensive spice, to anchor its sweetness, which is rounded out with rose and finally Australian sandalwood.
What is the concept behind your fragrances and brand?
It is everything pure, good and evil. It aches, it desires, it is who we are. In mapping the heart, we are explorers and tourists, at the frontiers and the centre, navigating the unknown and the all too familiar. We can tread paths both travelled and not. If it touches us, makes us ache, challenges and allows us to explore what it is to live, then it is for Map of the Heart.
Each one of our collection journeys us into very different worlds in our own heart’s map: Clear Heart v.1: untamed innocence, Black Heart v.2: deep mystery, Red Heart v.3: ripe sensuality, Gold Heart v.4: glorious peace and Purple Heart v.5: selfless valour.
“COMING FROM AUSTRALIA, ONE OF OUR KEY INGREDIENTS HAS BEEN SANDALWOOD THAT IS HARVESTED FROM INDIGENOUS-RUN FORESTS IN THE WILD NORTH WEST OF AUSTRALIA."
What do you think about Oud? Do you have any fragrance with Oud?
Oud is a very deep and precious ingredient and something that we have been fascinated by in our travels in the deserts and souks of the Middle East. It evokes a sense of timelessness and mystery. Coming from Australia, one of our key ingredients has been sandalwood that is harvested from indigenous-run forests in the wild north west of Australia. For us both these ingredients evoke history.
Map of the Heart has become one of the most wanted, luxury fragrances in the world. Was this organic, or was it part of the plan?
We followed our instincts through an understanding that our offering was unique and if placed well in the world people would respond to our stories. We view Map of the Heart as a long-term passion building friendships and partnerships as we build our brand.
What is your favourite ingredient?
Which fragrances do you wear?
Sarah: I love Black Heart v.2, but wear all depending on my mood.
Jeff: I live in the darker side between the Black, the Gold and the Purple.
What were your first olfactory memories?
Sarah: Salt of the ocean on the wind.
Jeff: The smell of eucalyptus forests in the heat of summer.
What fragrance are you most proud of?
We are most proud of our Gold fragrance as it has been selected by Pierre Dinand as one of the twenty bottles we has to be in his exhibition at Liberty of London. We are making a special 1.2 litre bottle which will be available as a limited edition. We are really excited about this giant heart of gold. It will be such a sumptuous sculptural object, filled with the most gorgeous fragrance.
Do you have a muse?
Sarah: Whispers on the wind.
Jeff: The ocean.
How would you describe the Map of the Heart lifestyle?
It is all about journeys and discoveries. It will always be about products that encourage our minds to travel further afield. Our approach is to be always true to the stories of the fragrances, to make them the best we can, find that edge that is recognisably us and to take creative risks.
How many points of sale to you have around the world?
What is your vision for your brand?
To develop not only fragrances, but also the world of Map of the Heart as a place of ideas and create a platform for artists, musicians and filmmakers to express what it is to live.
Sarah Blair and Jeffrey Darling
Interview by Farouk Chekoufi