Style | The Aesthete

Frédéric Malle talks personal style: Part Two

The perfume creator concludes his compendium of aesthetic divulgences.

December 04 2009
Maria Shollenbarger

My style icon is non-existent. I don’t have one, honestly. I look at and admire so many people – and I borrow liberally from so many people. But if I had to name one who influenced me the most, it would probably be [the Mexican multimillionaire art collector] Carlos de Beistegui, for his extraordinary and unerring taste.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home recently is a clock from Saudi Arabia shaped like a mosque; you can set it to sound the adhan [call to prayer] twice a day. Kitsch Muslim! It’s so far from my culture, and therefore beautiful, because there are so few things that are truly different any more. When I see something outrageous like that, I’m inspired. And I brought back Vacherin cheese from Barthélémy in Paris. Barthélémy, 51 Rue Grenelle, Paris 75007 (+331-4222 8224).

The thing I’m eyeing next is a new digital Leica. It has a medium-format sensor and 37.5m pixels but with Leica optics. It’s not huge, unwieldy or pretentious. You don’t want to look like a pompous ass when you take someone’s photo; pulling out some massive camera when you’re not a professional is just a bad cliché. Leica S2 Body, £15,996; 34 Bruton Street, London W1 (020-7495 2261; www.leica-storemayfair.co.uk).

The site that inspires me is the Cheops pyramid. If there was one, absolutely perfect example of minimalism – and perhaps this is a bit of a cliché – it would be this. It’s an essential structure.

An indulgence I’d never forego is golf. First because it’s a link to my childhood and so part of my identity, and second, it’s the one thing I do that takes me completely away from work. Everything else – music, a concert, art – is somehow linked to my creativity. Golf is the purest detachment from the entire rest of my life, and so rejuvenating. Also, a good Meursault. You can’t get depressed if there’s enough of that around. Meursault, from $18.95, Sherry-Lehmann Wines & Spirits, 505 Park Avenue, New York 10022 (+1212-838 7500; www.sherry-lehmann.com).

The artist whose work I would collect if I could is… oh, I couldn’t possibly pick just one. I can give you a twisted answer: I think I would collect the paintings collected by Charles de Noailles. His collection, his eye, is artistry in itself.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose St-Germain in Paris. It’s been invaded by fashion but there are still very nice bookstores, such as La Hune, and suppliers, such as Aux Laines Ecossaises, where I bought jumpers as a child. Muji is there, too, and fits right in. It’s the neighbourhood I know best in the world, so I’m equipped to use it properly. Librairie La Hune, 170 Boulevard St-Germain, Paris 75006 (+331-4548 3585). Aux Laines Ecossaises, 181 Boulevard St-Germain, Paris 75007 (+331-4548 5341). Muji, 27-30 Rue St-Sulpice, Paris 75006 (+331-4407 3730).

If I weren’t doing what I do now, I would be an architect. It’s a megalomaniacal answer. But I’d love to be Mies van der Rohe. Not just the talent – the cigar, the legacy, everything. And the idea of coming up with such functional yet pleasing details, especially in that era. Farnsworth House is one of the purest spaces I’ve ever seen. Farnsworth House, 14520 River Road, Plano, Illinois 60545 (+1630-552 0052; www.farnsworthhouse.org).

See also

People, Interview