Fragrance Legend Frederic Malle On The New Estee Lauder Legacy Collection

Here’s a beauty question for you. What happens when you take some grand old dames of fragrance, some of the true icons – although they may have been a bit forgotten and overlooked over the years amid the thousands of new launches annually – and entrust them to the fragrance legend Frédéric Malle to work his magic? The answer is the give-me-one-of-everything Estée Lauder Legacy Collection. 

Malle, who calls himself a fragrance publisher, may not be a nose but he certainly knows and loves fragrance – and has a sense for what people want. He was tasked by the folks at Lauder to take some of their legendary perfumes and reimagine them, to give them a Malle makeover. The resulting five truly splendid eau de parfums all retain the essential essence of the originals but have become “like a nicely photoshopped version” of themselves. 

From left: Estée Legacy: a floral musk with carnation accord (clove, jasmine, rose), ylang ylang, honey and musk; White Linen Legacy: a floral aldehydic with amber, vetiver, rose, jasmine and musk

He chose the fragrances he wanted to work on by “pure instinct: ‘White Linen’, ‘Azurée’, ‘Private Collection’, ‘Knowing’, and ‘Estée'” (he ruled out the much-loved Youth Dew because “you don’t go into the Louvre and touch up the Mona Lisa”). For the chosen five he “wanted to remind people of how important these fragrances are and the source of inspiration they have been – they’ve been looted by the entire industry, including me. I wanted to pay tribute to them and remind the world of how good they are.”

His task meant going back in time, back to the very original formulas as the classics as we know them today (and they are all still available on counter alongside their new legacy versions) have all been tweaked over the years and evolved as rules and regulations on ingredients are updated. Then it was a question of how to streamline those originals, extracting the essential DNA, with each one treated differently – one needed a cleaner base, for instance, another a shorter formula.

From left: Azurée Legacy: a woody aromatic with notes of cumin, jasmine, patchouli, and sandalwood; Knowing Legacy: a fruity chypre with blackcurrant, oris, patchouli, rose damascene, amber

“There’s no such thing as a trend in perfumery,” says Malle. But you can spot an era. “There’s always a little muzak of the time that is added and that you don’t notice then because they all have it that at the time, but then when you go back to them you think ‘What is this doing here? It has nothing to do with the story’.” ‘Knowing’ for example had the muzak of the Eighties. “So we took it out and tried to carve it as I would do for my own brand, we just cleaned it up. It’s like removing a bad coat of varnish.”

Like a group of fragrant nepo babies, Malle has fathered a whole new generation of these perfume icons, almost carbon copies of their beautiful parents but a new generation nonetheless. The results are now on counter exclusively at Harrods for three months, then on counters nationwide. Also available online, click here to shop.

Photography courtesy of Estée Lauder.

Private Collection Legacy: a floral green with notes of rose, jasmine, green accord (basilm tarragon, galbanum)

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