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A rose is a rose is a…you know the shtick. Or do you? In his latest fragrance, Francis Kurkdjian proves that the world’s favorite flower can play against type. This rose is for the fellas.
True, roses have been a symbol of femininity from Botticelli to American Beauty—associations that have only been deepened by perfumes. But Kurkdjian, an industry insider who established his brand in 2009 after decades creating such iconic scents as Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male, points out that is just a matter of perception. Cultural context aside, rose is an ingredient like those by any other name.
“If you take a silk fabric and design a dress, it’s feminine by convention,” he tells us. “But you design a tie with the same material, a tie has male attributes.”
Rather than going the heady bouquet route, l’Homme à la Rose highlights the flower’s strength by accenting Damask and Centifolia roses—the only two natural species of rose that can be used in perfume—with the freshness of grapefruit and the deep, woody warmth of amber. Your granny’s rosewater, this ain’t.
“I wanted something bold and uplifting. Something that straps you back and opens your torso, like you’re proud,” Kurkdjian tells us. “I wanted to create a scent that was recognizable as a rose, with the code of what masculinity stands for right now.”
In a marketplace that operates between the poles of Chanel No 5 and Drakkar Noir, l’Homme à la Rose bucks categorization. It is the fragrance equivalent of an unconstructed blazer: dapper without the stiffness of the traditional male uniform. No man is one-note, and l’Homme à la Rose speaks to that complexity.
It starts off bracing and clean but really hits its stride after settling down into the musky amber and labdanum base—a presence that lingers and lingers. More than any one ingredient, l’Homme à la Rose synthesizes citrusy, herbal, floral and woody into a scent that is entirely its own. It achieves my personal benchmark for a perfume: something that smells indistinguishably rich. Like walking into a tony boutique, you can’t quite put your finger on it but the air suddenly smells more luxurious.
Certainly, wearing it while working from home, a few spritzes each morning has made my same-old routine feel a bit more dignified. Even with nothing other than a T-shirt and jeans, the scent imparts a sense of polish. Glamour is hard to come by these days, but l’Homme à la Rose manages to bottle it in a handsome, zinc-capped flacon.