Francis Kurkdjian and Fendi Partner to Create Perfumed Leather Handbags: “Scent Hits the Brain with No Filter”

“Scent hits the brain with no filter.”

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Francis Kurkdjian’s favorite smell is the neck of his lover.

“It’s comforting and reassuring—beyond relaxing,” he cooed over the phone. “It’s like home, in a way.”

Over the past 25 years, the Paris-based perfumer has concocted a vast bouquet of seductive scents—Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male and Nina Ricci’s L’Extase among them. He also runs his own company, Maison Francis Kurkdjian. However, he vows never to bottle his most cherished aroma. “Everything can’t be for sale,” he reasoned.

Alas, money can’t buy love. But it can buy a sumptuously fragranced Fendi handbag—a close second, to be sure. In a new collaboration, Kurkdjian has teamed up with the storied Roman luxury house and its creative director, Silvia Venturini Fendi, to infuse the label’s famed Baguette (arguably the first true It Bag) with a new scent, FendiFrenesia.

Inspired by the essence of Fendi’s buttery Selleria leather and the brand’s signature spirit of irreverence, the scented accessories are available as of this week. There are three different bags (one Baguette for men, one for women, and one “Nano” baguette). The “Nano” will be sold online; all three will be sold at Fendi’s Miami Design District boutique from December 4. FendiFrenesia itself blends labdanum, styrax oil, vanilla bean, and notes of rose. The Baguette may stay scented for up to four years.

The making of the scented Nano Baguette. Courtesy of Fendi.

While Fendi’s rich materials served as Kurkdjian’s primary muse, FendiFrenesia is also something of an ode to the house’s late creative director, Karl Lagerfeld. Lagerfeld designed the house’s FF logo, which stands for “fun fur,” in 1965. “Every time I create a scent, I give it a name first,” said Kurkdjian. “I wanted a name with the double F—it’s my little tribute to him.”

One might ask the question: “Why bother scenting a handbag?”

For starters, it’s a technique that dates back to the 12th century, when glove makers had to cover up the unsavory smells left by the tanning process (we’ll spare you the stinky details). Kurkdjian has spent years refining his own leather-scenting technique, for which he filed a patent in 2014. What’s more, smell is a powerful sense and, more than sight, sound, or touch, it can acutely conjure recollections from the past. Kurkdjian attributes this to the fact that “scent hits the brain with no filter.” As per science, smells travel through the olfactory bulb, which connects directly to areas of the brain associated with memories and emotion.

This olfactory-induced nostalgia seems to have been a motivation for Mrs. Fendi and this project, too.

“Scent is very personal as so often it relates back to past experience,” she told W. “The leathery and musky notes of FendiFrenesia remind me of Selleria leather, which is at the core of the Fendi DNA. For me, this Roman leather represents my heritage and recalls the nobility and grandeur of Rome,” she explained. “The most luxurious scent is one that brings you a moment of joy, one that triggers the memory of a special moment or feeling that is unique to you.”

The scented Nano and Baguette. Courtesy of Fendi.

Daniele La Malfa

It is intimacy, however, that really unites scent and handbag. “A bag is something so feminine, like the best friend of a woman, she holds all her life in it, her secrets,” said Mrs. Fendi.

Kurkdjian feels the same way about perfume. “It’s something very close to a woman,” he mused. “And the bag is an accessory that is as close to her as perfume.”

Scent, woman, handbag—indeed, it is a special relationship. Kurkdjian also hinted that additional aromatic leather goods might be joining this love triangle. All in all: Consider it the sweet smell of success.