What does perfume mean to you? Is it just a floral smell? Maybe the memory of your mother putting a spritz on her neck before going to work? The sweet aroma of fresh peaches from your grandma’s garden?
For Maison Francis Kurkdjian, one of the most important luxury fragrance houses of the moment, perfume is poetry, an art of living. Marc Chaya, the CEO and Co-Founder of the exquisite Maison, has offered us a sneak-peek into his mind and background.
As a child, he was drawn towards art, architecture, drawing and literature, but his parents encouraged him to pursue a robust economics and business education. Chaya started his career at the global advisory firm EY, where he had a fast track and diversified career in finance, strategy, marketing & management. He made it to partnership in less than 10 years – a firm record, and was appointed Global Telecoms markets leader at 32.
It was at that time that he met celebrated perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, and was instantly taken by how little space and recognition the fragrance industry had, even for the most talented perfumers. They became close friends and Chaya started advising the perfumer on a strategy and roadmap to bring him at the center of the stage.
In 2009, they both felt it was the right time to co-create Maison Francis Kurkdjian, with Chaya leading the Company as CEO and Kurkdjian bringing the vision and talent behind the eponymous fragrance collection. They both work closely together on products aesthetics and the overall creative direction for the Maison.
Chaya established Maison Francis Kurkdjian as a leading global player in the luxury high-end niche fragrance market, with a presence in more than 700 locations in over 45 countries. The fragrance house is a member of Comité Colbert since 2016 and an LVMH Group company since 2017.
He was distinguished for his achievements and made a knight in the French National Order of Merit, Chevalier dans l’Ordre National du Mérite, in 2019.
We are honored to have him on our platform & soon in our Lebanese Edition.
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOUR SOUL SING? WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
So many things. Life is full of wonders. Albert Einstein once said: There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
Growing up in a Beirut devastated by violence, hatred and pain, I learned to look at what’s beautiful in things or people as a way to oppose positivity to the ambient darkness. I was lucky to grow up in a household that valued literature, music and arts.
My parents had a library with hundreds of books. Reading for hours was a source of joy. Discovering the work of Camus, Pagnol, Hess, Khalil-Gibran, Maalouf, Kundera, Suskind or Duras – to name a few – used to help me escape into imaginary worlds while learning from great thinkers.
Music has also the power to uplift your senses. My musical taste is very eclectic and was influenced early stage by my father who loved classical music and had a large vinyl collection.
Then I was influenced by my brothers who were much older than me (5 and 8 years older) and who used to play loud music and bands of the 60s and 70s. Music makes my soul dance and with time I have expanded my taste to jazz and Oriental jazz. Rabih Abou Khalil is a true magician and listening to his album Tarab for example is pure magic. Happiness to me is only the accumulation of little pleasurable moments and simple joys.
A CHILDHOOD STORY THAT ANNOUNCED THE CREATIVE PERSON YOU ARE TODAY
As a child I was drawn towards several creative and artistic fields. In addition to literature and music, I loved drawing and classical dancing. I used to spend hours drawing couture dresses or modern architecture houses. One of my mom’s friends, Jacqueline, was a classical ballet teacher. She lived in the same building as us in Ashrafieh with her mom Alice, an Armenian who escaped the genocide by walking from Yerevan to Beirut at age 7. They were a second family to me and I used to spend hours at their place listening to Alice’s stories or watching classical ballet videos with Jacqueline. One day, after watching with marvel for the first time The Bolero ballet by Maurice Bejart, I came back home, wore my mom’s tights and started imitating the dancers enthusiastically, thinking I was alone. Ravel’s Bolero was playing loudly and I did not hear the door open and my dad, who was back from work, enter the apartment. The poor man: I could see in his eyes a mix of horror, amusement and kindness.
From then onwards – I was 11 at the time – my dad decided I needed to focus more on math and science and insisted that I could not earn a living from creativity and art, which according to him needed to remain hobbies. This led me to shift gears and gradually enter the serious world of economics, finance and business management. Yet I never abandoned my creative part and throughout the years I continued to cultivate and live my passion for architecture, design and modern art.
Eventually, my dad made me a huge favor by pushing me to develop my left brain and acquire a solid business education. However, I always knew my life would not be complete without art and creativity and today my current responsibilities as the CEO and co-founder of a luxury fragrance house allow me to combine both my business and creative skills, to my greatest satisfaction!
BEST CONTEXT EVER FOR INSPIRATION WAS
Inspiration is not a linear process or something you can control like for example saving time to get inspired. It is an organic process rooted in everyday’s life. It can come from works or art, exhibitions or artistic events you attend, from books, people you meet or places you visit. The most important thing is be curious and to keep your eyes, spirit and senses open.
THE PROJECT YOU LOVED MOST
Bringing to life and leading the development of Maison Francis Kurkdjian globally. It was for me a necessity to bring back perfumers at the center of the stage as marketing had won over the creative process, hiding the real artists behind the curtains.
Our Maison, now a LVMH Group company and a global leading player in the high-end niche luxury fragrance world, celebrates the freedom of creativity and promotes the art of wearing perfume as a wardrobe. Whereas rather than sticking to the same perfume all your life, you enjoy freely matching your mood and style on a particular day with the scent that resonates the most with it.
THE PROJECT OTHERS LOVED MOST
Our iconic perfume Baccarat Rouge 540. It was initially a custom-made scent commissioned to us by Daniela Riccardi, the then CEO of the crystal house, for their 250th anniversary. It was destined for a limited edition of 250 crystal flacon. The scent is so amazing and our customers and partners were so enthusiastic about wearing it that we decided to launch it as part of the Maison Francis Kurkdjian permanent collection. It has since become an icon.
THE BEST THING ABOUT LEBANESE CREATIVITY IS
The eclecticism that derives from multi-culturalism. It is everywhere, from architecture, fashion, movie making to music and culinary art. It’s powerful and unique.
BEST STATEMENT OF LEBANESE HUMOR
ADVICE FOR INTERNATIONAL HEADHUNTERS, RELATED TO LEBANESE CREATIVES
BEST PLACE IN BEIRUT
Beirut has so much to offer. I won’t be able to narrow it to one place. From the Ottoman streets of Gemmayze or Sodeco, to Sursok Musem, going through Hamra’s energy or the city center, I love this city. I hope that all the areas hit by the recent tragedy will be able to heal and rebuild as quickly as possible.
BEST PLACE IN LEBANON
Is there only one best place? I love Batroun, my home town, Beirut, Beit el Din, Deir el Amar, Zahlé, Baalbek, Jbeil, Bikfaya, Ehden and so many other places.
MOST DISTURBING CLICHÉ ABOUT LEBANON, IN THE MEDIA OUTLETS OF THE WORLD IS
Unfortunately what the current world media is depicting is anything but a cliché. What is disturbing is the extreme corruption and incompetence of the country’s leaders and our rigged political system.
LEBANON SHOULD BE KNOWN FOR
It is hard for me to answer this question as my heart is bleeding given the suffering that our country is going through. I would love for Lebanon to be known for peace, progress, civic exemplarity, secularity and democratic laicity. In the meanwhile, Lebanon should be known for the beauty of its people. They are resilient, generous, courageous, funny, hardworking, and like a phoenix, they keep rising back from the ashes.
YOUR VIEWS ON SPIRITUALITY
The better person you become, the better the world will become. I believe in self-improvement and positive action. As Martin Luther King jr once said “darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that”. That light to me is called education and knowledge, as they only can drive progress and freedom. And without love, kindness, generosity and compassion, we lose our humanity.
YOUR VIEWS ON MONEY
It better work for you than the other way around.
AN INSPIRATION SOURCE YOU RECOMMEND FOR A YOUNG CREATIVE
Travel. It allows you to open your eyes and senses to different forms of creative expressions. Try always exploring different cultures’ traditional or contemporary arts, music, cuisine or architecture. It’s often a feast for the senses. Europe has a lot to offer in this respect.
A LEBANON BASED FEMALE TALENT THAT DESERVES TO BE PROMOTED AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL, AS EXPONENT OF LOCAL CREATIVE SPIRIT
Nadine Labaki. Here eyes are a gate to our soul. Through them, we are able to get in touch with ourselves as Lebanese – and merge with the profound complexity of our culture. Capharnaüm, her latest movie, is a masterpiece.
For more information about Maison Francis Kurkdjian and their iconic fragrances, click here.