The story of Serge Lutens is a very special one, emotional and deep. Loss can lead to extraordinary ways to cope with pain. For Serge Lutens it has created the foundation to become this extraordinary designer and true artist. A visionary of beauty in all its forms, he has led many revolutions in the world of beauty and perfume. For him, ‘perfume is illuminating, affirming, the ultimate final touch’.
Building on his success, in 2000 he created his own brand, Serge Lutens. The brand reflects its authentic, bold creator who conceives his fragrances, designs his flacons and considers every detail of his creations without concession.
To date, he has created around 70 perfumes in timeless collections: the ‘Collection Noire’, ‘Exclusive Bottles’, ‘Section d’Or’, ‘Gratte-Ciel’ and more. His perfumes for men and for women reveal something of the wearer’s character and bring out their true identity. He has also launched a makeup line bringing together beauty essentials, with an expert selection of cosmetics for a high-definition makeup finish.
Living at a distance
Serge Lutens was born during the war, on March 14th, 1942 in Lille, in northern France. Separated from his mother when he was just weeks old, his personality was indelibly marked by this original abandonment. Permanently torn between two families, he lived life at a distance and through his imagination. He was a dreamer. At the École Montesquieu, they said he was ‘on the moon’: he paid no attention, although his teachers recognised that he was a gifted storyteller.
A style is born
In 1956, at the age of 14, he was given a job against his will – he would have preferred being an actor – in a beauty salon in his native city. Two years later, he had already established the feminine hallmarks that he would make his own: eye shadow, ethereally beautiful skin, short, plastered down hair. He also became known for the colour black, from which he never deviated. He confirmed his tastes and his choices with the female friends of his whom he photographed.
He was 18 when he was called up to serve in the army during the Algerian War. He was remoulded. This was an important break that led him to make his decision: to leave Lille and head for Paris. This was 1962. Helped by a friend, Madeleine Levy, and bearing large prints of his photographs of his friends, Serge Lutens, experiencing his first years in Paris at a time of insecurity and want, contacted Vogue magazine. For him, this magazine represented the essence of beauty: a sort of convent that he mythologised. Three days later, he collaborated on the Christmas issue.
The creator of a vision through make-up, jewellery and extraordinary objets, Serge Lutens quickly became the person to call, and the fashion magazines made no mistake: Elle, Jardin des Modes, Harper’s Bazaar were constantly after him: he worked with the greatest photographers of the time, such as Richard Avedon, Bob Richardson and Irving Penn, all the while pursuing his own photographic work. During these years, his talent was fully acknowledged.
The Christian Dior years
In 1967, Christian Dior, who was preparing to launch its make-up line, called upon him. For the Maison Dior he would create colours, style and images. Finally, his vision was unified through photography. In the early 1970s, the famous editor-in-chief of US Vogue, Diana Vreeland, was unstinting in her enthusiasm: ‘Serge Lutens, Revolution of Make-up!’ His success was resounding.
In 1973, Serge Lutens’ series of photographs (inspired by the artists Claude Monet, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani) was shown at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Serge Lutens became the symbol of the freedom created through make-up, for a whole new generation. In 1974, mirroring his taste for films and the legendary actresses in them, he made a short movie, ‘Les Stars’, and in 1976, ‘Suaire’. Both were shown at the Cannes Film Festival.
During this period, he travelled widely, exploring Morocco and later Japan. These two countries, with their rich and yet so different cultures, came together in him and confirmed his way of seeing and feeling.
The Shiseido years
He recalled them some years later, in 1980, when he signed on with Shiseido for a collaboration that was to enable the Japanese cosmetics group, until then unknown on the international scene, to establish such a powerful visual identity that it became one of the world’s leading market players in the 1980s and ‘90s.
Shiseido gave Lutens his start in the fragrance industry in 1982, when they commissioned a fragrance from him Nombre Noir. Lutens and Shiseido partnered on another legendary fragrance, 1992’s Feminite du Bois.
Continuing to make fragrances for Shiseido, assisted by the company’s in-house nose Christopher Sheldrake, in 1992 Lutens established Les Salons du Palais Royal – a former bookshop in Paris’s Jardins du Palais Royal, converted into a house of perfume. Originally intended to launch his second Shiseido scent, Féminité du Bois.
Lutens also designed and conceptualized the luxurious perfume house – with its dreamlike décor – for the exclusive marketing of Shiseido and Lutens scents, which stamped Serge Lutens’ first olfactory revolution on the perfume world.
Marrakech, the awakening of the senses
Deeply moved by his discovery of Morocco, more specifically Marrakech (where he bought an old house in the heart of the Medina in 1974), this was where Serge Lutens established his perfume business. Waxes, cedarwood, orange blossom…, Marrakech provided the inspiration for his first perfumes: Ambre sultan, Cuir mauresque, Chergui… He channels his very life experiences into these fragrances (which are in many cases a collaboration with great noses, including Maurice Roucel and Christopher Sheldrake), which are worn by women and men alike.
Now well-established, at the time they wrote a whole new chapter in the history of essences. In 2000, Serge Lutens took the logical step of creating the brand which carries his name and embodies his uncompromising style. Perfumes, make-up… distributed through specialist retail channels and, for the select few, his own network of shops.
The Serge Lutens Foundation
In 2007, Serge Lutens received the ‘Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters’ accolade and went on to receive many awards for his multifaceted talent, before he set up the Serge Lutens Foundation in 2014. Based in the house he purchased in 1974, in the historical heart of the Medina in Marrakech, this vast museum-like space of over 3,000 m2 is today a vibrant testimony to an artist who breaks norms and never rests on his laurels.
Serge Lutens’ fragrances are available at the Palais Royal and Saint-Honoré Boutiques, on the Serge Lutens’ website, and at selected stores worldwide.
Discover the Serge Lutens universe and be surprised by its unique olfactory creations. Come into the beautiful world of Serge Lutens.