Smell of Brightness

By Jo Phillips

Some people just naturally sparkle, they glow from the moment they land on our planet; it’s as if they were here to signal the touch of greatness is us all. Serge Lutens is exactly that type of person, they are a rare breed that shines brilliantly. A multi-talented creator who crafted his own unique journey; a beauty trailblazer. His latest offerings, yet again, highlights his brightness. Find out more in Smell of Brightness Here.

Main Image: Anna Martin, all others from Surge Lutens Website.

It is fair to say that this is a man who revolutionised the worlds of fashion, beauty, photography, and perfumery. It is the story of a visionary. A prodigy and genius, who was born from pain and heartache and was ultimately influenced by two countries that found him and became intertwined in his creative world.

Serge Lutens was born whilst WWII was still raging on March 14th, 1942 in Lille, in northern France, to a mother who had an affair whilst married. Lutens was given up and put into foster homes although he did have some contact with his mother.

In 1956, at the age of 14, Lutens was sent off to become an apprentice hair-dresser which although he didn’t like ( he wanted to act) he learnt the real beginnings of his creative journey there even being the first place he took photographs. At age 18 he did national service and after that experience, he left Lille forever and made his way to Paris.

But it wasn’t until he was 20 in 1962 that his career began to really take shape as his photographs got the attention of Paris Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief, Edmonde Charles Roux.  From then on his work was to be seen in many elegant publications such as Elle to Jardin des Modes and Harper’s Bazaar. But mastering hairdressing and photography was not nearly enough for this polymath.

His next big step was in 1968 when he went to work with another genius this time the fashion designer Christian Dior because they wanted to start a line of Make-Up and Lutens was charged with being at the helm. His success at this (and it was a major success for the brand) was his unusual and bold use of colour that was unseen at the time.

But still, Lutens moved forward, never seemingly having his creative thirst quenched. His photographic work received high praise and was shown at the prestigious Guggenheim Museum in New York and he also went on to make several short films with some even being shown at the legendary Cannes Film Festival.

It was during this time that Luten’s world opened up with travel with two countries coming really influence him. Morocco and Japan, two destinations that would impact him enormously in his creative journey.

And then came Shiseido, in Japan. This period in the artist’s life is probably the most well known but it was here that he took the Japanese brand to great heights. In the 1980s he created Make-Up lines for them as well as the packaging it came in and also, of course, taking the photographic images to go with, yet again winning awards for his work.

But ultimately, it was fragrance, that sealed the deal for what was to become the majority of his work for years to come. Needing newness he became the master -perfumer at Shiseido releasing their first fragrance Nombre Noir in 1982 which very surprisingly was not a commercial success yet was considered by many a masterpiece but in 1992 Feminité du Bois was released. On olfactory revolution as it was the first (in modern times) unisex perfume created.

A cedarwood inspired by the warm, honeyed scents emanating from the covered stalls selling leatherwork in Morocco.

This perfume was a signal of the influence of Morocco on his creativity. He bought an old house in the heart of the Medina in Marrakech in 1974.

He went on the year 2000 to open his store, a perfume headquarters Les Salons du Palais Royal, in Paris. It was from here that he yet again revolutionised. This time however it was in the field of perfumery.

Now his fragrance range consists of seven different perfume families that include Collection Noire (he has a well-documented love of black). ‘Minimalist and uncompromising, straight and angular, each of the collection’s bottles reflect the exigence and character of its creator through their refined design’.

Rituel de Parfum, ‘For an unsurpassed sensuality and trail,
follow Serge Luten’s perfume ritual’.

Falcons de table, ‘Rounded shoulders (bottles) with an apothecary stopper, this iconic Palais Royal bottle contains the perfumes of a collection sold only in our most prestigious shops

Gratte-Ciel, ‘Designed by Serge Lutens as a selection of signature perfumes, this collection’s skyscraper bottles are inspired by the New York skyline of the 20s and 30s. In sleek lacquered black with bevelled edges as sharp as the tip of the Chrysler Building, this emblematic bottle is influenced by the Art Deco style, embodying new modernity and the avant-garde of a style that grazes the sky’.

Les Eaux, ‘Carved, polished, bevelled and hammered just like a rock crystal, this collection’s iconic bottle is a true feat of glassmaking. Designed by Serge Lutens, it embodies ultimate transparency and purity, delicately reflecting light and shadows. The fleeting eclipse of moments of emerging and disappearing’.

And finally Section D’or ‘With Section d’or the possibilities are endless. And beyond these possibilities you will find Serge Lutens” Serge Lutens combines his creative genius with the rarest ingredients to produce these exceptional vintages. The word from the perfumer: “Creation should know no bounds, and this applies even more so to Section d’or, which I decided to take beyond the reasonable. I took an idea to its very limits.

 And he just does not stop; two new creations coming to us now.

The Ambre Sultan Confit de parfum. A reworked version of the classic scent that is described as

“a scented wax, found in a souk and long forgotten in a wooden box. The amber only became sultanesque after I reworked the composition using cistus, a herb that sticks to the fingers like tar, then added an overtone that nobody had ever dreamed of: vanilla”.

This Confit de Parfum is the same popular unisex fragrance created by Christopher Sheldrake in 2000 but in a more sexy indulgent setting: Oil. This oiled perfume starts with the sweet warmth of sticky amber which joins with a heart of creamy vanilla. Once sunken into the skin, it leaves behind an earthy patchouli tone, which joins with resinous amber nuances and addictive vanilla. Seriously indulgence; a sensuous, intense and intimate exploration of this classic fragrance bringing another facet to Ambre sultan.

And again exploring this sensual scent is the hair Perfume Ambre sultan, “Toison d’or.

‘to create an entrancing halo of scent. In movement, the scent diffuses, subtly perfuming the hair with fragrance for an alluring and bewitching trail’.

Because if your hair can leave a divine waft then why not; leave a fragrant sillage (the French word for the perfume trail left in the air) as you walk by.


In 2007 this genius was recognised with him being awarded the title “Commandeur des Arts et Lettres” by the French government. We see here in 2021 with these new creations that Serge Lutens doesn’t rest up, doesn’t let innovation pass him by, at 79 years of age his creativity and passion still show; his artistry still in full swing, his brightness and light still glowing. Whether talked of in hushed, reverential tones or lorded from the rooftops greatness always shines brightest.

Find Surge Lutens Creations Here at SurgeLutens.com Ambre Sultan Confit de parfum Here and Perfume Ambre sultan, “Toison d’or Here. If you enjoyed reading Smell of Brightness then why not read The Polymath Shines Bright Here

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