Glitz; Surge, the Hero of Love and Hate

By Jo Phillips

There are very few people in the world that can be referred to as a renaissance man, a polymath, in this day and age; a person whose expertise spans a significant number or various subject areas, but it’s fair to say that if looking across creativity you may well find one, Serge Lutens. A  French institution, (although he now lives in his much admired and beloved Morocco) a photographer, filmmaker, hair stylist, as well as perfumer, jeweller and makeup creator.

Born in France in 1942, his career started out in Lille as a hairdresser’s apprentice, which he has been quoted as saying that it started to inform his appreciation of beauty and that he could see the three-dimensional element of it.  By the 1960’s he was in Paris working for Vogue, (and other premium publications) creating hair, makeup and jewellery looks for them whilst working with such luminaries such as Guy Bourdain, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn.

Lutens also took images and films himself;  his photography was shown at the Guggenheim and his films at Cannes, and he shot ad campaigns for which he won awards. He was approached by Christian Dior to set up a makeup range for him, the first ever for the brand.  (He was following the amazing  Tyen, and now it’s under the helm of the superb Peter Philips). After he went to the directional Japanese brand Shisheido where he designed packaging and took campaign images.  This provided his first step into perfume.  Shisheido provided him with a platform to create a scent,  Nobre Noir,  which was then followed by  Feminite Du Bois (the first woody fragrance for women). Culminating in 1992 with the magnificent Les Salons Du Palais Royal and amazing deco style shop, exclusively for both Shisheido and Serge Luten fragrances. WOW, that’s quite an accomplishment but it doesn’t stop there of course not, by the year 2000 Lutens had started a perfume and makeup line, all his own and simply called Serge Lutens.

The brands signature colours are of course Black and white.  The collection of both perfumes and makeups are striking, to say the least.  They are a cult for sure and deeply loved by those in the know.   There is a deep and dark side to what he does, not making commercially obvious sellable scents, but instead fragrances he wants to create;  yet items he is drawn to are always to the mystical, the dark and the more sensual.  His women have the palest skin, the darkest eyes and the reddest lips. She an icon, she is brave. Her lipstick, her blush, her perfume, they are all her weapons. It’s striking to know that Lutens was separated from his mother when only a few weeks old and that darkness which underlines almost everything he touches may well stem from there. In fact, it seems everything is personal for him. From his youthful exploits along with two countries that were so influential, they seem to have been carved into his soul. Both Morocco (where he lives now ) and Japan, two very different cultures bring ingredients to his imagination where you will find both ends of the scale; purity and darkness meet in his world, love and hate, darkness and light along with joy and pain.

His make up range can set the scene of his imagination. Foundations come of course in many shades but start with the whitest of white and the eye palettes all have either black or grey tones, even if they go all the way to brushed gold.  His lipsticks range from a good girl red to the deepest most wicked of blo0d reds, regal purple to chocolate brown, all small and sculptured to a pointed tip.  As for the nail varnishes, they come in only three colours, the regal purple, the chocolate brown and a light dainty flesh tone.  That’s his look that he gives to you, either you get it or you don’t, either you are brave enough to flirt with his vision or you are not.  There is no middle ground here thankfully, this man stands his ground and says what he believes. His vision is loud and clear.

Being an affluential trailblazer does stop at makeup, within the perfume collection there are 80 fragrances, none of which are Eau De Toilette (he does not want the word toilet to be associated with his fragrances). Yet again these are boundary breakers, but he refers often to a visit to Morocco in 1968 that bought his real sense of smell alive, that which grounded him in the world of perfume and made him one of the true originators of niche fragrance as we know it today. 

Being prestigious as he is, no wonder then that there are  8o fragrances in his collection split into several ranges.  There are seven collections from spray bottles to Eaux collection, D’or collection and the exclusives collection.  From within these collections come two new launches

Serge Lutens Le Participe Passe, a Harvey Nichols Exclusive 30th July

A rich, sensual fragrance.  Perfume as ambiguous luxurious and mysterious as him. Inventive and of course nothing but an original individual take on an oriental fragrance. Inspired by Canada Balsam, and the thickest saps and resins, Mr Lutens was determined to use this fragrance to evoke the time it takes to bring a conscience or story to light.  It settles on the skin to a deep warm darkly with a sun-blushed fruity finale for this exotic scent.  It’s like a photograph being brought alive in a bath of chemicals, only revealing itself when it’s ready…It’s where the past collides with what’s yet to come, like a haunted childhood that is ever-present.

Key Notes: Fir Balsam, Cumin, Resin


Serge Lutens L’Innommable (the undefinable) from Gratte Ciel collection (skyscraper)  Nationwide: 17th September  (Harrods exclusive)  

The skyscraper collection is one of the most unique collections of perfume on sale in the world today.  Formerly only available in his own stores, he has picked eleven to be sold in and around specific stores worldwide.  Firstly is the striking bottle shaped like something from a New York skyline at night, all black and deco like the Chrysler building, or reminiscent of a film noir scene,  or a classic early deco movie like Citizen Kane or Metropolis; of the steam rising from the dark and dirty rough New York streets long before they came and cleaned it up, daring and dangerous and so is this perfume collection. Sexual, dark, brooding, dangerous, exciting and totally thrilling…The bottle sets the tone for each unique juice.

The newest  to launch in this collection is L’innommable (indefinable), an assertive Lutens perfume that features a savvy balance of benzoin and cumin.  Its name (the unnamable) hints at its mystique.  Spicy, warm, smokey and reminiscent of his own personal history which is etched deep into the scent’s make up. as his own father did not want to acknowledge Serge as his child, and so for a time Serge lived with no name; nameless, undesired, a heavy burden to carry and omnipresent in this dark deep rich brooding scent.  It is his persona bottled from his loss to his love – Morocco and the middle eastern smells;  of Cumin and caramel heat, of dried fruit, of frankincense and Benzion.  This is a love or hate style scent, there is no such thing as middle ground in the world, but it’s about the emotions rather than specific ingredients of its history, inspiration, personality and extremes.

Key Notes  Benzoin Cumin and Frankincense



In a 25 year period, Serge Luten has created probably the most iconic perfumes on the market today. Perfumes for the brave, the broken, the loved and those unloved… He has created over 80 fragrances, so go explore and find where he has brought you to life.


Find about his world here and available at  Harvey Nichols

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