Who: David Benedek, founder of contemporary French fragrance house BDK Parfums. David’s move into fragrance was destined from an early age, as both his parents and grandparents ran the fragrance store Benlux, near the Louvre in Paris. He spent his formative years listening to the olfactory needs of tourists and Parisians as they sought advice on scent.
This early education has served him well with his young brand BDK Parfums, where he is quietly building a beautiful collection of thoughtful modern scents. His technique is solidly classical, hardly surprising with such a heritage, but with modern cultural references and contemporary lifestyle desires woven through each scent’s narrative. We caught up with David on his recent trip to London, to discover more.
Today I’m wearing my latest creation, Vanille Leather (exclusive to Harrods for six months), which I created with master perfumer Dominique Ropion. It’s all about vanilla, but not the usual way as this one is not at all gourmand. Instead we investigated the leathery facets of the vanilla note. Interestingly, when it becomes a bit hot outside when they’ve been harvested, the black vanilla bean sweats a bit, which brings a leather facet to the note. We also played with the concept of the white flower, using Indian tuberose and Egyptian jasmine, to bring a white floral dimension to the fragrance which has worked really well. It’s long lasting too.
Dominique Ropion and I worked very well together, I respect him so much. In the beginning I didn’t know him at all, I just fell in love with this vanilla accord he had made. The accord was at IFF so I asked if I could meet him and they agreed to connect us. We built the fragrance over four meetings, he’s so generous and genuine and completely understood my vision, I am hopeful we will work together again.
Fragrance makes me happy, particularly when I discover new scents or new combinations. There are also some perfumes that makes me feel peaceful and affects my emotions in a different way. For example if I had a very busy day I would reach for Sel D’Argent, one of my perfumes at BDK, it’s very salty with a bit of musk for comfort. In the evening I will spray it on after a shower and it brings me a lot of comfort, it also helps me to sleep.
Perfumes have different powers. When you talk about perfume, it’s not something you see. It’s crazy how something that’s invisible can procure so many emotions, its the magic of perfumery and one of the reasons why I work around perfume.
One of the first goals when I started my brand, was to make people more desirable. I always like to watch people, to admire their natural style, their allure and also how they are dressed. I realised that through perfume, I could make everyone more desirable. I’m not saying that people aren’t already desirable, but I think that perfume has a special power to make people more sensual.
Sensuality is key to everything I do and I play with this a lot, with the more sensual notes of amber, leather and musk notes, it’s kind of my thing.
I was very close to my grandmother, and spent a lot of time with her in her perfumery shop. I loved it so much and I knew early on in my life I wanted to create my own brand and use it as a way to express myself. Now we’re seven years old and I want BDK to become a strong reference in alternative perfumery. We’ve found our customers and have built a strong connection to them, so I feel we’re getting there.
During the pandemic we developed a special way to work in the perfumery, we used to zoom and sent postal samples, but you need the human contact because you can miss things.
I also created the Azur collection during lockdown. My first perfume was Sel D’Argent and Citrus Riviera so I was wearing them all the time to test them. I wasn’t in a summery joyful mood due to the pandemic situation, but because of the bergamot and citrus notes used in the perfumes, I really got into the freshness and those notes brought a lot of comfort and joy, so it was an unusually nice time for me.
I scent myself everyday, I can not leave my house without it. I’m often wearing my tests or wear testing the next launch, or occasionally testing something that wont make it to launch but I want to experience it on my skin. I actually believe we should spend more time testing on our skin and not on the paper blotter.
I spend time perfuming myself in the morning. I spray a lot, usually my neck, the back of the neck and my chest, it’s always like a little shower around me. But I’m not a layering guy and I don’t like to mix smells, so if I choose one thing in the morning I will wear it all day long.
Fragrances were always in my life. Because of my parents and my grandparents I feel like I have a very natural connection with perfume, I cant remember a moment or day when I discovered perfume, it was just always a part of me.
I do scent my home, I used to have diptyque candles but now I’ve got my own. Les Nocturnes is a collection which reflects a night in Paris, so its begins at 10.00 pm and finishes a 8.00 am and I try to take the customer with me on a Parisian journey.
We start with Pleine Lune, the reflection of the moon on the Seine, it’s very powdery and mineral, then Taxi Minuit is a taxi at midnight and is all about the leathery, ambery notes you find on a taxi seats. Then we go to Palace Paradisio, named after a very famous club in Paris in the 70s, so the smell is a bit vintage and uses flowers that smell at night – tuberose and jasmine. When you get out of the club at 6.00 am and it’s sunrise and it’s Matin Parisien, Parisian morning. So that’s my home!
One smell I really love is castoreum, it’s very thick and dense, very animalistic and it’s a fantastic materiel to use when you want to express the animalistic features of other ingredients