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INTERVIEW: The Man Behind the Scent, Christopher Chong

Bahrain Confidential shares a conversation with Amouage’s Creative Director, Christopher Chong.

Amouage fragrances have reflected the wonderful traditions of luxury perfume creation internationally for 35 years. The brand has a global reputation for bringing true artistry to all its creations. Bahrain Confidential was invited to Oman to witness the launch of “Figment”, Amouage’s latest fragrances for man and woman, and the 10th anniversary of Christopher Chong as Creative Director.

Unknown to the perfumery world, Christopher first marked his triumphant debut in 2007 with “Jubilation 25” for women and “Jubilation XXV” for men. With no formal training or experience, he is now a respected craftsman who defies convention and pushes artistic boundaries.

Tell us a little story about yourself.

Born in Hong Kong, at an early age I moved to New York with my parents where I also attained my first degree in Comparative Literature. After graduating, I moved to London to pursue a Master of Arts in Literature, Languages, and European Thought. During my academic career, I was offered a place at Oxford University to study my PhD. I did multi-disciplinary studies and was on my way to becoming an academic when I decided that the life of an academic wasn’t for me.

I found London to be a real source of creativity that I was able to tap into. In comparison, I found New York to be claustrophobic. When I moved to London, my parents were unhappy about it because they thought of me becoming an academic. That is probably one of the reasons why I moved to London, so that I could be free –  free to make my own mistakes, to learn and live.

Opera gave me discipline. I had to work on my voice like an athlete.

What nationality do you most identify with?

I find it very hard to answer that question. I see myself very much as the person of the world.

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On opera…

I fell in love with opera upon going to London. One of the things I loved about living in London was that I met so many different people from different cultures and nationalities. London was full of eccentrics, and I discovered that I was an eccentric and I loved to be amongst fellow eccentrics. It was at this stage, that for the first time I met different opera singers and discovered I had a talent for opera. I wanted to be a Baritone but was too young to develop my voice and after 10 years of training as a Lyric Baritone through private tuition and maintaining menial jobs to pay for my passion, I realised that it was not for me.

How did you begin your journey with Amouage?

It was by chance. 10 years ago, I learned through a friend that Amouage was looking to speak to an artist. They wanted someone that didn’t come from the industry. I met up with them not knowing anything about the perfume business, whatsoever so I believed I couldn’t fail. I told them my story and they became interested. After that, they asked me to go to Paris to make arrangements for the 25th anniversary of Amouage and the opening of the Paris store. To cut the long story short, it was successful. As Creative Director, I handle all aspects of the creation and marketing of Amouage.

Early in my career, I had two massive successes and many people suggested that I set up my own brand. It was tempting but I had great mentors; master perfumers who gave me good advice. There were people I trusted in the industry including the perfumers and they pointed out to me that with Amouage, I was the one creative director. Going by on my own would mean I’m one of many. I also loved the company. I decided at that time that I will always be with Amouage as long as they want me to be with them.

I love what I’m doing now. It’s a cliché that disappointments lead to opportunities but that is what has happened in my life.

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What is luxury? (On people referring to Amouage as a luxury brand)

It’s time. It’s a peaceful state of mind.

Do you have peaceful state of mind?

No, but I’m working on it… the last holiday I took was before I joined Amouage 10 years ago. I actually booked holidays but cancelled them.

What is your current pleasure? What’s the latest thing you learned to do?

Four months ago, I finally learned how to cook. It was funny because my parents run a Chinese restaurant but they never wanted me to learn to cook. They said “One day, with your education, people will be cooking for you”, and so they actively discouraged me from learning how to cook. But I’ve been learning from YouTube and I’m really enjoying the creative process.

An extraordinary and beguiling perfume, Figment is the highly anticipated third chapter of “Portraits of Life”. It is an expression of elusive beauty inspired by Christopher’s enduring fascination with Bhutan, the land of Happiness, this scented work of art sublimely sings the ethereal wonder that cloaks the kingdom in his dreams.

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