18 Jul 2013

PERFUME: Sheikh Majed

Nose behind The Fragrance Kitchen (for Vertu)
DRIVEN to craft scents which linger “long after their wearer left the room,” Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah unites traditional aspects of Middle Eastern perfumery with the aptitude of a leading lab in Provence. Through his label, The Fragrance Kitchen, Sheikh Majed, who claims to have the “olfactory equivalent of a photographic memory,” has launched over 60 scents. 

Sheikh Majed’s grandmother, Mariam, an avid amateur blender, taught the younger Sheikh Majed to develop his nose with nous. “We would mix oils from the souk and source precious ingredients from India,” he recalls, quite softly-spoken. 
Sheikh Majed’s first sortie into professional perfumery resulted in “Arabian Wood”, a co-production with designer and director, Tom Ford. “It was fun to work with a long-term friend,” he says. “Rarely can you find someone who settles between creativity and business.” The layered, honeyed, subtly-smoky blend proved a best-seller for Ford’s Private Blend Collection. 
Rather than gender-specific, Sheikh Majed notes most fragrances are now worn “unisex”. The TFK range is divided into the versatile “Signature” category for everyday use, while “Exclusive” features more opulent scents which “tell a story”. Finally, “Handmade” often represents collaboration with artists, including ceramicist, Kiki van Eijk. A recent addition to this range is The Man From Ipanema, a “tribute” to Rio De Janeiro featuring top notes of citrus and incense, middle notes of jasmine and plum, with musk at the base. 
What does Sheikh Majed wear during our interview? “A new blend that just went to the lab to be developed as one of the new “My” collection perfumes,” he says, proudly. But is there a scent he simply cannot tolerate? “Vanilla,” he responds, quickly. “I don’t mind it as a flavour, but never in scent.” And the most elusive ingredient? “The real, pure oud oil from Laos,” says Sheikh Majed of the complex extract from Southeast Asia’s dark, resinous heartwood. 
Another precious ingredient is rose taif from the delicate but intensely-perfumed damask rose, indigenous to the Gulf. “Precious oils derived from such plants and flowers have proved integral to Middle East perfumery since the ninth century,” he explains. 
Sheikh Majed’s typical weekday begins with “early prayers in the mosque” followed by a short nap, tea, work at home then the office, no lunch but a chocolate snack, more tea (and nuts) at his grandmother’s home, and dinner with friends and family. However, weekends, often spent at his beach house, provide true time for creativity. “In order to be tranquil, this is when blending takes place.” 
Despite being part of the Kuwaiti Royal family, Sheikh Majed considers the label “fashion royalty” a bête-noir. In view of his standing in fashion internationally, I ask what “being fashionable” means to Sheikh Majed? He pauses. “Respect from the inner soul.” 
Find perfumes within Kuwait’s tallest building at TFK’s sleek flagship boutique (Al Hamra Luxury Centre), and online: www.thefragrancekitchen.com
For Vertu