Christopher Chong is the creative director of the luxurious House of Amouage, a niche luxury fragrance house that reflects a rich heritage in its high quality raw materials and artistic inspiration. The perfume brand is the pride of Oman and caters to the Western market.
The Amouage factory is in Muscat and the traditionally operated headquarters have a worldwide distribution network, including a tourist showroom, which welcomes every visitor with traditional Arabian hospitality.
Amouage has just launched its latest creation that expresses the end of the first cycle of the Amouage narrative. “Fate” for man and woman explores the uncertainty of the future and the universal principal by which the order of things is inescapably prescribed. In his latest conquest, Chong proclaims a finale that parodies the force of the inevitable, veiled in the mysticism of the unknown. “The philosophy of fate remains wrapped in obscurity,” says Chong. “I wanted to celebrate the power of mystery and end the narrative without a defined conclusion. Amouage fragrances have always challenged convention, and in tribute, the last story of our first chapter does not pre-ordain the characters’ fortunes but instead sets them free into the world, where their fate awaits them.”
We had the opportunity to have a one-on-one with Chong who talked about the secret of his perfumes’ success.
For those who don’t know you, who is Christopher Chong?
Christopher Chong: I’m fabulous, I’m wonderful. (Laughs)
“I’m no one special. I’m just someone who tells stories with perfumes. I create my own stories and combine them with my perfumes because perfumes are really difficult you don’t understand them. If you talk about them people will lose interest in 10 minutes, but I found a way of talking about perfumes on a much more personal level so people would be able to understand and relate to their own personal experience. After all, perfumes are all about our personal emotions.
“When you ask who am I? I would say I am a psychoanalyst. I am actually helping you to understand who you are through a certain scent.
Do you believe people wear perfume according to their mood?
“Sometimes. Some people wear perfumes according to their personality. If you have a dramatic personality you will definitely wear Amouage. Sometimes people wear a perfume according to the season and weather. But most of the time it is about mood and emotions and a very personal journey.”
Tell us about you, 10 years ago.
I was still fabulous. (Laughs)
I was training to be an opera singer. My dream was to stand on a stage and sing in front of hundreds of people who appreciate opera but life took a different direction. I went through an evolution and that’s why you see in my perfumes. I talk about different characters and about my stories because they are an evolution. I translate a bit of myself into my perfumes. Ten years ago I was aspiring to become a great opera singer. But as fate dictates our lives, you don’t always get what you want.
“The opera thing did not happen but I am a very ambitious person. It was very important for me to become a legend.
How did you end up in the perfume business?
I don’t know because I have been doing this for such a long time. If you had met me when I started I would have been able to give you a lot of answers, but now I’m not new anymore in the market. That’s why every year I reinvent myself with a new perfume, a new story and a new inspiration.
What inspires you when creating a new scent and a new perfume?
I’m constantly thinking about it. You can always see me trying to find a story for a new bottle of perfume. Most of the time when I have a deadline you find me worried because I do everything from choosing the story, the scent and the name and I have submit it in no time. For example, for Fate perfume I wasn’t too sure at the beginning because I know my customers love the stories and I wanted to give them something different and fresh. I am a risk taker and I took a gamble with it. Luckily, my customers love it.”
You are Asian, Amouage is Omani and your market is Western, how do you blend all these cultures and create a perfume that serves all tastes?
This is the reason why I never created an Oud perfume, and I refuse to because that is actually patronizing. I don’t think about a certain culture when I create a perfume because if I do, I will only concentrate on the biggest market and neglect the other. I only focus on my vision and what I want to do because I think that’s more important. This region has given me a lot of inspiration and made me much more experimental and people are receptive to it. Many people say my perfumes smell Arabic and I don’t understand what that means because Arabic to me smells like the sand and the wind. Arabs love perfumes so much and they shower themselves in perfume before leaving the house.
How do you know if a certain perfume will do well in the market?
You have to stop thinking about that because if you did, you would start tuning things down or do things that would fit one region and that will never help the brand survive. We never do any market studies or anything. I just go with what I think would work best for this year or this season.
How did you want “Fate” to smell?
I want it to smell eternal and I think it does.”
Did you learn how to blend ingredients?
No. Other perfume brands tend to focus a lot on the autopsy of perfume making and on the ingredient blending. My starting point — the emotions and stories — is completely different. Once I have found those I start selecting the ingredients.
What makes Amouage special?
“Amouage is daring and wearing Amouage is having an “I don’t care what you think, this is who I am” attitude. People who have that kind of mentality wear it. The perfume adds a very Arabian attitude to anyone who wears it.”
All Amouage perfumes carries non-Arabic names, why is that?
In terms of meanings, they are all Arabic but in terms of words it has to be international so everyone can pronounce their favorite Amouage perfume. Some markets can’t even pronounce the word Amouage and they call it Amoog instead.
Amouage started selling leather goods, why did you start branching out?
Because we want to slowly expand more into lifestyle and incorporate more lifestyle products. I am still learning about colors, skin types and styles. I am not ready to compare myself with any other fashion brand and I think it will still take time. For now, we only have classic styles with daring colors in luxurious leathers.