An Excellent Bouquet

Christopher Chong looks back on his career as Creative Director at the luxurious perfume house of Amouage, the meaning of luxury and why he worries so much.


Christopher Chong worries a lot. “I complain a great deal but it’s only because I’d hate to disappoint anyone,” the Creative Director of luxury fragrance maker Amouage explains. It has been nearly nine years since he took on the challenge of designing perfumes for what was then a small, regional brand. He can, today, take pride in the fact that Amouage has transcended its background and become internationally renowned for its compelling lines of fragrances, a large number of which he helped create.


“All in, I think we’re doing quite well now,” Chong says. “We have plans to set up more monobrand outlets, and we’re expanding our range by adding additional non-core products.” This includes the launch of a line of leather goods, handcrafted in Florence, which has been doing well. “People are buying them because they can appreciate the quality we’ve put in them. Although, I must admit that I need to find the time to fine-tune and come up with new designs.” He also has additional ideas on adding to Amouage’s portfolio: “I’m designing scarves,” he reveals with a gleam in his eye. “All I need is more time!”

It’s hard not to be drawn to Christopher Chong. He is compellingly passionate, honest and exuberant, and not just about what you see in the Amouage store. He was in Kuala Lumpur recently to launch the brand’s latest fragrance, Sunshine Man, the male counterpart to the Midnight Flower Collection’s Sunshine Woman. He also hosted an exclusive afternoon tea for specially invited readers of The Peak at Amouage’s standalone boutique in Starhill Gallery, where he took pleasure in introducing what the brand had to offer. “Needless to say, I was a bunch of nerves before the event started,” Chong smiles. Still, he made a pretty good show of hiding it. “I’m usually fine once things get going, and, I admit, I really enjoy helping people discover perfumes. I like taking them round and seeing them discover something new – that’s one of the great pleasures I have in this job.”

Of course, looking back to the time when Chong, who was born in Hong Kong but grew up in the US, had taken on the role at Amouage, success was not a guarantee. After all, he had just spent the previous 10 years as a lyric baritone in London – not exactly the kind of background you would expect of a perfume maker. “Amouage decided it didn’t need someone with technical expertise; they were more interested in my artistic background,” he explains. “When you think about it, music is very close to perfume-making – we use the same language, construction and even the same words to describe events, which is the most essential thing about a perfume.”

Although there has been positive antecedents to draw upon – Annick Goutal herself was a trained classical pianist before launching her celebrated house, while Kilian Hennessy, the nose behind By Kilian, studied languages and communication – it was still a gamble for Amouage and him. Happily, however, things have turned out quite well for both. The brand has secured a repute for its strong, distinctive fragrances that utilises the best ingredients, one that won it fans all over the world. For Chong, the partnership has allowed him to flourish, pushing him to new heights of creativity and helped make a difference.

“We are now an international brand, one that speaks to all cultures around the world. You could say I’ve made a ‘diplomatic impact’,” he laughs. “From a regional brand, we have become an international one that people can relate to. Of course, it helps that Amouage and I have the same ambition – creating products that everyone can enjoy. A product is dead on its own; it’s only when someone behind it communicates the message of its inspiration that it truly becomes alive.”

For Chong, the partnership with Amouage is not just about a tick box of perfume launches and sales figures. “I’ve been very lucky as being at Amouage allows me to spend time with like-minded people. That’s a true luxury for me,” Chong, who now lives in London, says. “It’s not often you’re able to be with a group that shares the same kind of passions and goals. I’ve been able to pursue fine craftsmanship and quality, which is essential for my creativity. Luxury, for me and Amouage, is not about price points, but about how much of yourself you put into the work that we do. It’s gone beyond the material into something that is very spiritual,” he says.

The goal, for both Chong and Amouage, is to create products, be they perfumes, leather goods or whatever else his buzzing mind can dream up, that everyone can enjoy. “I think the most important point is about being happy. Having lots of money doesn’t necessarily give you that happiness. Ultimately, I think luxury is about being able to escape, even if it’s for a moment. Modern life is very hectic and stressful. I like to think that we are imparting a bit of fantasy with what we do here. At the end of a long, hard day, you come home and light one of our scented candles or use our bath products and it all goes away. Or spraying on some of your favourite perfumes and walking out the door a totally different person. It’s about going beyond the now, and stepping into something beautiful and precious.”

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