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Christopher Chong Celebrates 10 Years with Amouage

Photography: Juliet Dunne, Vogue Arabia 2017

Staring across the Dubai Creek to the old spice souk, a rickety wooden abra awaits. Exchanging a single dirham with the driver, I watch commuters pile onto the boat as the early morning sun dances across the water. The engine thunders into gear and ancient wind towers, which dot the horizon, fill my view. A sense of nostalgia washes over me. Steeped in tradition, “old Dubai” endures, surrounded by the modern city that encroaches, creeping ever closer onto its doorstep.

Stepping onto dry land, I cross the road and watch the souk slowly awaken. To the sound of clattering metal shutters being hoisted up, shop owners meticulously display sacks filled with herbs and spices, from saffron to dried rose petals. Just outside one such shop, I spot Christopher Chong, creative director of Amouage Fragrances, delving into a bag of lavender. I have invited him here to meet me after discovering that despite all his trips throughout the region, he has yet to visit this part of town.

Wearing a jacquard Gucci jacket that gives him a regal air, he conveniently stands out from the locals who buzz around him in traditional dress, busy about their day. We greet each other like old friends and he hands me a bag carrying his latest fragrance, Figment. The perfume marks an important chapter for both Chong and the Omani label. This year, the creative director celebrates his 10th anniversary at Amouage, which is now 34 years young. There is no doubt that the floral box embossed with gold leaf contains something magical.

Photography: Juliet Dunne, Vogue Arabia 2017

“I had nothing to lose,” begins Chong, recalling the details of his decade-long career. From academic to opera singer (he trained as a lyric baritone for 10
years), working in fragrance was never
on his agenda. By chance, he spotted an
advertisement in a magazine in search 
of “an artist of any kind.” Following an 
interview, he was offered the job of creative director of Amouage. “They loved my story and decided to take a risk,” he explains. Met by raised eyebrows throughout the industry, Chong was thrust into the role without any formal knowledge about the technical process of creating perfume and the ingredients used.

This, however, did not discourage him. Learning the notes, chords, and the art of blending along the way, Chong’s charge was to inspire the stories behind the fragrances. Following the oversee of the company’s rebranding, he collaborated with the best noses in the business – including Alberto Morillas and Pierre Negrin – to bring his stories to life. Chong created scents that caught the noses of the world’s most acclaimed critics. Of note, Luca Turin declared Fate Woman (2013) a “masterpiece.” Packaged in bottles that appeared to radiate light, Amouage perfume became a symbol of luxury and style, gifted by the upper classes and royalty, and sold in its namesake boutiques from Europe to Asia.

We stop to take a break just as two Omani men pass us, children in tow. They spot my Amouage bag and smile. I turn to Chong and ask what creating perfume means to him. “A perfume is just perfume. The story behind it is about making connections and lasting friendships,” he replies. As we sit down for a cup of steaming chai, he describes his various travels and commitments that led him to meeting so many different people. I wonder if today’s encounter in old Dubai might one day dot his creative mood board.

Photography: Juliet Dunne, Vogue Arabia 2017

Holding the crystal bottle in my hands, I inspect the exquisite craftsmanship of the gold emblem and small blue stone inlaid on its cap. The decanter itself features a myriad of blue shades blended together to create an ombré effect, and asserts the luxury of the creation inside. I spritz. A tapestry of notes flies out into the air. Dusty tuberose intertwines with the warmth of patchouli and woody incense melts into bitter- sweet peppery notes. As the fragrance settles, jasmine sambac and orange blossom become apparent, and add a light- ness to what would otherwise be an overwhelmingly heavy perfume. This is poetry. Another one of Chong’s enchanted stories to feature in a portfolio of 35 fragrances.

Figment’s inspiration derives from a South Asian country that he is yet to visit himself – Bhutan. “Neither fantasy nor reality, Figment is an olfactory hologram, composed of the fragments that make up the intense beauty of life,” he says. Even those who won’t fully grasp this concept will be transported. If this fragrant blend truly depicts the Kingdom of Bhutan, then I shall be booking my one-way ticket right away.

Courtesy of Amouage


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