I woke up to an email from a reader pointing me to this article on the Independent website. In short: master-perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour was hired by Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Islam Karimov, the ruling dictator of Uzbekistan to create a perfume for her line. I admit to being a semi-myopic American who had to do some googling, Wikipediaing and reading to quickly familiarize myself with Uzbek politics. Here's the best article I found about the lady in question. As for her daddy, let's just say that he's not a nice man.
By the time I was fully awake and in possession of the basic information, the guys on Basenotes already declared themselves Not Impressed with Duchaufour's newest patrons and his decision to work with them. I can see why. If we take The Independent's word for this, the brilliant perfumer seems a bit too self-congratulatory for comfort:
Her latest vanity project, perfume, was launched at a lavish party in a Tashkent nightclub last week. The fragrance was created by leading French perfumier Bertrand Duchaufour, who has masterminded scents for a number of leading brands including Christian Dior and Givenchy. "Through the 'Mysterieuse' fragrance I tried to convey the image of Gulnara, her femininity and sensuality," he said, according to local news reports from the event. "The women's fragrance has notes of every flower that can be found in the Orient." "I am perhaps the first man in the history of perfumery who has tried to link France and Uzbekistan through perfume."
Personally, this kind of association bothers me. Bertrand Duchaufour is perhaps the highest profile hired-gun perfumer. Just by being in that Tashkent club and rubbing against Karimova and her circle he gave them a certain perceived legitimacy, and I wish he hadn't. The question is, can we expect and demand that our favorite artists (especially perfumers) to avoid catering to clientele we find morally and ethically questionable? Do we have the right to be outraged at Mr. Duchaufour, and if so what should we do about it? Should we tell L'Artisan in no uncertain terms that we'll boycott their next release if they hire Duchaufour to compose it? Can we (and should we) separate the artist from his art?
I don't have a clear answer. I think Mr. Duchaufour was wrong in taking this job, but who am I to tell him that? I own several of his creations and enjoy them tremendously. Will I think twice before purchasing another one? Yes, definitely. But where do we put the line?
What do you think? Let's talk about it.
Photo: A model walks the runway during the General Defile By Dom Stilya on October 9, 2012 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Credit: Yves Forestier/Getty Images Europe, via Zimbio.