Majda Bekkali: At the Crossroads of Art & Story-Telling

Gorgeous and sensuous do not begin to describe the curvaceous contours of the portable works of art which the fragrance bottles by Majda Bekkali truly are.

The founder has been nurtured in the arts from her early days in Morocco’s mystical city of Fez, where the alleys resound with world music, the garden of Jnan Sbil infuses the air with exotic plants, and where succulent dishes - such as chicken pastilla and honeyed briouettes noisette beckon you to discover this crossroads of the senses. All these experiences, coupled with the finesse of her Parisian tenure in the art departments of various French brands, before launching her own house in 2009, spring forth upon inhaling the scented creations lurking inside those remarkable flacons.

For her eclectic collection of fragrances, Majda Bekkali prioritizes refinement and pleasure above all else. Summoning some of the world’s most renowned perfumers, directing them into producing their best, these perfumes conjure stories on the skin and need to be experienced leisurely at the luxurious LKNU Showroom overseeing the Melbourne city, sipping coffee, as they unfold.

The Olfactive Sculptures, as the brand owner calls one of the two collections offered, effortlessly lend themselves to the dialogue between the materiality of form and the abstraction of olfactory impressions.

The dreamy story-telling of Bekkali takes shape in J'ai Fait Un Rêve Clair, a delicious creation by acclaimed perfumer Dorothée Piot, which fuses the soft and cool energies of powdery musk and abstract flowers into a pliable base of bitter-sweet resins (labdanum, elemi) and intimate scents - recalling living, breathing skin - to create the atmosphere of an afternoon tryst between lovers. It’s what one would wear to both a rendez-vous and afterwards, to recall the memories of those precious times.

Every diurnal essence has its nocturnal counterpart, nevertheless, and J'ai Fait Un Rêve Obscur is the one which darkens the plot. The two act as yin and yang, feminine and masculine energies flowing together to create artistic harmony. The fiery nature of black pepper, hot and piquant, soars into arpeggios of mysterious and sombre brushstrokes of oud. This is soon embraced by the cuddly tonalities of vanilla and Cashmeran, a sophisticated musky note that recalls our epidermis; it’s a beautiful stranger surrounded by beckoning vibes.

The interplay of light and darkness, of feminine and masculine energies, is furthered in the duo of Fusion Sacreé in Clair and Obcur editions. Conceived as steps before a great frontier, they’re emboldening Bekkali’s vision of stories transcribed into fragrance. In Bertrand Duchaufour’s first creation, Fusion Sacreé Clair, we’re met with the vision of entering a temple somewhere far. A buttery flower, poised amidst gardenia and tuberose, is standing proud on a pedestal, to be adorned by touches of coffee and an ambery cloud, tickled by tart fruity accents. The frontier is reached, the obstacles finally surmounted. What lies beneath? One drop on the skin reveals the mystical experiences of that riddle.

In Fusion Sacreé Obcur, the experience references a visit to a distillery with huge barrels of oak holding the precious liquor in dark underground, the glorious scent of casks soaked with rum permeating the air, spices in the background, making you a little tipsy even more savouring the heady stuff drop by drop… Ecstatic and mesmerized you find yourself grounded by the notes of sacred sandalwood, austere cedar and a caramelic amber which makes the trip unforgettable. Who would have thought this is held inside such an enigmatic flacon? The naturalistic cap is merely suggestive, not letting anything away before trying on skin.

A rose is a rose is a rose, Gertrude Stein famously said, but you’d be deceived to think Majda would commission just any rose for her Mon Nom est Rouge, her homage to the king of flowers and the queen of colours. For this rose, Bekkali envisioned a thorny velvety rose growing in a Gothic castle, with ringlets of frankincense rising to further its fairy-tale atmosphere. Turkish rose is a rich and plush varietal, used here, which symbolizes spirituality, love and sanctity. Labdanum, a resinous material that used to be collected off goats’ hair when grazing on rockrose bushes, is the perfect accompaniment. Deep, secretive, yet perfectly legible, Mon Nom est Rouge is another Bekkali fragrance which will beguile both men and women.

Finally the diptych of Tendre est la Nuit is inspired by F. Scott Fitzerald’s novel, Tender is the Night, entering the realm of the forbidden, where the author’s Zelda loses her mind. In Clair, Bekkali winks at her Moroccan roots, with a warm medley of honeyed spices, rich and succulent. You close your eyes and fall down the rabbit hole of discovering that ancient amber, first concocted in the Middle Ages as a prophylactic elixir, anew; a light vanilla backdrop renders it tender indeed. For Obscur, Majda shades leather impressions with the animalic touch of castoreum, as well as cumin, a magnetic and a little bit “dirty” spice that is reminiscent of the dishes of the Middle East. Like brushstrokes on a canvas, they bring forth shadow and perspective to the core idea.

Andalus (from al-Andalus for Andalucia, Spain) is the place where the notion of La Convivencia took wings, a term introduced by Américo Castro for when three religions co-exist. Bekkali’s longed for Utopia of religious tolerance takes form in the poetical and dreamlike creations for her second Collection of Fragrances. These are spiritual works of art which summon a new world, a better world, a world filled with hope and beauty, symbolized through their golden rivulet running the curve of the bottle and with golden caps.

Tulaytulah was the one inaugurating the collection, taking its name from the ancient onomatopeia of Toledo, Spain, where Christian, Jewish and Muslim population co-existed in mutual respect. Leaning to experience its flavours, Tulaytulah unleashes a mouthwatering marzipan pastry, rolled with only delicate honey touches by expert fingers. Yet it is not strictly a gourmand fragrance, as its almondy goodness is oddly fresh, pleasingly green, with a hint of suede in the background, recalling the vista on the cherry trees blossoming forth all fresh, all soft, one glorious March morning over the Tagus river.

The second inspiration comes from the sacred buildings of Andalucia where the hands of the craftsmen carved and engraved the testimony of cultural co-existence. In Mudejar, painted by the skilful hands of Richard Ibanez, the woods and spices take refuge under the bitter orange trees which flank the libraries, the mosques, and the palaces of the Spanish province. Perfectly suited to the mornings, even busy mornings, it’s a breath of fresh air with a hint of grounding incense that will attract compliments from everyone because of its welcoming nature.

As usual with Bekkali creations, the night walk in the gardens of majestic palaces takes on the guise of rose and incense in Mudejar Obscur, with citruses taking a muted sound here and woodwork rising with more prominent and mysterious facets. A duet of refined synthetics, Ambroxan which extends the tenacity and wood-fresh ambience for one, and Cashmeran for another, recalling the delicately salty-soft nuance of our skin.

With Majda Bekkali’s fragrances, you’re reborn unto the path of sublimation, as if the liquid inside the artefacts was merely the medium into a world of pure ethereal essence.

©2023 Arlette - LKNU Parfumerie.