Founder of Kens Apothecary expands beauty portfolio with French perfume Frédéric Malle addition

Ken Lim also shares how scents and self-care are more important than ever in these uncertain times.

Ken Lim, founder of luxurious beauty purveyor Kens Apothecary (Photo: Ken Lim)

Kens Apothecary, which brings in luxury beauty and fragrance brands such as Diptyque, Eve Lom and even Cire Trudon, the oldest candle-maker in the world, shares exciting news about yet another exclusive label joining its impressive stable.


Options: We are excited to be among the first to get wind of the exquisite new brand joining your stable soon.
Ken Lim: Indeed. The Frédéric Malle ‘Editions de Parfums’ collection comprises 42 scents created by the industry’s master perfumers. It is the only perfume brand to uphold the skill of its perfumers, never compromising on the quality of raw materials used or imposing any restrictions on creativity. It is truly an exquisite perfume maison, where you find only the most original creations. We will be launching 14 of Malle’s most popular scents at our stores in KLCC, The Gardens and Bangsar Village.


How and when did you start courting the brand?
I first encountered Frédéric Malle in 2000 when he opened his first boutique at 37 rue de Grenelle in Paris. The store’s design and perfume-testing column were what fascinated me most. I got myself a bottle of Angeliques sous la pluie by Jean-Claude Ellena. I always revisit this scent to remind me of my experience. Throughout the years, I observed the brand’s growth, with its distinctive red sleeves most recognisable. It always delights me when someone shares the same interest. I then bought Eau de Magnolia and L’Eau d’Hiver on subsequent trips to Paris. Later on, the brand was acquired by Estée Lauder and I was very pleased when Stephane Frappreau of Frédéric Malle contacted me for a meeting when he visited Malaysia last year and, after doing his rounds, decided to entrust his brand to us.


The Frédéric Malle ‘Editions de Parfums’ collection comprises 42 scents created by the industry’s master perfumers


Monsieur Malle once mentioned that he chose a career with perfumes as he idolised Jacques Helleu, the artistic director of Chanel. How did your own path begin?
I have always loved perfumes, wearing them since the age of 12. I spent my birthday ang pow on a bottle of Dior’s Eau Sauvage and was very interested in the story behind it. I then started reading up about Edmond Roudnitska, its creator. As for me, I was at a crossroads in 1996 when I decided to pursue my passion after working in my father’s building material trading company for five years. Space NK and Mecca Cosmetica were big influences and I aspired to be the Nicky Kinnaird of Malaysia. Later that year, on a trip to Australia, I stumbled upon Aesop. I had been deciding whether to pursue fashion or beauty. I then opted for beauty and that was the start of the story.


I’m afraid this is a bit like asking who your favourite child is, but how would you reply when it comes to scents?
I have always loved Diptyque’s L’Ombre dans l’eau, which mixes Bulgarian rose with berries, and there is always a bottle of it somewhere in my home. It was my first olfactive discovery with the brand. In fact, I was introduced to the perfume by Dennis Paphitis, the founder of Aesop, in 1998 and have been an avid user ever since. I am also a fan of Goutal Paris’ Eau de Monsieur, fresh and citrusy with base notes of sandalwood and patchouli. It is my favourite scent to wear to work. Another favourite is Aventus by Creed. It is just too sexy and irresistible!


Is there a particular Frédéric Malle scent with a beautiful story to look out for, though?
Le Parfum de Therese, a private creation that Edmond, Eau Sauvage’s creator, dedicated to his wife Therese. It remained her signature scent until Frédéric Malle bottled it to share with the public.


Paris is home to several legendary names in perfume and candle-making

It is said that scents and perfumes are highly evocative. Would you agree?
Scents are magical and they can evoke beautiful memories. I always bring a new scented candle with me when I travel to a destination for the first time, as I believe the memory will be further enhanced and encapsulated with the fragrance. Also, these memories can then be rekindled when I smell the perfume once more. For example, patchouli always reminds me of my trip to Morocco while Diptyque’s Holiday 2019 collection immediately transports me to Shanghai. When travelling for work, I would bring a candle I usually burn in the house, like Diptyque’s Baies or Figuier, as I know I will definitely be missing home.


Tell us what home is like for you.
I love space and have knocked down many walls to create the infinite flow of good chi. I like a lot of natural light to flood the house too. I enjoy a well-manicured garden. As I don’t possess green fingers, I employ the services of a gardener, who comes to trim the grass and maintain the plants twice a month. My furnishings are simple but of good quality and I am an avid collector of all things Fornasetti.


Where did you travel to most recently before the MCO?
I was in Bangkok to meet with some Malaysian friends and got to try G-Spot by Gaggan. Bangkok is always a good idea for a short getaway. But, my daughter, who is 13, has been telling me recently how she really wants to visit New York, Tokyo and Shanghai. She misses travelling, as do I, and we have a long list of places to visit when the borders reopen. 


Considering the global situation, is there a scent that makes you feel safe and at ease?
Growing up, I always looked forward to quality time spent with family on weekend movie nights. My late father would splash on his favourite 4711 cologne before we left for the theatre. That scent, from the time I was little until now, still has the power to make me feel safe and contented. In recent years, I have also grown to be a huge fan of Figuier by Diptyque. Whenever I catch its scent, I feel happy. It smells of fig leaves, its ripening fruit, and is fresh, green and slightly woody. I am also a foodie, and fig salad with goat’s cheese is my favourite indulgence whenever I am in Greece or Croatia. Figuier combines food, travel, the sea and sun all into one for me. I really miss the Mediterranean and, until we can fly again, the Figuier candle will be my best companion.


Fig salad with goat's cheese


How has the pandemic affected business, though?
Beauty is self-care and an essential part of our daily life. My efforts at educating the domestic market about fine, niche brands have finally paid off. Our businesses at neighbourhood malls have been stable, although we saw a sharp decline in city malls, as tourists have not been coming in. Home fragrances are doing exceptionally well, with our heroes being candles, handwash sets and sanitisers. Now, I better appreciate life’s simple pleasures and I also realise we don’t really need what we don’t have. The most important thing is to be able to put food on the table and have loved ones around. Each person is on survival mode; remember to always stay vigilant and safe as well as remain compassionate to those around us.


This article first appeared on Aug 10, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.



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