Behind the Brand... Exclusive Interview with Julien Pruvost, Creative Director at Trudon
Trudon’s creative force is breathing new life into a house famed for its heritage, and their new eau de parfum, Mortel Noir, is a beacon of the company’s fresh approach
In recent years, Julien Pruvost has built something of a shamanic reputation. While Cire Trudon — established in 1643 — has long been revered as the world’s most prestigious candle-maker, the house has ushered in an exciting new dawn at the behest of the French-American’s vision.
Since taking over as creative director in 2019, a ‘rebrand’ (if not too strong a term) has seen the house drop ‘Cire’ in favour of the more streamlined Trudon, modernise their aesthetic with the help of a raft of top designers (as well as acclaimed illustrator Lawrence Mynott), and launch a brand new fragrance line.
Collaborative projects with the likes of Italian fashion designer Giambattista Valli, French luxury fashion house Balmain, and more recently legendary tea master Yu Hui Tseng of Maison des Trois Thés, are all examples of how the house has diversified.
Seemingly by stealth, the Parisian has helped to rapidly expand the business, arriving at something strikingly new while at the same time remaining faithful to the brand’s historical identity. “Our heritage is our raison d’être,” says Pruvost. “As a living heritage company, it is what guides us every day. It is a fantastic reservoir of inspiration.”
Mortel Noir, a limited edition release, is the latest addition to the eau de parfum collection. A homage to the original Mortel, Pruvost and the scent’s creator Yann Vasnier, agreed that a more concentrated version of the soft amber fragrance would simply not suffice. “The original formula could not give more without a rebalance,” says Pruvost. “The decision was made by Yann to put the spotlight on one of the main ingredients of the [original] fragrance: Madagascan Black Pepper.”
Pruvost was delighted by the results: “Mortel Noir is not only more intense, sensual and opulent,” he explains, “it also comes with, and this was a very pleasant surprise: added freshness. This aspect creates a fragrance that is long-lasting, suitable for the day and evening by adjusting the quantity you use.”
The new fragrance line represents a departure from Trudon’s conventional output. Although sticking to the tried and tested narratives would, in theory, continue to make sound business sense, simply regurgitating the old hits upon which the brand’s legacy is built was never an option for Pruvost.
“When creating the fine fragrance line, Trudon’s heritage was essential, both as inspiration and to make sure [sic] not to repeat certain themes already expressed through the interior fragrance products. Religion, royalty and a sense of revolution are the backbone of many stories found within the candle line. These themes were reinterpreted when creating the fine fragrances.”
Looking back, Pruvost has long been on a path of creative destiny. His mother, a keen collector of 18th, 19th and early 20th century Japanese artworks, helped cultivate a sense of wonder from an early age. “It was not an extravagant collection,” recalls Pruvost, “but I remember each piece quite vividly. I remember understanding the preciousness of each scroll, clay box or screen. It truly fascinated me as a young boy.”
Aside from his mother’s art collection, there was a second figure of huge influence on Pruvost: his stepfather. Working as a state official for a public financial institution (so far so unremarkable?), he was in charge of allocating a significant annual budget for the arts. Despite an ostensibly dry-sounding job title, a young Pruvost revered the vocation with complete adulation, admitting that “even as a child, it seemed like a dream job”.
Under the wing of his artsy stepfather, Pruvost attended numerous shows as a boy. Captivated by the performing arts, it fostered a lifelong appreciation of artistic expression. “Whether contemporary art, theatre, ballet [or] concerts, I was immersed in all sorts of art forms from a young age,” he explains. “My interest in them kept growing from there.”
The Creative Secret
Years later, Pruvost studied in Japan. He was attracted by various art scenes that often merged with craft, discovering a “universe of craftsmanship” that he now credits as giving him a fresh perspective, or as he puts it, a “whole new eye” on both the history and current state of French artisanship.
For Pruvost, creative success, particularly in the context of a heritage brand such as Trudon, is as much about immersing in historical texts and various artforms as it is about acquiring ‘practical’ expertise. His advice? Watch more; read more; build relationships.
“Try to build strong, authentic interpersonal skills,” says Pruvost. “You will eventually need to know how to communicate with various teams. “I come from a field where cultural references are key,” says Pruvost. “Indulge in readings, movies, shows of all kinds. Build and nourish your curiosity beyond the skills you think you will need tomorrow.
“Understanding why things are done in a certain way is as important as knowing how to do them.”