Amouage Man and Woman, the Man at the back of the Woman!
Honour Man has a cap inspired by the handle of the khanjar dagger of Oman akin to Malaysia's keris
Honour Woman has a cap shaped as a dome inspired by Oman's Ruwi Mosque
AMOUAGE REVEALED ITS LATEST PERFUMES CALLED 'HONOUR' IN HONOUR OF PUCCINI'S 'MADAME BUTTERFLY', THE WORLD FAMOUS OPERA.
'HONOUR' WAS LAUNCHED BY ITS CREATOR AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF AMOUAGE CHRISTOPHER CHONG WHO CUT A SENSATIONAL FIGURE AS HE IS A CHINESE FROM HONG KONG.
Christopher Chong welcoming guests and explaining the rationale of 'Madame Butterfly' in creating Honour
Creative director of Amouage Christopher Chong with models carrying 'Honour' for Man and Woman
Christopher Chong is the first Chinese to hold the coveted post of creative director in a major House
Looking angelic as they carry Honour Woman
The Amouage gang; left, Hassan Al-Saleh, Ross Donald, Christopher Chong and Rashid Abdul Wahab
Christopher Chong told me he had to write something nice for me though I spoiled it by admitting I was planning to sell Honour Man on eBay
Christopher Chong did write something very special for me on my ceramic bottle; "It's been an honour meeting you Mr Kee Hua Chee'! WOW!
Another look just in case you scrolled down too fast
After our tete-a-tete
Nadine Ann Thomas, Miss Malaysia Universe 2010 and Christopher Chong
The creative director of Amouage, Kee Hua Chee, Havinder Kaur and Ashvin Valiram, boss of Valiram Group
Still at it
Christopher Chong with Hassan Al-Saleh of TRACCS Oman
Raja Dato Nordiana Zainal Shah, senior vice-president of corporate marketing and loyalty programme of Malaysia Airlines with Ross Donald, senior sales and marketing manager of Amouage
Hassan Al-Saleh of Oman and Kee Hua Chee of Kota Baru
Mazlan Mokty dropped his precious Honour Man on the floor and smashed it to pieces but was given a free replacement by the generous management of Amouage since it was an accident but this table smelled so nice afterwards!
left; Teh Sek Hock, Wendy Teh, Jennifer Chang, Andrea Au, Ellena Chew and Datuk Noorman
Nooraliza Aziz, Jahari, Fazli and Noraini
Ross Donald, Daim Jamalullail, Datin Sharon Datuk Rahim and Rashid Abdul Wahab, sales manager of Amouage Malaysia
Kee Hua Chee with C.S Poon the new power PR dynamo from BrandThink
More feathers for your viewing pleasure
Think team from BrandThink; Jason, C.S and Deborah Loo
Star power; Sean Ghazi who has performed in London's West End, singer for the evening Janet Lee and actress Deanna Yusuf
Might as well join the stars
Whether you like or not, feather is better
Cheah Wei Li and Vincent Ong
Emcee Elaine Daly next to giant dildo
Sean Ghazi, Deanna Yusuf and Elaine Daly looking happy
Until I reminded them Madame Butterfly committed suicide and there was no reason to be happy so now they looked sad and mournful
Datin Sharon Datuk Rahim getting her Honour Woman signed by Christopher Chong
Fazli getting his Honour Man signed
Christopher Chong is like a superstar so buyers had to queue to get his signature
The hardworking team from BrandThink
Brandthink Team with Christopher Chong, CD of Amouage
THE SULTAN LOUNGE AT MANDARIN ORIENTAL KUALA LUMPUR WAS FILLED WITH BUYERS WHO PURCHASED 'HONOUR' IN ADVANCE DURING THE PRE-SALE LAUNCH. EVERY BUYER WHO PRE-PAID IN ADVANCE WAS INVITED FOR THE EXCLUSIVE LAUNCH FOR DRINKS AND NIBBLES AND TO GET THEIR BOTTLES SIGNED IN GOLD INK (OF COURSE!) BY CHRISTOPHER CHONG.
AS 'HONOUR' IS ENCASED IN WHITE, COSTLY CERAMIC, THE SAME KIND OF CERAMIC USED BY RADO AND CHANEL WATCHES, THE SURFACE ALLOWS CHRISTOPHER CHONG TO SIGN HIS NAME AND MESSAGE.
A buyer Mazlan Mokty who came with Intan Zaharah accidentally dropped his precious Honour for Men on the floor. The precious bottle smashed into pieces and the entire room was suddenly filled with the most luxuriously intoxicating scent!
Ever the conscious and considerate host, the management from Amouage quickly replaced another bottle gratis to the mortified Mazlam Mokty who literally saw his RM 865 bottle of Honour evaporated before his eyes. I suggested to Hassan Al Saleh the PR boss of TRACCS from Sultanate of Oman Mazlan should smash a few more bottles at regular intervals to fragrance the entire Sultan Lounge but this idea was rejected cold.
Beautiful lawyer and former Miss Malaysia Elaine Daly hosted the evening and Janet Lee sang. Celebrities included me (Oh, I don't count is it?) and Miss Malaysia Universe 2010 Nadine Ann Thomas and Sean Ghazi and of course important Amouage people like Ross Donald the sales and marketing manager and Raja Dato Nordiana Zainal Shah the senior vice president of corporate marketing and loyalty programme who is Trengganu's most beautiful princess.
Christopher Chong, tall, handsome, dishy and dreamy looking looked like a model and he was! He was a model when growing up in New York City and modelled for Dunhill which was to be the most important event in his life ever! Read more about this later.
He gave a speech to explain the concept of 'Honour' which is in honour of Puccini's world famous opera 'Madame Butterfly'. Of course not all guests were familiar with the exact story so he very kindly explained the entire tale in a condensed version. In a nutshell, it is the original version of Miss Saigon! An American in the 1890s met and bought a 15 year old Japanese girl Cio-Cio san in Nagasaki he nicknamed Butterfly. He left for America promising to return (you heard of this line before, right?) and left behind a pregnant Butterfly.
A few years later he did return but with a white American wife! He wanted to bring his son back to USA and his wife Kate promised Butterfly she would take good care of the boy. Seeing her life in ruins and as an abandoned woman with no future and a laughing stock in Nagasaki, Butterfly agreed provided the American Pinkerton come in person to see her. She then used a sword to kill herself ala hara kiri. The sword, belonging to her late father, was engraved with the proverb 'to die with honour' and that is how 'Honour' the perfume came into existence!
Amouage is the world's most exclusive and expensive and esoteric perfumes and Honour For Men costs RM 675 (50ml) and RM 865 (100ml) and Honour for Woman is RM 750 (50ml) and RM 915 (100ml). At these prices, don't expect to find Amouage selling everywhere. In the whole of Malaysia, you can only buy Amouage Honour and its other siblings at Isetan KLCC and KLIA.
Amouage is Middle Eastern owned but is led by Englishman CEO David Crickmore and fronted by Chinese creative director Christopher Chong who created the latest scent ‘Honour’.
Multi-talented Christopher Chong wears many hats as he is a former model, marketing manager, opera singer and current CD of Amouage.
For 28 years, Amouage has dominated the high end perfume sector by virtue of its costly ingredients and stratospheric prices and holds the position as the world’s most expensive perfumes. Amouage perfumes are touted as the ‘gift of king' as these are the gifts presented by the Sultan of Oman to visiting dignitaries and guests. Amouage can certainly also be 'king of gifts'!
Amouage is founded and owned by the late Sayyid Hamad bin Hamood Al-Busaidi, a senior royal who was instructed by Sultan Qaboos bin Sayyid Al-Said of Oman to create the world’s most precious scents using Oman’s frankincense, flowers and oils.
When Amouage launched its first Gold perfume for men and women in 1983, it stunned the world with its unheard-of prices---US $200 to US$ 500. Today the prices for Honour Men and Women at Isetan KLCC are RM 865 to RM 915 which are not too far off but back then such prices were swoon-inducing. Created by French master parfumier Guy Roberts who declared Gold was the apex of his career, the 24-carat gold lavished bottles were designed by Asprey of London. The Gold for Men’s bottle was shaped like the handle of the Omani dagger called khanjar while Gold for Women flaunted a dome inspired by Oman’s Ruwi mosque.
In a single perfume, over 120 base notes were used, allowing Gold to release layer after layer of oriental notes that bedazzle the senses and beguile the mind. Among the most flaunted ingredients were frankincense from Dhofar in southern Oman, the selfsame frankincense used by the Queen of Sheeba and the Three Wise Men who started their blessed journey from Oman carrying this precious cargo. Then there is the incredibly rare Omani Rock Rose found only in the mountains of Jebel Akhdar overlooking Muscat. This flower blooms once a year and only for a few weeks. Jebel Akhdar also produces top grade myrrh.
Gold by Amouage was quintessentially and exotically Middle Eastern with its preponderance for gold and ornate embellishments and became de rigueur for palaces and mansions and found in every Arab potentate’s private jet and super yacht.
Many consider the bottles to be works of art to be treasured and displayed after the contents had evaporated from your skin. ‘Gold’ by Amouage continued to be a best-seller in its extravagant golden bottles until 2007 when Hong Kong born Christopher Chong became Creative Director and toned down the bottles to the annoyance of baroque fanciers.
The new, sleek and contemporary bottles of Gold for Man and Woman, possibly the world's most expensive and coveted perfumes.
Most would assume Amouage’s high-profile CD would be a Frenchman speaking exquisitely fractured English or a smouldering Arab armed with a khanjar. Christopher Chong looks more Shanghai Tang than Lawrence of Arabia when he revealed Honour for Man and Woman at Sultan Lounge in Mandarin Oriental on 27 June 2011.
Articulate, tall, handsome and dreamy looking, Christopher Chong fits the role perfectly. He is also of an indeterminate age so I ask his age. “You can lie,” I say soothingly.
“Why should I? I am proud of my age---42.” he says coolly.
He is also proud of not being a Nose. “I am not a Nose as that is someone with highly developed sense of smell who creates perfumes. I oversee the entire concept of each perfume’s manufacture, supervise the ingredients, handle the advertising, marketing, promotion and public relations and look after the whole package.”
Incredibly, Chong has no training or direct experience in the perfume industry as he wafted into this scented world by way of classical music.
“I was born in Hong Kong but my parents migrated to USA where I grew up in New York City before moving to London for post graduate studies in Literature. There I discovered I loved opera and even better, found out I had a voice! So I trained as an opera singer. Do you know there are many Malaysian opera trainees in London? Don’t be surprised if the next big opera star in London is Malaysian. I am based in London.
“While taking opera lessons, I needed to keep body and soul together so I worked in a magazine as product development manager.”
I ask the name of the publication as perchance his old office mates might be thrilled. Chong rolls his eyes to high heaven and flaps his arms in distress. “The job was neither fun nor glamorous! I don’t want to talk about it. It never happened OK!”
Finally his opera training came to fruition and he was all set to storm West End. Then he met an old friend David Crickmore from his New York days when he was a model and did some work for Crickmore who was then with Dunhill. “Isn’t life funny? We lost contact over the years but met by chance in London and he offered me this post. He did not want someone from the perfume industry but from the artistic world who could look at perfumes differently. So I had to choose between setting the stage alight with my singing or Amouage.”
He laughs, “I didn’t want to be an impoverished artiste so I opted for Amouage and perfume creations! But I had to pass some tests. David took me to Paris and Grasse the perfume capital of the world to meet the parfumiers and other industry players. I did not know better so I had no fear. I was daring and made wacky suggestions. They all thought I was interesting and charming and gave me the thumbs up.”
I compare him with Serge Lutens who I interviewed in Paris whose works for Shiseido in the 1980s won 2 Golden Lions at the International Advertising Film Festival. Chong looks pleased as punch. “Serge Lutens is my inspiration! His creations, from perfumes to photographs, films, hair and make-up are timeless and iconic. I admire him so much!”
As a Chinese fronting an international luxury perfume house founded in Arabia, does he suffer from discrimination and racial prejudice?
“In a word, no,” he says firmly. “I am so lucky to be in the right place at the right time. America has a black president. There is no distinction. Things have changed for the better. When I was young, at 16, my first dream was to be a fashion designer for a famous House. In the 1980s that would never happen due to my yellow skin! The most I could rise would be the designer’s assistant not the spokesperson! I would always be behind the scene. Now it is different. If you are good, you can make it. We live in fortunate times.”
He cites two stunning examples; Taiwan born Jason Wu and Nepali Prabal Gurung who are hotter than hot right now. Both are based in New York and both have Michelle Obama as clients and the First Lady wore a Jason Wu when she met Queen Elizabeth II.
He grins, “The Chinese mafia in New York has broken new grounds for us. China is now the world’s second largest economy and the big spenders in the West are now Chinese, not so much Japanese. With China on the ascendant, people look at me differently. Amouage is seen as a cosmopolitan, international company as David Crickmore is English and I am Chinese. We are a niche product but having thrived for 29 years, we have come a long way since 1983.”
Since becoming CD, he has created Jubilation, Lyric, Epic, Memoir and Honour in addition to the Opus series. He has also streamlined and fine tuned the famously ornamental Gold bottles into sleek containers to match the rest so the Amouage range is now easily identifiable.
“I have developed the original Gold bottles into clean, stylish and chic lines that are utterly 21st century. The dome on the cap is now inspired by Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and you can recognise the khanjar but they are more stylised and sleek. They now match modern homes.”
The logo too has become contemporary. The Arabic script spells the name Amouage and is a mirror image of each other, reflecting East and West.
“Amouage is an amalgam of two words, one Arabic and one French which means 'waves of loving emotions'. ‘Almoug’ means ‘wave’ in Arabic and ‘amour’ is French for love.” explains Chong. Based on his background as operatic singer, none is surprised when Chong chose one of the world’s most famous operas as his muse.
‘Honour’ is inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Madame Butterfly’, an operatic tale of love and betrayal, hope and despair, engrossing intrigue and infinite pathos. “It culminates in the suicide of Madame Butterfly in the final aria ‘Con Onor Muore’ which is ‘To Die with Honour’ as she commits suicide.”
Isn’t that a rather gruesome backdrop for a perfume supposed to evoke joy and happy endings? More so when Madame Butterfly is supposed to be based on a real event that occurred in Nagasaki.
“Many people tell me this is still happening and they can relate to Madame Butterfly,” says Chong. “I wanted this theme so I could inject accord and discord as Honour is very unusual. Honour Woman is a white floral melange on a rich resin base of frankincense, amber and opoponax while Honour Man is spicy and woody with pink berry, black pepper and tonka beans.”
Would his next scent be inspired from another opera like Aida or ballet like Swan Lake?
“Not telling!” says Christopher Chong.
I remark, “Hey, ‘Not Telling’ can be a great name for a perfume! Imagine someone asking you the name of the fabulous fragrance you are using and you reply ‘Not Telling’. Your friend will be taken aback and will keep asking ‘Tell me’ only to have you repeatedly say ‘Not Telling’!”
Christopher Chong looks momentarily stunned before bursting into laughter. “Now that is a cool name! I will think about it.”
So when Amouage launches the next perfume called ‘Not Telling’ that will be my 15 minutes of fame.