What does luxury mean to you?
This is a question I was asked 55 years ago, and I answered: the desert. When the Bedouins traveled in the desert, they buried their cooking utensils. Therefore, they didn't have to transport them, they stopped at an oasis or in the desert, where there were stone dishes and everything they needed, so they only used extremely natural things that they had made with stone or wood. They buried them and left them in place to move on to the next stage, and the next person who came along used the same utensils. So there was no more transportation of products, and I have some of these objects that were brought back to me. These objects are of absolute purity. That is luxury.
I think it's sensational. But will we get there? It's a special code that doesn't seem to apply to traditional brands. There must be brands that are trying to apply it, but I don't think the big brands will change, because it would be such a disruption in their products and such a disruption to their "bling bling" clientele that they won't touch it. They'll pretend to do it, but they won't do it, or they'll make some small communication stunts.
Natural perfumes are the ultimate luxury, the need to touch small, extremely beautiful and sharp things, extremely pure and in small doses to really appreciate them. No need for abundance. No need to bathe in a bath of cologne every day. Perfume must become sacred again as it was. A well-placed drop of perfume is beautiful. Moreover, in your collections of perfume objects, the “lance parfum” (gulabdan) used to welcome guests, it was just a few drops, not abundance.
I have a funny anecdote: I was at a party with my son where the singer Johnny Hallyday was present and going to the bathroom, there was a bottle of Cologne water. Johnny took the bottle and sprayed himself with it. Is that reasonable? We are still in the midst of bling-bling luxury, excess, and extravagance.
We also see it with collections of shoes or bags, people buy ten models in all colors and sizes. This is still the commerce of today.
Luxury is abundance, excess, and extravagance, while New Luxury is much more demanding and elitist.
A brand that is launching today must absolutely take this niche because it has no history telling that its perfume comes from Marie Antoinette or Queen Elizabeth. Unless you were born like me in a lavender field, I was born in Nice, we had a house in Grasse and my grandfather made perfume essences with lavender and jasmine. When I was 5 years old, I would pick jasmine. I remember all these smells.
The memory of perfume is extraordinary; we do not remember a face, we do not remember a landscape, nor even a dish, but we remember a smell. It's amazing!
I was living in France, in Paris and Marseille. Paris was almost unbearable, with pollution and everything, I had asthma attacks, three-month bronchitis every year, I was always sick.
In Marseille, I lived by the water, on an island, it was beautiful. But when the big cruise ships arrived, there was pollution. Also, like in Paris, the people were not pleasant.
We often traveled to Asia because I made my sculptures and I had my foundry in Bangkok, which is also a very polluted city. We loved these trips because we took advantage of my work to go on vacation to Kho Samui and the islands. And there the food was very healthy, the air was pure and I was no longer sick at all. We usually stayed for 15 days waiting for the result of my sculptures.
One day with my wife Marie-Eve, we decided that we could start a new life somewhere else and Asia appealed to us. We decided to travel around the world; I was tempted by Brazil, India, and I knew America, having worked there, and I didn't really want to go back.
After this trip around the world, we reserved some countries like Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and all the surrounding countries. We went there with our children and the final destination was Bali.
Why Bali? Because when I was 25, my valet was Balinese and he said to me, "Monsieur Morabito, if you go to Bali, you will stay there." So I had never been to Bali, I was afraid of staying there and leaving this Parisian life that I loved and that supported me. Paris was really the place where we launched our products, perfumes, jewelry, and leather goods, it still is but much less so.
I am 56 years old and upon arriving in Bali, we decided to settle there. The school was charming, there were chickens in the courtyard; the children loved it, we crossed rice fields, it was very beautiful. And so we settled in Bali, thinking: we will stay for a year or two and maybe we will come back after all.
We kept our houses in France and eventually only came back for vacations and not too often because we would go travel elsewhere.
We have been living in Bali for 18 years. We thought we would get bored, but not at all! First of all, I am passionate about antiques and I have collected Indonesian art.
Indonesia is very rich and it's very amusing because each region of Indonesia has its own style. There are the Batak, the Sumba, the Dayak... and I compared it a bit to brands. When we see a Hermes, Dior, or Chanel bag, we associate the perfume with the brand. Here, each region, each island has its own brand and if I show you my collections, it's fabulous because you can recognize the region based on the sculptures.
Bali allowed me to collect art from all over Indonesia.
When we moved to Bali, we bought a hotel and transformed it into a house with 24 rooms. It was perfect for our family and friends, but after our children grew up and moved away, we decided to turn it back into a hotel. We opened suites and it was very successful, attracting many beautiful people including artists and actors like Damien Hirst. We also opened a beach restaurant serving Niçoise cuisine, which I loved helping in the kitchen.
As everything was going well, I acquired another house on another part of Bali and developed a small cabin which we rented out, and it grew naturally from there. I loved to travel, especially to places like Capri, so I created suites named after all the places I loved to go, all by the water. I have around 10 suites now, but plan to have around 40.
Bali has an extraordinary climate with mild seasons, so I built my houses with old-fashioned vaults, which is not typical in Bali where most houses are made of cardboard or straw. I enjoy digging into the mountains to create troglodyte-style houses and I love being here. Many people come to Bali to settle, but there are still many untouched places.
My valet was right, I came and stayed. He's retired now. After working for me for 5 years when I lived on the Île Saint-Louis in Paris, he became the driver for the Indonesian ambassador in France. He came to see me in Bali and introduced me to his whole family.
After the hotel, we opened the restaurant and we have successful evenings. Every Friday, we have over a thousand people, we invite DJs, it's an open club, with full moon parties on the beach.
The Club Morabito is talked about all over the world.
I sell perfumes and have a very important market in hotels for guest amenities. We sell millions of soap and shampoo products to hotels in over 45 countries. I'm quite well known for that and for the Club Morabito, more than for jewelry and leather goods, which is my true background.
And now I'm becoming known for architecture because people come to see my houses, my decor, and antiques.
This is the New World. We can't limit ourselves to one thing, there's so much potential, so much to do, it's fabulous.
No, no, no, there's something I miss a lot, it's singing, but now the baton has been passed to the artist LA (lalauraparis) and I would have liked to do that. But I don't regret it because it's extremely hard, it's too hard.
Yes, but if you were a singer, you would have become a brand and you would have done exactly what you have done because successful singers nowadays make money by becoming luxury brands themselves. And you have succeeded without having to be a singer.
I don't do anything to make money and I make money because everything I do is good, but what motivates me is really wanting to create something.
Objects inspire me. I buy an object because I immediately see what I could do with it.
No one has invented anything, it's the artisans who invent.
Actually, it's the people who make a spoon that really corresponds to the spoon that is needed. It's the story of the bedouins that I talked about at the beginning, I'll show you a stone plate that is incredibly modern. There's not a designer who is as modern as this.