Inside Dior’s Joyful New Fragrance

Behind the scenes of Joy by Dior campaign: photographed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

When tasked with creating a scent inspired by joy, legendary perfumer François Demachy began at the bottom and worked his way up. “I started from the base of the juice, which is made up of notes of musk and wood that give way to the long-lasting trail,” says Demachy of Joy, Dior’s new fragrance fronted by Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, who played an integral part in the creative process.

Six months into the two-year project, Lawrence arrived at the lab in France to meet him. “I wanted to speak the same language, so I had her discover all of the raw materials to get her first reaction,” explains Demachy. The perfumer studied Lawrence’s reactions, and used them to continue developing the fragrance. “She loved the musk,” he says. “It’s one of the reasons I decided to pick the musk and go in that direction.” To build out the fragrance, he spent much time considering balance. “Some of the notes are here to accompany and to create this harmony and some are here to highlight the other notes,” he says.

Within the Dior family, Joy has its own special place. “We wanted to make something very complementary to J’adore and Miss Dior,” says Demachy. “J’adore is very feminine, and Miss Dior, with the bow in the heritage shape, is even more girly. With Joy, we liked something more androgynous,” he explains. And although the name of the fragrance is both humble and simple, “Joy is a very short word, but it is the biggest emotion,” he says.

Joy by Dior, $165 (90 ml), Hudson’s Bay.

How you wear it—or any fragrance, really—is a matter of personal preference, according to the perfumer. “For me, a juice is liquid and it’s dead in its bottle, so it’s the way you’re going to wear it that gives it life,” he says. There are no rules when it comes to what to wear, either. “There are a lot of cultural habits, like thinking that floral is for women or woody is for men, which is not the case,” says Demachy.

Like the scent itself, much thought was put into the design of the bottle, which in the case of Joy was constructed to look like something precious. “You have the name and the shape, and we worked a lot on the cap, so you have a bottle that really looks like a jewel with the silver thread,” says Demachy. “It is very sparkly and shiny, just like the feeling of joy.”

If there’s a recipe for creating a successful fragrance, Demachy says he doesn’t know it. Similar to fashion, fragrances have trend cycles. Most recently, it’s been the gourmand scents that have been overwhelmingly popular. But rather than just go with the trend, the perfumer incorporated a quality of it, and then took the scent in another direction, seemingly to start a new trend. “In Joy you find this little fruity note, which gives this gourmand aspect, but is not at all gourmand,” says Demachy. Ultimately, carving out a new path is just part of the job for Demachy. “The ambition of the house is literally to lead and to be avant-garde, in a way,” he explains. “It’s our duty.”

Toward the end of the process, Demachy had a second meeting with Lawrence to share the final version of the fragrance. “She liked it, and when I saw her again in Los Angeles, she was requesting more bottles,” he says, laughing. For the perfumer, it wasn’t an altogether surprising moment. “Fragrance is not a luxury—it’s a choice,” he says. “You can live without it, but it’s better with it.”