Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Stephen Dirkes of Euphorium Brooklyn on crafting scentscapes and olfactory deconstruction

Founded by Stephen Dirkes in 2015, Euphorium Brooklyn has already garnered a cult following for its deep, multi-faceted and no-holds-barred scents. A creative polymath with a background in music composition and film production, Dirkes has applied his love of fragrance to art installations, multi media projects and teaching the Perfumer’s Library perfumery program at FlowerSchool New York.
The brand’s concept stems from his stop-motion film project, Euphorium Bile Works, which depicts the story of an 1860s Brooklyn fragrance factory focused on transcendental sensualism run by Etienne Chevreuil, Dr. Christian Rosenkreuz and Rudolph Komodo. Dirkes’ meticulous attention to detail sees the narrative for every fragrance release interconnect with all three creators.

The scents themselves retain an ode to classic perfumery while still being wearable enough for a daily, offbeat olfactory experience. Creations include USAR, an Indonesian vetiver-inspired fragrance with lime, ginger, and agarwood accents; CHOCOLATL, a hedonistic cocoa, clove and coffee creation; and WALD, a beautifully realistic forest scent comprised of smoky fir, cedar, juniper and damp earth notes.

Dirkes found his inspiration for the brand’s recent release, BUTTERFLY, at the New Town Creek waterfront in Greenpoint. The result is a fougere scent comprised of the olfactory plants that sustain butterfly life — violet, lilac, lavender, mint, sage and moss to name a few. The corresponding special edition kit, comprised of an 8ml EdP decant and curated seed packet, combines both sustainability and scent in one.

In the following interview, Dirkes discusses the process behind his newest fragrance, creative cross-pollination and constructing an idiosyncratic olfactive aesthetic.

What made you want to structure Euphorium Brooklyn around the work of three fictional perfumers as opposed to the traditional route?

The Euphorium Brooklyn perfume house, its perfumers, and the fragrances in the collection are all aspects of story telling and are all telling the same story. I became a perfumer to specifically tell the Euphorium Brooklyn story and that research evolved into a life of its own. I can't really say that there was much of a choice on my part, as I had no intention of setting up a perfume house in any other way. I love perfumery and the history of its materials, but beyond that, I'm not so interested in commercial perfumes or the business structures of contemporary fashion/beauty brands.

As someone who also works as an artist, teacher and musician, what in your eyes is the role of today's perfumer — storyteller, educator, olfactory chemist or something else?

Speaking in regards to the current trend of perfumer-driven niche houses, what is new and important is that the perfumer becomes more creative by controlling the narrative. Perfumery becomes more artful, in that it is the perfumer who is deciding both what to express and how to express it. These creative expressions are brought to market and noses around the world get to vote on what becomes successful.

When the perfumer embraces the creative responsibility from beginning to end as an individual creative voice, it becomes much more possible to create original work. That isn’t the case for a corporate perfumer executing a brief within a traditional structure of a client marketing team, brand managers, fragrance developers, assistants, etc. Traditional fragrance industry structures bring a scent to market in a manner much more similar to creating a breakfast cereal than an artwork and corporate perfumers are often placed in the role of specialty chemist.

Not only is the perfumer's creative and artistic role of storyteller made possible by niche perfume houses, it serves to motivate and reward more and more idiosyncratic, iconoclastic, and unique stories being told. Consumer expectations of the perfumer's creative role rises and the art form of perfumery begins to drive all sectors of the market, from hobbyist to independent and corporate perfume houses.

Your latest fragrance, BUTTERFLY, has a much more lightweight and playful palette compared to some of your earlier fragrances. In an interview you once said that you embrace the idea of working with things that take you out of your comfort zone. How did the work on BUTTERFLY fit into this mantra, and also into the pre-existing catalogue of perfumes?

Composing BUTTERFLY EdP, I wanted to explore the same Euphorium Brooklyn conceptual ethos with a lighter olfactive palette. Similar to all of the other Euphorium Brooklyn fragrances by it being a manifestation of the personal history of the perfumer, BUTTERFLY also refers to the botanical or natural history of an environmental landscape.

I often present multiple, widely varied scents simultaneously to obligate the smeller to analyze or deconstruct what's going on and did not want to shy away from the complexity of the preceding Euphorium Brooklyn fragrances. Complexity can often lead to density and it was a challenge to create several micro-transitions within a note or cluster of similar notes over short spans of time with the added challenge of maintaining the clarity required to make a lighter, brighter summer accord.

While conceptually remaining true to form, I did force myself out of my ‘comfort zone’ to attempt to overcome some technical challenges and personal issues. Although early curation of fragrance notes as per butterfly habitat led to an inspiring and varied fragrant palette of mint, floral, and aquatic notes, these are also some of the most difficult families of scent for me to embrace. It became an interesting challenge to ‘make sense’ of these scents.

It was very important for me to launch the BUTTERFLY SET to take both conceptual and practical aspects of that fragrance to its full circle conclusion by pairing the fragrance with a seed packet. It is a positive fulfillment of the first inspiration for the Eau de Parfum to become an environmental call to action.

You previously stated that materials are often overlooked in favor of the narrative in fragrance. How do you strike the balance between those two factors?

I don't really see it as a balance, in that the stories and the materials are totally integrated. The stories are often about the materials themselves and reflect the histories and origins of the characters. I involve the personal history of the characters and their regional origins to inform both the choice of perfumery materials used and the stories behind the fragrances. I can’t get into something without a concept, it's just bad art-making. If I'm not trying to do some art-making, what's the point?

How do all eight scents work together to express the ideology of Euphorium Brooklyn?

Euphorium Brooklyn has a very clearly defined olfactive aesthetic and each one of the eight fragrances adds to the richness of that aesthetic while further defining it. Each scent makes a bold statement in terms of the richness, complexity, and density of the accord. The fragrances all reference a geo-specific or environment scentscape that further unites them expressing the Euphorium Brooklyn story. I involve the personal history of the characters and their regional origins to inform both the choice of perfumery materials used and the stories behind the fragrances.

I evolve each fragrance by using a combination of natural materials and single molecules in dense clusters to achieve fragrant and durational effects throughout the collection. I employ high quality natural materials to emphasize the raw, pure, and powerful sensation of smelling them straight from the source. As the characters had very influential pursuits and areas of study outside of perfumery, I wanted all of the scents to also express the conceptual, mystic, scientific, sensual and euphoric aspects of the perfumer's interests.

As a self taught perfumer, what figures and creative movements have had the most profound influence on your work?

I began my interest in perfumery with the specific terms of fragrance functioning within the context of multi media storytelling. I began my music studies with 19th century operatic composers and the conceit of a ‘total art’ in which the vision of a singular voice would take overall creative responsibility and have, in one way or another, continued to explore that notion.

You admire Harry Partch for his "determined pursuit of creative vision at all costs". What have been the biggest hardships you faced building Euphorium Brooklyn?

I don't think that I've suffered any hardships with Euphorium Brooklyn. Difficulties, set backs, & challenges yes… Harry Partch is admirable in that his creative vision was unstoppable and he rolled up his sleeves and made the instruments he needed, taught musicians to play them and was able to further his work with a certain amount of dogged self-reliance and convection.

Euphorium Brooklyn has been a creative joy for me to evolve. Commercially there is tons of room for improvement, but my focus has really been on the creative aspects of the brand. I'm a pretty self-motivated beaver and am happy to push my choo-choo train up the hill when required. That being said, I've been so overwhelmed that people out there are into it and Euphorium Brooklyn has a mini fanbase in the niche corner of niche. I am so happy to have only worked with really supportive retail partners and have gotten generous feedback and advice from fragrance industry mentors.

Having just started teaching the Perfumer's Library perfumery program at FlowerSchool New York, what are the biggest misconceptions people have about creating scents?

I am obsessed by fragrance and love to interact with people about it. Teaching students and creating the Perfumer's Library perfumery program with FlowerSchool New York gives me fantastic feedback from a wide variety of people. I'm always impressed by how instinctively people explore making scent when provided with the materials, tools, and techniques to get going. Even within the already interested community of people I interact with in New York City's fragrance world, I think most people underestimate how fun and rewarding trying it for yourself can be. One common misconception about perfumery I hear is the general idea that ‘naturals’ are safer than molecules, which is untrue.

Since you apply your love of olfactory pursuits to many different projects, how do you see your body of work as opening up the limitations of the often insular world of niche fragrance?

Euphorium Brooklyn came to be as a perfume house and I'm interested to recognize and preserve its function as that. I don't want to take away from the core story or force the story into other directions as the single repository for all the ways one can explore olfaction.

I have a long career of creating as a composer, film maker, and new media artist. Once developing some technical skill to express myself in olfactive terms, it was very natural to apply those skills outside of a perfume house context. I don't feel as though I'm trying to “expand on the limitations of niche fragrance". Olfactive art exhibitions, multi media collaborations, and events can have different objectives, explore different concepts and exist outside of the perfume house. There is a lot of cross-pollination and all work informs you. I am grateful that small successes with Euphorium Brooklyn allow me to take on projects outside of niche perfumery. I try to focus on education and study, fine art/olfactive art exhibitions, and collaborative events. This variety of endeavor maintains a high level of curiosity, excitement, and growth. The creative metabolism of a professional here in Brooklyn can be manic and that can fuel and inspire you to rise to the occasion.

Given your love of raw materials, what is your single favorite smell of all time and why?

Java vetiver! It's a wonderful complex little forest of scent that ranges from bright green tinselly aspects & warm amber tones to smoky leather & deep dark rooty notes. There's also a great history and culture around it in Java. I really got to know and love vetiver when I lived there myself, but it has been a material that I've always loved at many different times in my life and many different locations.

What can Euphorium Brooklyn fans expect in the future?

So much going on! I'm composing music for a little ballet I'll film at the end of the summer to tell perfumer Etienne Chevreuil's story of the inspiration for BUTTERFLY EdP. I was so pleased with the new direction that BUTTERFLY took in terms of exploring lighter, brighter aesthetics and will continue in that direction for two more fragrances. I'm leaving NYC to do a residency at Santa Fe Art Institute to work on some olfactive/multi media installations and will have another gallery show here in New York this winter. This fall, The Perfumer's Library perfumery program I put together for FlowerSchool New York starts up and I've created 8 classes, with each one centered on a different fragrance family.

View the entire article here.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Building a Fragrance Democracy, One City at a Time: Nick Steward of Gallivant on the Wonders of Wearability and Everyday Appeal

True to the dictionary definition of its name, Nick Steward’s new line Gallivant is sure to offer many a delightful olfactory pursuit. Created in collaboration with perfumers Karine Chevallier and Giorgia Navarra, the range consist of the energetic and bright citrus Brooklyn, unconventional green rose London, delicately wafting white floral Tel Aviv and spicy amber-scented Istanbul.

Each scent comes in a sleek 30ml size flacon, retailing for $95 each. There is something refreshingly democratic, accessible (and travel-friendly) about such a product, which in turn offers all the more opportunities to enjoy each consecutive olfactive journey. “You can mix and match your fragrance wardrobe as you do your clothes and food — there’s a fluidity to Gallivant,” Steward comments.
Given his own multicultural upbringing, the former creative director of L’Artisan Parfumeur wanted to emphasize the concept of universal communication, even in the now often jargon-jammed world of niche perfumery. “Fragrance is something really beautiful that we are passionate about. Given that, don’t we want to invite more people into our world, rather than make them feel stupid because they don’t know the notes or how to pronounce certain words? I don’t like that kind of elitist attitude,” he states.

Not only is the packaging modernly minimalist, the fragrances themselves are equally subtle, with Steward commenting that “perfume doesn’t have to be loud to speak, sometimes you need to listen close to the skin for it to express itself.” Take for example the noisy and constantly buzzing city of Brooklyn, which was translated into an uplifting orange, magnolia and musk concoction. “Brooklyn was never going to be grimy as some people imagine I would have done. Like the American Dream, it was always going to be something optimistic,” he says. Fittingly enough, the independently owned, Boerum Hill-based boutique Twisted Lily recently hosted Gallivant’s stateside debut. “Places like Twisted Lily are really important gateways to discovering this kind of perfumery. I think it’s the time where we need to get back in touch with business actually being about human connections,” Steward explains. “My hope with Gallivant is to create a brand which people can feel close to.”

Next stop on the voyage is London, a melting pool of grit-meets-glam set to to the soundtrack of Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls. The traditional English rose is given an edge thanks to rugged suede and gin-laced cucumber notes. Despite the name of style icon Kate Moss being on Steward’s mind during the creation of the scent, even this one reads universally unisex. He notes that “there was a really positive energy in the co-creation of these fragrances. I tried to balance my own tastes with those of Karine Chevallier and Giorgia Navarra, hopefully that has made for genuinely unisex fragrances. I also believe people are much more open minded than we give them credit for. A lot of men, if you tell them it is a rose or floral, might be put off. But if you just spray it and they smell it, most people don’t have the binary that we think they have.”

Speaking of florals, Tel Aviv is awash with a plethora of them: jasmine, ylang ylang, rose and freesia. “Tel Aviv for me was quite an emotional one to work on, full of a lot of memories,” Steward reminisces. “There is something really comforting about it at the same time. And I’m actually not the world’s biggest fan of jasmine, of itself. It can feel very introverted and dense sometimes, but in this it’s open, fresh and fruity.” Said sheer complexity is gained through notes such as clementine, blackcurrant bud and deer’s tongue absolute. 

The last stop on the olfactive odyssey is filled with the patchouli, myrrh and cardamom notes of Istanbul. By incorporating lavender, geranium and thyme, there is a fresher kick to this composition which veers it away from a cliched oriental territory. “Istanbul has an incredible history as a meeting point between cultures, so I wanted to reference that on some level,” Steward explains. “Sometimes there is a slightly stereotypical view of what Istanbul is and then you go there and realize it’s a mega city of 18 million people that stretches physically from Europe across the Boszporusz into Asia.”
Despite each scent having its own distinct personality and unique namesake inspiration, a vibrant modernity unifies the Gallivant line-up. Much like travel itself, once reserved for only the upper class elite, it offers an exciting and welcoming opportunity to explore. “I want Gallivant to be an invitation for people to travel the world in their senses, broaden their palette, mix things up,” Steward concludes. Thankfully of us fragrance nomads, with two additional releases on the horizon, the
Gallivant journey is far from over.

View the entire article here.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Parfums de Marly launches Delina

Housed in a pale millennial pink bottle, Parfums de Marly’s newest female fragrance, Delina, has all the makings of a modern classic. The fruity floral scent, created by Quentin Bisch, opens with crisp top notes of bergamot, rhubarb and lychee before developing into a heart composed of Turkish rose, peony and lily of the valley. The combination of quirky and feminine components alike rests on a base of vanilla, musk, frankincense and cashmeran.

There is an approachable playfulness to Delina which gives it a youthful edge while still commemorating the brand’s rich heritage. Parfums de Marly pays tribute to Louis XV (and his in-house perfumer Jean-Louis Fargeon) as pioneers of perfumery and advocates of the equestrian world, with each scent being named after a different horse breed. “With Delina, we wanted to remain true to ourselves whilst creating an elegant, fruity floral fragrance. It is sweeter and therefore appealing to a larger audience, although the dry down makes it a very Parfums de Marly fragrance. It is young and sexy with class and elegance — a mix of all of those things,” explains Nicolas Parat, the brand’s sales director.

Launched exclusively at Bloomingdale’s in the US, the scent is already shaping up to be one of the brand’s best sellers alongside the saffron, almond, and amber-infused Pegasus and lavender, violet, and cardamom-laced Layton. “For us, luxury is rarity. We’re not a mainstream or commercial brand, so by using lychee and rhubarb, we wanted to create something special,” Parat comments, “To wear something elegant yet rare, that is not widely represented, is the ultimate luxury.”

Available at Bloomingdales (US), Selfridges (UK) and

View the entire article here.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Clara Molloy of Memo Paris on the Artistic Originality of Tuberose

The secluded town of Marfa, with its scorching temperatures and dry landscape, would probably be the last place one would associate with a luscious white floral fragrance. However, for Memo Paris this creative contrast turned out to be the perfect inspiration. “I loved the name Marfa even before going there and I was not disappointed - the landscape is as beautiful as the name,” says co-founder Clara Molloy.

After Les EchappĂ©es, Cuirs Nomades and Graines Vagabondes, the fragrance house has now inaugurated its fourth collection, Art Land, with Marfa, a concoction of orange blossom, tuberose and white musk. But how exactly does one recreate the olfactory landscape of a place almost devoid of all natural vegetation, save for the odd cactus? “We were looking for a ‘sand effect’ because of the desert, an element of softness. But we were also looking for heat, and for originality. This side would reflect the art part of Marfa,” Molloy explains.
Out of all the fragrance’s components, be mandarin, ylang ylang, agave or sandalwood, there is one in particular that takes center stage. “With the tuberose we found a flower that had sophistication and a different vibe than all the others,” she states. “You cannot hide a tuberose in a fragrance, it is always noticeable. I thought that was interesting because good art is also like that –  it stands on its own.”

Seeing as this is the first scent in the Art Land range, it’s only natural to wonder what other fragrances Memo Paris has up its sleeve, to which Molloy simply responds, “I wish I knew! You cannot predict where and when inspiration comes. The collections are a way to stimulate our imagination, it is like changing the language you usually use, speaking French then Russian then Spanish…” No matter which language the house decides on next, it will be intriguing to see which cultural capital becomes the successor to this beautiful debut.

View the entire article here.

Parfums Quartana Interview, Part Two: The Creation of Les Potions Fatale

In Part 1, Joseph Quartana explained the story behind each of the nine scents in his Les Potions Fatales collection. In the following interview, the Six Scents and Parfums Quartana founder discusses the deeply personal process behind his latest range of fragrances and redefining gender in perfume.

First off, how is Les Potions Fatales different from your previous projects like Six Scents?

This is the first time I’ve explored a singular concept in perfumery. All of the Six Scents were of collaborative nature and about trying to get the designer’s unique vision across. I spent a lot of time selecting those specific designers because I felt like they have interesting visions. They were all influential enough in the industry that they should have a fragrance but are not necessarily big enough to do so. That was the whole sort of spiel.

Six Scents also built on your background in fashion.

Absolutely. I was a buyer for 14 years so that was a logical extension of the work I was doing already, just more curatorial.

So how did that shift from a collection like that to Les Potions Fatales happen?

I was actually going to relaunch the best sellers of Six Scents, this was in late 2013, but at the time my business partner and I decided to go in separate directions. I had just closed my shop, Seven New York due to a landlord dispute/nightmare, and Six Scents was suddenly penniless after our "divorce" so I was at a crossroads. In short, I lost 15 years of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars, so I was really angry. This whole collection was a catharsis of all the venom that had built up. So it comes from a real place. After I finished the collection I felt so much better. I got it out.

Each fragrance has a dedicated perfumer with their own signature style. How were you able to keep the common thread flowing throughout the collection?

I told them two things: first the guiding principle behind the development of this is the notion of the femme fatale. Beautiful but deadly, just like a poison flower. It's deceptive. That's really what we were going for from the packaging to the films to the formulas. Secondly, I told them to think about gasoline — which is sweet smelling but you know it's toxic — so that they didn't waver too far from the original concept. That's how I held it together.

From a merchandising perspective they're all going in different directions. We did this on purpose, we didn't want there to be any overlap. It became obvious what they were going to be once we looked over all the folklore and had this holistic picture of it. For example, Bloodflower should be a gourmand, Venetian Belladonna is a fruity floral, Digitalis is a green, spicy aromatic. They fell into line in that way, it was a happy accident. We did a lot of field testing with both random people and creative professionals. I didn't want to hear that it smelled like something else out there. If we got that feedback, we had to go back to the drawing board and pivot it.

Fragrance itself is about deception in a way, because what you smell in the beginning is not what you smell at the end.

Absolutely. It's not necessarily what we think it is. Another thing: perfumers traditionally were also the poison makers in the royal courts. So historically there's always been a huge connection between the two crafts. David Apel, who did Digitalis, was fascinated by that concept. It’s so fundamentally rooted in the history of perfumery and yet no one has done it. It’s been staring at us in the face, so much so that we didn't see it.

In terms of gender assignment, some of the scents have a femme fatale and others a more unisex character.

Well, there's the flip side of the femme fatale concept and that’s the metrosexual movement, men being held to the same beauty standards as women. It’s a pretty recent phenomenon, this didn't happen in the 1950s. So our men's scents are pretty "boys". The folklore ultimately dictated what the gender would be though. All of them are unisex except Venetian Belladonna and Midnight Datura, which are definitely more on the feminine side.

It's interesting that a lot of them are unisex because floral scents were traditionally seen as more feminine. Obviously there has been a shift with that.

Well, in this case just because they are based on flowers, doesn't make them necessarily floral; it's the folklore we interpreted. But yeah, commercially it's been a huge hang-up for men to wear a floral but it's been changing. With this whole collection I wanted to make it dark and romantic. Perfumery lends itself to that concept so naturally, right?

Usually with flowers, there's this idea of them being a delicate object which has a vulnerability to it.

At the same time they have a wicked power to seduce and, in the case of these, to literally kill. That's a serious power. I look at them as strong. As a male I will be the first to admit that these are feminist and female empowering.

From the films to the packaging, it’s all one unified concept.

Nothing is arbitrary. This is the result of me really meditating for hundreds of hours on the folklore and visual symbolism. Me sitting in my local bar every night until four in the morning staring into the bottom of my wine glass and jotting stuff down. It just came alive, I don't know how else to put it. The packaging is an extension of all the research. The sleeve is symbolic of the hallucinations you get from being poisoned with the flowers. The colors were selected through a blindfold test. I had people smell the fragrance without knowing anything about it, and asked them what the first three colors were that came to mind. I wanted them (the boxes) to look like they smelled, sort of a synesthesia effect. The box front badge design is supposed to be a combination lock. We were inspired by Hellraiser. In the film there's this mystery box which is where the demons come from, it's a Pandora's box of sorts. and we chose a blue amethyst inspired vessel because that was what the ancient Greeks used to hold their poisons. You've got multiple layers to the unveiling of the experience, like an onion.

Throughout the three years of creating the line, what’s been the most fascinating thing that you've learned?

For me personally, that I can actually see a project through with this degree of scope, from start to finish. I've surprised myself. I've never worked on something this long in my life, this was a fucking journey [laughs]. I would liken the whole process to writing an album with nine different songs. I was reading up biographies on Depeche Mode and followed a lot of how they went from one album to the next. What I was setting out to create with this collection was cult items. I didn’t expect them to be successful in the beginning, but instead and hopefully 10 years down the road. And that’s just like the Depeche Mode albums, when they first came out they were hated, except by the most avant-garde people. You should see the early reviews, they’re so scathing. They stuck to their guns, didn’t listen to critical reactions and their fan base just snowballed from there on out.

In a way, it’s good if a fragrance is polarizing. I would rather have something that gets love or hate reactions than just the average, middle ground.

Absolutely. That middle ground is the worst insult. I really prefer a scent which elicits a reaction. It’s like effective art in that way. You might not like it, but does it strike you? Do you learn something about yourself, does it have a jarring effect, does it stop you in your tracks? That’s the power of a good fragrance, and I’m all for it.

View the entire article here.

Parfums Quartana Interview, Part One: Nine Tales of Deadly Deception

As far as inspirations for a perfume line go, Breaking Bad is pretty much the pinnacle of badass-ry. And just like its source material, the Les Potions Fatales collection by Parfums Quartana is highly addictive and undeniably captivating. “I was watching an episode of the show, and in it the protagonist Walter used lily of the valley to poison Jessie’s girlfriend’s son, Brock. A lightbulb went on in my head. I thought to myself, why hasn’t anyone done poisonous flowers in perfumery yet? That’s when the eureka moment happened,” Joseph Quartana explains.

Packaged in psychedelic original artwork by Aersoyn-Lex Mestrovic, each of the range’s nine eau de parfums explores the folkloric, mythical, and biological traits of its namesake flower. “The notion of deception is the concept that runs through the entirety of the collection. Things are not what they seem,” Quartana adds. In the following text, the brand’s founder depicts the narrative behind each scent.

The Tale of Fiery Seduction: Venetian Belladonna

“We wanted it to be straight-up super slutty and seductive. Firstly, venetian belladonna was equated with aggressive female sexuality. Secondly, it was used by the witches of Italy to put seduction spells on men. So we put plum, honey, all of these feminine notes into it. The witches would also drop it into their eyes, partially because it was considered cosmetically attractive to have blown out pupils, but also to have black masses. They were putting a hallucinogen into their eyeballs, so we made the scent psychedelic in that way too. Styrax progeny, which smells like something is on fire, was added into the dry down. The idea is that once the witch seduces you, she burns you with her hellfire. It’s also a symbol for the fire of passion. There is both the literal aspect of hellfire, and then the symbolism of passion.”

The Tale of the Rageful Hunter: Wolfsbane

“Wolfsbane was used for the extermination of the wolf population by dipping the arrows into the poison. It was also used for warfare in the same way. With this scent we were trying to capture the virility of a hunter, the rage of a warrior and the ferocity of a wolf. It's so vicious and intense. I wanted it to be a macho scent, so dripping with raw male sex appeal and rage that you don't know if he's going to kill you or fuck you. That's what we were going for, and making it opulent. Not only in the sense of dark, rich woods but by literally having symbols of wealth in there. That's why we added black truffle to reinforce this excess of luxury. We also wanted it to be so full of rage as to be psychedelically intense and got that twist by incorporating absinthe into the heart note.”

The Tale of the Deflowered Floral: Lily of the Valley

“Lily of the Valley is a light floral. Muguet was always used to celebrate innocence in spring time. It's said to come from the tears of the Virgin Mary and used in May Day festivals all over the world. Lily of the valley flower was one we really struggled with. We could not decide on a concept, after two years we were not happy with it and kept going in circles. Finally, we just focused very strictly on it being toxic, because no one has focused on its dark side. You have tons of lily of the valley fragrances out there, but they're all quite floral, innocent, spring-time bullshit. So we wrapped it in a black little veil, dirtied it up with cassis on black leather, corrupted its innocence. I liken it to the wedding dress the next day. It's a floral scent that's deflowered. It's not virgin anymore.

The Tale of Wicked Liquid: Hemlock

“In ancient Greece hemlock was used to execute prisoners, most famously Socrates, by inducing vertigo and ultimately death. It’s name is derived from the Greek word for ‘konas’, which means to whirl about, so we added a black vinyl accord to suggest a wicked black liquid. The flower itself grows in green fields, so notes such as crushed leaves and patchouli were added to create a vegetal backdrop.”

The Tale of Forest Fairies: Digitalis

“Digitalis in small doses was used for the treatment of heart conditions. In moderate doses it was a hallucinogenic drug, used to summon fairies in the forest and alter one’s state of mind. We wanted to evoke a magical wooded stream through ozonic notes and the scent of wet moss, plus give it a sparkling and bubbly quality with the incorporation of floral notes like iris, jasmine and neroli.”
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The Tale of a Gothic Vampire: Bloodflower

“Each of the fragrances vary in a spectrum of being very loyal to the folklore all the way over to being completely imaginary, like in the case of the Bloodflower. For me and the perfumer Alexandra Carlin, the first thing that came to mind is the album Bloodflowers by The Cure. So we went into a gothic direction with it. Our concept was to make it really vampiric. We had to add a blood accord, but had to make it more palatable. I was back home for the holidays in Jersey with my very Italian family and what we drink after the meal on Christmas Day is black sambuca. It smells like licorice and anise. I thought, let's try throwing it into the Bloodflower recipe and see what happens. It turns out it really blended nicely with the clove, orris and rose. Suddenly it all harmonized. It transforms the blood accord into sweet blood that you want to lap up. You, the smeller, become the vampire.”

“One of the fascinating things about bloodflower as a flower is that it's eaten by the monarch caterpillar before it transforms into a butterfly. This notion of metamorphosis is why the fragrance transforms so quickly into this very sweet drydown. And so the accompanying film is really about that metamorphosis, the idea of spiritual ascension, shedding the body and finding the white light.”

The Tale of the Drunk Moon Goddess: Midnight Datura

“Midnight datura is a white flower that only blooms at nighttime and is known to glow in the moonlight, hence it's nickname 'moonflower'.  It figures into lunar worship and witches used it to hunt and worship the goddesses of the moon, Diana and Artemis. Midnight Datura is an homage to Diana; we imagined many daturas glowing in the moonlight, which is why we made it a super floral scent with 10 different flowers. We gave it a powdery note to suggest the glow. Initially I had some reservation about using powder as an accord as it screams grandma to me, but in this case, the perfumer, Lisa Fleischmann, is only 27 and this is her debut fragrance. Point is, if powder is ok for a 27-year-old, well, then everything old is new again. The femme-fatale here, like Diana, is on the hunt, she's a little drunk (hence the rum note), and wishes to open her flower after midnight. It’s unapologetically sexual, much like Venetian Belladonna.”

The Tale of Medieval Masculinity: Mandrake

“Originally Mandrake was shaping up to be a female fragrance, then Carlos Vinals and I had a eureka moment, like wait a second, Man-drake. So we shifted it back over to the masculine side, mainly with the addition of the leather. There is one accord in the scent called deadly addiction accord, that's basically a creamy gourmand wood. With Mandrake, the root is as important as the flower. It's said that when you pull the root out of the ground it emits a sonic shriek that is fatal. In folklore, mandrake was actually used as a kind of medieval Viagra, a fertility enhancer referenced by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This whole fragrance is really a celebration of the male phallus.”

“It's also said that if you mix mandrake with milk and verbena you can summon a demon. The creamy gourmand wood aspect is the milk, and then the aromatic aspect that also simulates the scream is the verbena. It's a sexual male fragrance. And to really emphasize the root aspect we added birch leaf and root, which, combined with the creamy gourmand wood, captures the effervescence of root beer. Mandrake itself also smells like apple. It's one of the only poison flowers we really liked the smell of, so it became the essence of a heart note and we reinforced it with pomegranate and rhubarb.”

The Tale of Narcotic Nectar: Poppy Soma

“Poppy Soma was done by Emilie Coppermann, who was the understudy of none other than Jean-Louis Sieuzac, who co-created Opium for YSL in the late ‘70s. She wanted reinterpret her mentor's original vision and update the concept for 2016. Our version is vastly different. Poppy Soma is the sweet white sap that bleeds out of the bulbs, which is collected and refined into black tar opium (that is then smoked). Ours is just that, the before and after of the nectar, its sweetness, and the pungent smoke that is then consumed as a drug. It's dream inducing, literally narcotic, and as the Chinese used it for sex, we wanted to impart a warm sensuality to it as well.”

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