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How Do You Bottle a Feeling? These Perfumers Found a Way

January 1 | 5 minute read

Memo Perfumers Creative Process Hero 16x9

Words by Arabella Roden

Originally published on | May 21

Fragrance is about so much more than just smelling good.

It’s the closest thing we have to alchemy; the ability to distil a feeling, a sensation, a memory, even a place into liquid form. It shares that same transportive quality as music, with Thibaud Crivelli, founder of Maison Crivelli, likening it to synaesthesia – a phenomenon where the brain associates one sensation with another (musical notes become colours, sounds become tastes).

“My approach to perfume is not technical. It's much more sensual,” he explains. “To me, it’s really this capacity to connect all the senses simultaneously.” Translating a specific sensation into scent is a concept shared by Byredo’s Ben Gorham (Blanche EDP is “the idea of texture and fabric and skin”).

Notably, neither Gorham nor Crivelli had a formal background in fragrance; Gorham had originally trained as a painter and professional basketball player before a chance meeting with a perfumer changed his plans, while Crivelli says he “never studied perfume, I discovered perfume” – a common thread among the world’s most unique perfumers.

A male model wearing silver necklace and top holds silver bottle of Vyrao's perfume, The Sixth.

D.S. & DURGA co-founder David Seth Moltz was originally a musician: “My passion is for making perfume, music, poetry. It's all the creative arts… I realised all the things I'm trying to talk about in music, I can actually do it in fragrance,” he told the MECCA Talks podcast.

Meanwhile, Vyrao’s Yasmin Sewell had a storied career in fashion and a passion for wellness and spirituality before she moved into the realm of scent – reflected in the brand’s distinctive, aura-coloured bottles and cupped lids, to the scents themselves, which are formulated with plant-derived oils and essences.

“The inspiration for any fragrance starts with the emotion I want to evoke – that’s always been the starting point,” Sewell explains, adding, “I’m fortunate enough to work with an incredible creative team. From defining the emotion, crafting the scent, selecting the bottle, choosing the colours and then telling the story, it’s seamless.”

Unexpected origin stories

It’s that lack of strict fragrance training that allows unorthodox perfumers the freedom to create authentically and uniquely; put simply, they don’t make scents to follow trends – like art, the inspiration for a new fragrance strikes them organically.

Crivelli’s fragrances are all inspired by “authentic adventures” he’s experienced, from tasting passion fruit in remote forests (Oud Maracujá) to smelling scorched sandalwood on the slopes of a volcano (Santal Volcanique).

“Whenever I visit a new city, I love to walk around and pay attention to the sound of the city, the rhythm, the sense. You just get such a different energy from Melbourne and Sydney, Paris, Dubai,” he says.

Maison Crivelli's Thibaud Crivelli.

When that moment of inspiration strikes him, Crivelli contacts his perfumer and the process of capturing the moment, in fragrance form, begins. For D.S. & DURGA’s Moltz, the brand’s 2022 scent, Pistachio EDP, had its genesis at “some crappy café in Williamsburg in like 2003” where he worked at the time.

“They had this pistachio cake that was, like, ridiculous alien green, that smelled like it was so delicious,” he said. In the depths of 2020, Moltz was inspired by the “fun” of pistachio as a flavour, and a future bestseller was born.

The pandemic years also influenced Byredo’s Gorham; Eyes Closed EDP, was born out of “distance and separation”: “I wanted to capture a scent that supersedes this fragmentation… We might be more in tune with each other if we simply close our eyes and shut out the physical world,” he says.

(Naturally, for a trained visual artist, the scent also took inspiration from Alasdair McLellan’s 2012 photograph, ‘The Perfect Kiss’.)

D.S. & DURGA's David Seth Moltz and Kavi Ahuja Moltz.

Meanwhile, DedCool’s Carina Chaz describes creating a fragrance as a “coming of age story”: “DedCool scents come from my own personal associations and what’s going on around me. They start as a handful of notes and profiles that quickly turn into blends and infusions,” she tells The MECCA Memo.

DedCool's latest release, Aura, created exclusively for MECCA, aimed to capture “something luminous and sparkly – mirroring the vibrancy of the Australian landscape.”

“With the people, the light, and the food, there’s this energy of Australian culture that I wanted to translate into a scent profile. The finished product is fruity and bright, like an oasis,” Chaz explains.

D.S. & DURGA’s Concrete After Lightning Candle similarly embodies a specific time and place: “The smell of New York in August, when it rains.”

DedCool's Carina Chaz.

Inspiration everywhere – and anywhere

Poetically, Maison Crivelli’s latest release, Tubéreuse Astrale Extrait de Parfum “was inspired by moments I spent with my dad when I was smelling the diffusion of tuberoses at night while stargazing,” Crivelli reveals.

Similarly, Gorham was driving through the Mojave Desert in the southwestern US when he was struck by the stark beauty of the landscape and its native ghost flower. The result of that experience was Byredo’s most iconic scent, Mojave Ghost EDP: “It emerged from a flower, a place, and a narrative – an exploration of emotion rather than fixed raw materials,” he says.

Another Byredo icon, Bal d’Afrique EDP, is an interpretation of Gorham’s father’s time living in Africa: “I would read his diaries… For me, this was the fantasy of arriving in Africa through somebody else’s words,” Gorham explains.

Byredo's Ben Gorham.

Truly, inspiration for fragrances can come from anywhere – one of Moltz’s favourite D.S. & DURGA candles, 85 Diesel Candle “smells like the inside of a 1985 Mercedes Benz turbo diesel.”

And Sewell describes creating Vyrao’s The Sixth EDP as “wanting to create a fragrance that helped your intuition… We had our psychic, Katt Nicholson, as well as 40 years of scientific research to create the scent.

“I think The Sixth was the first one that I actually screamed – myself and Katt, we screamed on a Zoom call,” she adds.

Whether it’s emotions, experiences, places or people, it’s that obsession with originality that is the secret to a true signature scent, unlike any other – and for those who want to find a scent that’s uniquely them, looking to unorthodox perfume creators is the perfect place to start.

Vyrao's Yasmin Sewell.

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