It had been five years since our last trip to Japan so Katie and I packed our bags and boarded a plan, this time with my 4 year old son in tow! I'm so nostalgic for our childhood in Japan - evening festivals to celebrate the fireflies, picnics with rice balls and calpico, and riding the bullet train. We timed the trip for cherry blossom season, and even though it was crowded, it renewed my appreciation for flowering trees. They are so beautiful, and it's as if the whole country takes a two week holiday to indulge in the soft pink petals blooming everywhere.
The highlight of our trip was an overnight to the island of Naoshima. Epically sized installations by Tadao Ando, James Turrell, Yayoi Kusama and Walter de Maria dot the laid-back landscape like some kind of art treasure hunt. It's about a three hour trip from Kyoto and a seven hour trip from Tokyo but I can't recommend it enough.
Naomi from The Lifestyle Edit came over to my home recently to interview me. We talked about business, life, and the future. I thought it was fun when she asked me the five steps I took to start MCMC Fragrances. I had never really thought of it as a linear sequence before. Click over to the full interview to hear my answer here.
One of the questions I'm asked most is how I got into studying perfumery, and how one might find themselves a student of the subject. It's true, finding perfumery classes is hard. It seems like almost every craft has a host of classes in any city you could join, except this. The industry is just such that most perfumes are made at large corporate companies by a handful of fine fragrance perfumers. For those of us out here doing our own thing, we've either followed an untraditional educational path or are self-taught.
For my part, I started my perfumery education by taking natural perfume and aromatherapy classes in NYC. In this way I got to know the essential oils and absolutes of flowers, bark, leaves, and other plant parts. I'll never forget the first time I walked into a natural perfume class. Small glass bottles were lined up along an organ, and as we opened each one and inhaled it was like a whole world was being conjured in my mind. That evening quite literally changed my life.
Craving a more structured and traditional perfume education, I eventually applied to the Grasse Institute of Perfumery, one of two independently-operated training programs for aspiring perfumers. But not everyone is at a place in their life where they can move to another country for a year or more, so for those of you, I am sharing my advice on how to get started along the path of perfumery, such a magical art and science.
There are three books I recommend:
Chandler Burr's The Perfect Scent illuminates the inner workings of the corporate perfume industry by following the ideation to launch of two big fragrances: Hermes's Un Jardin sur le Nil and Sarah Jessica Parker and Coty's Lovely (which I secretly love).
Mandy Aftel is a San Francisco based natural perfumer. She so lovingly writes about the wonder of natural ingredients in Essence and Alchemy and you get totally swept up in the amazing history of perfume she evokes. I don't know if I read this in her book or not but this is as good a place as any to share. Cleopatra would douse the sails of her ships in perfume so that you could smell them coming along the wind long before you could see them. Queen!
The third book is by Jean Claude Ellena, the former in-house perfumer at Hermes. His minimal approach to perfume and expertise really shine in his book, simply titled Perfume. It's nice to read something by a perfumer, as it helps you realize that perfumers are very much artists.
In addition to reading and taking classes where and when you can, I recommend studying perfumes on the market. I love going to stores and smelling what's new, then coming back and reading reviews. With practice you'll be able to pick out the notes yourself. In a specialty shop, there may be someone there who can give you background on the perfume. It's all about passion. Where there is passion, knowledge will come.
Photos from my time in Grasse, France.
Our friend John came over and photographed me at home with my kids for Nico and Nate recently, a sweet site that interviews families with two brothers. I'm so happy to have "real" photos of my family, not just all photos taken with my phone!
West Elm came to our studio for a visit recently and took these photos of us during production, doing our thing. Click over to hear about a typical day in our studio, and what inspires us.
Our sweet friend + ceramicist Helen Levi was asked by Vogue recently what her ideal hostess gift would be and she said our Desert Rose Atmosphere Mist. Check out the full piece here to see what other chic women like Padmi Laksmi and photographer Alice Gao are hoping for.
Helen is the co-founder and Creative Director of Fuzzco, the Charleston-based design agency behind many an awesome branding project (think Mailchimp, Bonobos, and Etsy). You'd never guess how hard this lady works being as that she's so nice, humble and chill! We met on vacation in upstate New York and reunited when she asked us to make a pair of signature fragrances: E.d'E. Black and E.d'E. Blue.
One chilly night a couple of months ago, the gorgeous Padma Lakshmi came by our studio to get a crash course in perfume making. Tazo is debuting a new chai tea latte and who better to be their spokeswoman than Padma, who grew up drinking her grandmother's chai every day. We smelled everything from Japanese yuzu citrus to fresh jasmine together, talking about how flavors and scents meld to concoct fragrant recipes. Take a peek at our video above!
Last Saturday my friend Joanna invited me to Madison Square Park to drink milkshakes (yum!) at Shake Shack and model Hatch's new Spring/Summer line of maternity clothing. Her friend Anna came along too, and we dished on what life with two kids will be like. I'm due June 15th - so soon!
You can see the full post with more photos here. I ended up taking this trench home with me. I'm hoping it will be good for post baby too!