Providence Perfume Co: American Perfumer Interviews

Hi there Posse. Recently I introduced you all to a new business called American Perfumer. The name says it all. Independent Artisan American Perfumers being put on display so you can find a large selection of them in one spot. Genius! From that initial post I was inspired to meet some of the people behind the perfume brands that are for sale at American Perfumer. They all get the same 10 questions so we can see how they differ and how they are similar. After I will give you a quick review of one or two of their perfumes. Today let’s meet Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co.

Providence Perfume Co: American Perfumer Interviews

Providence Perfume Co: American Perfumer Interviews

What do you recall of your families fragrances as you grew up?

As a child I grew up on a commune in New Hampshire. My parents had a farm, large garden and a big house at the top of a hill only accessible by a steep dirt road. Our home was heated entirely by a wood stove. I don’t remember smelling perfume when I was young. I remember the scents of hay, wood smoke, marijuana, and wet wool.

Where is your dream vacation spot?

A dream vacation spot for me is anywhere warm and tropical close to the ocean (it’s currently six degrees here in New England!).

How do you like to start your day?

How I like to start my day and how I actually start my day are two very different things. I’d like to start my day with a strong cup of coffee that I bring back to bed and sip while I catch up on news and emails, lounging until the caffeine kicks in. How do I actually start my day? I’m often awoken before my alarm clock rings by the sounds of my children. I’ll hear ominous snippets of their conversation float up the stairs, “ . . . Ewwww–you better clean it up before Mom steps in it . . . “ Nothing makes your sleepy eyes pop open faster.

Tell us about your life, family, business or career before perfume?

I majored in English in college and always loved books and reading and worked in the publishing industry for a number of years. Funny story: my first position post college was as an assistant editor at an educational publishing house. During my interview I was asked the classic question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Without hesitating, I answered that I saw myself in New York as an editor at Penguin/Putnam in a large corner office where I would send my assistant out for complicated coffee drinks while I recorded memos into a voice recorder: “Note to Jackie Collins, Chapter 12 needs more sex.” It was thrilling when I was told I had landed the position and beat out 200 other applicants. I was certain I had nailed the interview with my intellect and professional composure. Years later at a holiday party, a tipsy editor revealed they hired me because they thought I was hilarious.

How did you find yourself in perfumery?

After I left publishing I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I went back to what I always did when I needed to make ends meet, waiting tables, modeling and dog walking. Eventually I began working for Aveda, where my appreciation of natural aromas was honed. I became intrigued by the complexity of these essences and wondered why there wasn’t more natural perfumes available in the marketplace. Then I spent years learning and formulating and launched my own natural perfume line, Providence Perfume Co. in 2009.

What is your favourite perfume note and why?

Jasmine. Really, I’d say Rose and Jasmine. They are the king and queen of perfumery materials and the range of aromas based on species, distillation method and terroir. Rose and Jasmine are the building blocks of most heart note accords. They add a richness, a voluptuous quality that can’t be achieved with other essences. Even a deep, masculine earthy scent is tempered by rose (for example) as an intrinsic part of its composition. When I teach perfumery classes, I find this is where students falter in their formulations. Because these natural essences are so costly, students try to compose without them which is often a mistake.

How did you decide on your companies name, what is its relevance?

I chose the name Providence Perfume Co. because I liked the true meaning of the word “Providence.” Providence is defined as “the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power.” Synonyms include: kismet, fate, wisdom and care. I’m not religious, so I’m inclined towards nature as a spiritual power. While many perfumers use their surname for their company, I’m well aware that Charna Ethier is quite a mouthful.

What was the last novel or biography you read (current if appropriate)?

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. He’s a familial relation and our home is packed with his works. His writing is powerful and each sentence is so well constructed and concise. The lack of superfluous words in his work makes his message all the more potent.

Hypothetically: If you had to pick a Signature Perfume that you didn’t create, what and why?

I could never wear just one scent, so choosing a signature scent would be impossible for me. BUT I can say that many stages of my life have been defined by a particular scent. I wore Gucci Rush in my early twenties, because apparently I wanted to smell like sex and candy. One whiff of that perfume instantly brings me back to dancing in a nightclub. Later I wore Bvlgari’s Green Tea. It was my “professional woman in publishing” scent. I thought I smelled clean and expensive. Later it was YSL Nu. This was my “I only date poets and starving artists” phase. Later still, it was an Aveda Chakra scent. I remember each of these scents with a great deal of fondness.

Who are your fragrant heroes?

I admire Olivia Giacobetti. She has a light ethereal touch that I appreciate, and her perfumes for L’Artisan and Honoré des Prés are some of my favorites. Mandy Aftel has done so much to bring natural perfumery to the forefront. She’s highly intelligent, an exceptional writer and researcher and a savvy businesswoman. I have a great deal of respect for Mandy.

 

Thanks Charna for letting us see a little into your head and heart.

You can buy Providence Perfume Co at American Perfumer

Heart of Darkness by Providence Perfume Co

Heart of Darkness Notes: Oakmoss, espresso, cedarwood, lavender, incense, moss.

For something called heart Of Darkness I find this fragrance full of light and the rebirth of spring. Zingy and lilting  lavender with a cherry incense and shady side of a tree woodsy smell, as if you’ve just pulled the mossy bark off and are smelling the fresh tree. Slightly furry and warming through the heart, I’m quite surprised that vanilla isn’t one of the notes but maybe I’m picking up the resins.

Moss Gown by Providence Perfume Co

Moss Gown Notes: Boronia, cedar moss, chamomile, sandalwood, green tea and coffee flower.

OK, Moss Gown is everything I love about Indie Perfumery. Green, sappy, torn branches, leaves and the rich, reminiscent scent of a grass heavy compost heap. Perfectly named, I am surrounded in a deep green nimbus that is both thickly textured and surprisingly transparent. Witchy, earthy and redolent of springtime fairy circles.

Tom loves Moss Gown too

 

 

Portia also writes for Australian Perfume Junkies 

14 Comments
Sminnow March 16, 2019

I have been a huge fan of Charna’s for years. She is an incredibly talented perfumer — one of the best, in my opinion. Thank you so much for this lovely interview — it was an utter delight to learn more about Charna and her story!

dmkcreative619 March 14, 2019

A nice interview with an amazing woman! I, too, am a big fan of Jasmine. Reminds me of a stay in Italy many years ago. Scents are like that, aren't they? I am inspired by Charna and her approach to pursuing your dreams. Her shop is lovely, too. Thanks for this interview, Portia!

Charna Ethier March 14, 2019

Dear Portia, Thank you for featuring the American Perfumer Interview series! I enjoyed answering your thoughtful questions and the memories they evoked. Thanks to David at American Perfumer for creating a cool retail space that promotes American perfumery. I'm grateful for all the fragrance fans out there who support small indie perfume brands.

VerbenaLuvvr March 13, 2019

Now I am inspired to track down samples of Samarinda and Sedona Sweet Grass, great interview!

Matty March 13, 2019

Thank you Portia for this interview. Heart of Darkness sounds intriguing.

Brigitte March 13, 2019

Fascinating interview. I did not know that Charna's first career was publishing. I have a sample of Heart of Darkness. I adore it for the name and wonder now if the literary reference was intentional. I am going to wear it today.

Shiva-woman March 13, 2019

Thank you Portia for highlighting one of our great perfumers! She is just brilliant--found her responses so thoughtful. I love her Lemon Liada and her Vanilla which features....melon.