Jolie Laide: 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 Heather Kaufman of Jolie Laide

Jolie Laide: American Perfumer Interviews

Jolie Laide: American Perfumer Interviews

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

My Mom wore Norell, a green floral by Norman Norell, the first American fashion designer to launch his own perfume. It packs a lot into a perfume: top—lavender, mandarin orange, galbanum, hyacinth, bergamot narcissus, and lemon; middle—mimosa, coriander, carnation, iris, gardenia, cinnamon, orchid, arum lily, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose and cardamom; base—sandalwood, amber, musk, vanilla, oakmoss, vetiver cedar and myrrh. It’s hard to imagine fitting that many ingredients into a perfume and not ending up with mud. It was reformulated in 2015. I haven’t smelled the new version, but the old one always reminds me of my Mom.

My Aunt wore Arpege, a classic vintage aldehyde: stylish and feminine. It came in a beautiful bottle with figures representing a mother and daughter getting ready for a ball.

Where is your dream vacation spot?

I love the isle of Capri: the blue grotto, the rocky hills full of old houses, the winding paths, and beautiful beaches. The restaurants and shopping are high end, yet there is a sense of ease here. In 1371 the Carthusian Monastery was founded there. This is the birthplace of the first perfume of Capri. In 1380, a father of this monastery heard that Queen Joan of Anjou was coming. He picked the most beautiful flowers on the island for her. The flowers were in water for days and as he was about to discard them, he noticed the water had a interesting fragrance. He sent it to an alchemist friar and the first perfume of Capri was born. Capri-based Carthusia Perfume uses the formulations from the monastery, which includes plants and flower from the island.

How do you like to start your day?

Each morning, I take my dogs for a walk up Bernal Hill. It’s full of tree-lined stairways that give you a great view of San Francisco, which is usually covered in fog. I get whiffs of jasmine, wisteria and fennel along the way, depending on the time of year. It invigorates me.

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

I was born in San Francisco and have lived in or near it all my life. I am a graphic designer who has mostly worked in advertising. My boyfriend and I have been together for many years. We have two chihuahua mix rescue dogs. We sellmidcentury furniture in a local collective. I also love films, especially old and foreign films.

How did you find yourself in perfumery?

I always had a good nose and memory for scent. I grew up in Mill Valley, just north of San Francisco. It’s very green and woody with Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods nearby. My Mom loved nature and taught me a lot about plants and flowers. I was drawn to essential oils because they felt authentic and wild.

About 12 years ago I read a newspaper article about Mandy Aftel, who was making natural perfume across the bay in Berkeley. I thought, I have to study with her. Taking my first class with her at Esalen in 2006, I then took additional classes with her in her perfume studio/home in Berkeley. I also studied on my own for many years before starting my line, Jolie Laide Perfume.

What is your favourite perfume note and why?

Boronia absolute! It’s so expensive you could probably never use it in a perfume, and it’s so complex it’s practically a perfume on it’s own. The scent is a fruity floral. It’s an exotic, rich aroma, combining the green freshness of cassis, with the character of ripe hay. It’s warm and infused with the fruity juiciness.

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

I spent a lot of time watching old films when I was young. As I grew up, I developed an interest in foreign films, particularly French films and especially French New Wave films. I became interested in France and the French language. At an early point in my perfume studies, I heard the phrase, “jolie laide,” (translates, “pretty ugly,” but also means unconventional beauty). It seemed perfect for my perfume brand. There are beautiful perfume ingredients and weird, funky ingredients—together they make a beautiful and interesting whole. With natural ingredients, this is especially true. The naturals are untamed, wonderful and difficult. The name really put it all together for me.

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

I just finished, “Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs,” a memoir about a beloved fashion and society photographer Bill Cunningham, who arrived on the New York fashion scene in the 1950s. Raised in Boston in a middle-class home, he became a milliner in New York, and went on to become an accidental journalist at Women’s Wear Daily. He has an innocent and upbeat attitude about life while being a bit of an imp. It’s an interesting peak into an earlier time fashion in New York. Bill was an original.

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

My friend, Lisa Fong, of Artemisia Perfume, has a perfume called, Saveur de l’Abricot. It’s a beautiful osmanthus scent that’s like a freshly picked apricot with animalic undertones. It starts with a lovely blood orange and apricot notes

and ends with black current and goat. It is beautiful fruity-floral with animalic and earthy notes. This is an all natural perfume. Really interesting!

She is taking a break from perfume and this scent is currently not available.

Who are your fragrant heroes?

Mandy Aftel: She started making natural perfumes 30 years ago. She has a great love and devotion for the naturals. She is an enthusiastic researcher of old perfume making techniques and materials. Having written several books about the subject, she delves deep into this area, whether it be perfume making or essential oils. She is quite dedicated tracking e down people who are making interesting and unusual oils. At the start, they may want to sell to such a small perfume house but she persists and often makes friends with them, getting materials no one else can.

She recently opened a scent museum in a cottage in the backyard of her home in Berkeley. It is filled with old perfume texts, examples of perfume making and materials, and large organ filled with about 300 exquisite natural oils. Everything she does has much attention to detail and so is beautiful.


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

You can buy Jolie Laide at American Perfumer

Jolie Laide: American Perfumer Interviews

Jolie Laide: American Perfumer Interviews

Cléo de 5 à 7 by Jolie Laide

Cléo de 5 à 7 Notes: Pink lotus, jasmine sambac and agarwood.

A hefty white floral made dewy and given some air by the addition of lotus. Oudh in its furriest, friendliest aspect adds depth and breadth, more like labdanum or civet to my nose. A sensual white floral, unafraid of adding the bodies ripeness. Alluring.

Jules et Jim by Jolie Laide

Jules et Jim Notes: Oakmoss, lavender, tonka bean and bergamot

A vintage reminiscent fragrance with the lovely, furry, warmth of oak moss mixed with tonka. The other notes are merely there to make these two shine luminously. Opens like a sweeter version of a chypre dry down and stays pretty much there for its whole life. If vintage Jolie Madam, Miss Dior or Bandit are your thing then Jules et Jim will blow you away.

Jolie Laide: American Perfumer Interviews



Portia also writes for Australian Perfume Junkies

  • cynthia3403 says:

    I enjoyed the interview. The Cleo and Jules that you mentioned both sound like something I would like, as I enjoy deep, vintage style scents.

  • hczerwiec says:

    Why yes, vintage Jolie Madame, Miss Dior, and Bandit ARE my thing! Jules et Jim sounds like it might be too! Thank you so much for these continued gems of posts — I’m so enjoying them.

  • Dave Kern says:

    Hello Posse. Thank you for another great interview Portia. Regarding samples, until AMERICAN PERFUMER has a more formal program to offer, please do reach out to me at:
    [email protected]
    We’ll work something out. Best to all of you. Thanks again Portia. – Dave

  • RoseMacaroon says:

    Really happy to see this fine review, Portia. I have tried a few Jolie Laide fumes, just can’t remember which they were as I was in total sensory overload at Tigerlily in SF (which is a good thing, and the reason I go there as often as
    possible), but I absolutely remember that they were all very beautiful, pretty bold, and stand apart from everything else I’ve huffed. I’ll have to try Jules et Jim next time. Thanks again!

    • Portia says:

      Hi there Rasemacaroon,
      Excellent! I’m so glad you agree RoseM. They do stand apart, don’t they. So full of life and deep intrigue.
      Portia xx

  • Heather Kaufman says:

    Perfume Posse, thank you for including me in this series! Thanks for the lovely comments!

    • Musette says:

      we’re delighted and honored to have you on here, Heather! xoxo Musette (Anita)

    • Portia says:

      Welcome Heather,
      Readers love to learn a tiny little bit about perfumers. There aren’t a lot of spaces running Get To Know The Indie Perfumer too. I’m really grateful that the Posse crew were as excited as I am about doing these.
      Congratulations on your scents. I really loved them,
      Portia xx

  • Monika Goodrich says:

    Nice interview. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the series and introduction to indie perfumers! The Cleo de 5 a 7 sounds absolutely lovely. I’m a big white floral fan. I hope their Sample Service is up and running soon!

  • MMKinPA says:

    Lovely interview. Can’t wait for the sample service. I reached out to American Perfumer regarding DSH Colorado and had a lovely interaction with them. Hoping to find my way to the store at some point – if our college tour in the next few years for my son take us anywhere near I will definitely check it out!

    • Portia says:

      Thanks MMKinPA,
      I’m so glad they are as nice in real life as they feel over the net. Dave Kern is really trying to focus the spotlight on American Indie.
      PLEASE take loads of pics if you go.
      Portia xx

  • Kathleen says:

    Another wonderful introduction to another perfumer Portia, thank you. I enjoy these interviews very much. I just wish the perfumers’ creations were available in samples from American Perfumer; I would surely try them all out. I would love to sniff Cleo de 5 a 7. Heather sounds interesting and lovely, and I also love Carthusia perfumes.

    • Portia says:

      Hey Kathleen,
      Yes, American Perfumer is working on getting their Sample Service up and running. Small steps.
      Cléo de 5 à 7 is very special. I think you’d love it.
      Portia xx

  • Musette says:

    Portia, I had no idea this line even existed! And SF is my old stompin’ grounds! Her life and her scents sound so intriguing. I’m so glad to know about this – thanks for this amazing series!!!!! xoxooxA

    • Portia says:

      Hey there Musette,
      Glad you’re enjoying the interviews. It’s been so special getting to know a few of the American Indie Perfumers.
      Portia xx