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 Alexis Karl of Scent by Alexis & House of Cherry Bomb
Scent By Alexis: American Perfumer Interviews
What do you recall of your families fragrances as you grew up?
There is one fragrance that catapults me into being seven years old playing hide and seek with my brother in our old house- haunted, and full of secret doorways and sprawling closets. It was in my mother’s closet that I would often hide, the scent of Alexandra de Markoff’s Enigma clinging to her fur coats and silk dresses. There I would doze, enveloped in the narcotic aroma, a coat pulled down as a blanket, the game forgotten.
Where is your dream vacation spot?
Rome is my dream vacation spot, and one I happen to travel to quite often. This is a place for me filled with scent. The smoke of wood burning ovens fills the street mingling with blossoming jasmine, ancient stone dust, and heady wafts of incense escaping the massive church doorways. There is an orange haze to the light in Rome which tints the architecture; gliding down towers and windows, illuminating the monuments and setting even the most prosaic buildings alight with a romantic glow.
How do you like to start your day?
My day begins with a pride of cats galloping unto my bed, mewing and clawing relentlessly, demanding cuddles. Soon to follow is coffee, and once that aroma has awakened me into some sort of working order, I head to my in-apartment studio to either work on editing my films, prepare lectures, or work on installations of art and
fragrance for upcoming exhibitions.
Tell us about your life, family, business or career before perfume?
Much of my childhood was spent in the cemetery where my father had his office, or in the kitchen of my house shadowing my mother who was a chef and chocolatier. I spent every day after school and weekends wondering the cemetery grounds, having picnics, doing grave rubbings, and creating intricate stories about the ghosts who lived there. I was constantly painting, writing and singing. This upbringing led me into the world of fine arts, which, as a multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker, I am still very much involved in. Just before discovering my interest in developing perfume, I spent a few years as a restorer for grand old theaters and movie palaces in New Orleans and NYC.
How did you find yourself in perfumery?
At one point, I was asked to work in creative marketing and installation development for a NYC perfume house. It was here I first experienced the fascinating behind the scenes of fine fragrance. Inspired by the necessary link of fragrance and art, I began researching historical fragrance at the Metropolitan Museum, where I began a lecture and teaching series concerned with the relevance of fragrance in culture and art. This led to the creating of my first fragrance line, as well as developing my course: The Art of Scent at Pratt Institute, where I currently teach.
What is your favorite perfume note and why?
My favorite perfume note is natural fossilized amber. I am entranced with both its scent and its formidable history- the fact that the oil is millions of years old, that it literally resonates with time, is simply amazing. For me, amber is truly immortal; echoing across centuries, it offers a balance to perfumes that is smoldering, sweet and dark.
How did you decide on your companies name, what is its relevance?
Scent by Alexis was based on the “By Alexis” that I used to write on my paintings when I was very young. Though I’m not one to sign my paintings anymore, the idea of that still makes me smile. I love that when someone receives my perfume, it is in this lovely iridescent hot pink box that emblazoned with “Scent by Alexis. It’s a nod to my early artist self, and the beauty of giving art to someone, rather than just a bottle of perfume. For House of Cherry Bomb, my partner Maria and I were having a picnic under the Brooklyn Bridge, listen to the Cherry Bomb by The Runaways while sharing our love of couture and punk. One of us exclaimed, “House of Cherry Bomb!” The rest is history.
What was the last novel or biography you read (current if appropriate)?
I often read two books at a time: Blueprints from the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot, and Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson. Both are absolutely brilliant cyber -punk- futuristic- riveting fabulousness.
Hypothetically: If you had to pick a Signature Perfume that you didn’t create, what
Desert Flower by Aroma M, hands down. This is a gorgeous fragrance, and just my style of sultry with its lingering amber, and mysterious flowers. It has this note that floats through that I love. Something like embers, or melting beeswax that deepens the perfume and makes it very unusual and beautiful.
Who are your fragrant heroes?
Annick Goutal has always been one of my heroes. Her perfumes are always so very elegant and really divine.
Queen Hatshepsut of Ancient Egypt is my greatest fragrance hero. She was a Queen- Pharaoh with a love of fragrance, and a business mind that changed the world. She sent expeditions to the Land of Punt to gather spices and
frankincense. She cultivated in her gardens, and set up perfume kiosks around Egypt to sell fragrances created as commodity (as opposed to use only in ritual ceremony in the temples as was the custom). The Egyptian fragrances became quite famous and were coveted throughout ancient Greece and Rome.
Thanks Alexis for letting us see a little into your head and heart.
Body Made Luminous by Scent By Alexis
Body Made Luminous Notes: 35 million year old fossilized amber, cocoa, Moroccan rose
Chocolate rose, deep, dark and brooding. A sweet, fecal, earthiness that I find very narcotic and dizzying. Like nothing I ever smelled before. Body made luminous through chocolate dipped decay. Utterly transportive.
Requiem for the Immortal by Scent By Alexis
Requiem for the Immortal Notes: Myrrh, copal, dragon’s blood, frankincense, honey, fossilized amber
By far my favourite of the three. Requiem For The Immortal has all the lightness expected of an assumption. It’s filled with a honeyed and resinous burst of airy weightlessness. It hovers above my skin and makes me smell fabulous, but not overly perfumed. Excellent stuff.
The Harmony of Being by Scent By Alexis
The Harmony of Being Notes: Black agar, muguet, petitgrain sur fleur, orange blossom, lilac, cedarwood, tobacco flower, labdanum, mimosa, ambergris
Thick, treacle like gouts of white flowers, ambergris and oudh. So weighty, invasive and ponderous I feel like the gods may have smelled this way. Radiant like the sun yet also cool like shadow and full of the warmth of a healthy summer compost heap.
Portia also writes for Australian Perfume Junkies