Interviews - July 19th, 2012
I’ve decided to start doing short interviews with my favorite indie cosmetics makers. To kick things off, I sent five questions to the amazing and talented Evonne from Darling Clandestine. Check out what she had to say!
Many of your fragrances are accompanied by an intriguing “scent story.” Do you find you come up with the story idea first and make a scent to match or is it the other way around?
Ooh, I love this question. The story definitely happens first! In the beginning I started with simple sideshow stories, each of them splashed with little flashes of personal memories. One thing that’s well known about my fragrances is that they tend to be very, very complex, just as memories are. As I branched out from the carnival theme, I’ve let the stories become more intensely personal (and probably a bit more insane, lol).
During our most intense experiences, we’re usually inundated with many sensations all at once, and those sensations often shove at each other, mixed in with some pretty primal emotions. I don’t want my fragrances to be just a list of notes. I want to capture that whole tangled experience. And it means long nights of pouring, mixing, sniffing, note-taking, pacing, sniffing, steeping, sniffing again, adding, adding, mixing, note-taking, sniffing again, and waiting.
It’s not a question of just mixing a bunch of story elements together. For example (and this is a silly example, but) if you were to create a scent about, say, the Easter Bunny, it seems appropriately fun to mix, for example, a sugary scent, maybe some chocolate, straw from a basket, mowed grass and, I dunno, Easter lilies or something. But these things will not automatically smell great together, and they’re even less likely to smell great on someone’s skin.
It takes knowledge of how the elements will work together, and it takes time and patience to steep the brew and see how it unfolds. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. The most heartbreaking thing is when I have to scrap an entire batch of perfume, usually a wine bottle full, that I’ve worked on for weeks and just can’t rescue. But when it does work, I don’t think there’s anything more comforting and stirring than a truly experience-based scent.
A lot of people have a signature scent, a fragrance or even fragrance note that others will associate with them. Is there a particular scent that says Evonne when others smell it because you wear it a lot?
I think it’s really important to have a signature scent! When I get close, I don’t want people to think, “Hey, Evonne’s wearing perfume.” I want them to think, “This is the awesome and unique way that Evonne smells.”
I think it’s so important, in fact, that I don’t get to wear other scents as often as I’d like, and that makes me a little sad sometimes. Because I’ve got not only my twenty-something original fragrances to choose from; I’ve also got myriad other scents from myriad other indies that are AMAZING, and I often will put them on and smell them just for funtimes.
But anyway. My signature scent is currently a base of Maudlin & Bedlam, a splash of Aragon and Mad as Birds, and a pinch of chocolate and sandalwood. I don’t put this on at full strength; I mix a little into my moisturizer and hair products. Until recently I used jojoba oil with a touch of that scent concoction and slathered it all over my body after a shower. Lately I’ve fallen in love with Haus of Gloi’s Pumpkin Butter (hat-tip to Rebecca Smith of Ella’s Lead for introducing me to that silky softness in person), and I use the Aether butter with my scent concoction mixed in. And yes, people do remark on it being Evonne-scent.
What are your favorite notes/raw ingredients/essential oils to include in your perfumes?
I ADORE green herbals and mossy essentials. Pure uncut oakmoss essential oil and German chamomile are more precious than gold to me. I’m also a big fan of soft and tangy woods like sandalwood and teak. And though I don’t carry any simple “honey” scents (there are already plenty of excellent ones out there), a couple of my scents do have honey fragrance notes in them. I’m a huge sucker for anything having to do with honey, really.
If you were going to run away and join the carnival, what would be your sideshow specialty?
Tee hee! In the Barnum troupe I’d have been a Circassian girl. I find this so intriguing: Victorian-era notions about genetics and race made a woman with hair like mine—thick, dark, densely curly, “mixed” hair—somewhat of an exotic attraction. Recruiters would take a local kinky-headed gal, tease her hair into an Afro style, and bill her as a “Circassian” girl or “moss-haired” girl, stolen from some harem in a faraway land, where the women were beautiful beyond dreaming.
Even as I was growing up, sweet little white ladies with the best of intentions regarded my hair as something just a tad bit frightening, something to be tamed and flattened and overbrushed and hacked at and hidden away. It took me years to learn to love my hair, and now I love it fiercely. That was the inspiration behind my Circassian fragrance: delicate florals with a defiant splash of dark Mexican chocolate and hot black coffee.
People often strongly associate a fragrance with a specific time or place or event in their memory. For example, The Body Shop’s Ananya will always remind of a steamy hot day in Georgetown, Washington DC when I was 17, and smelled it for the first time. It was the first time I was away from home on my own, and the smell still evokes the heady experience of feeling independent for the first time. Tell us about a scent memory that you have.
Oh boy. All of my original scents are based somewhat on scent memories, and there are only a few that I’m willing to share too explicitly. But I’ll give you this one:
Years ago I met a fascinating person and had a fascinating little romance. He was a painter and a vagrant. He lived in this tiny river town, sort of tucked into cornfields and woods, and it had a charming little downtown area with awnings and ornate lamp posts and odd alleys, and he had a tiny little apartment at the top of a narrow set of stairs, with wooden floors and weepy radiators and rattling sun-warmed windows. He had a homemade darkroom, and his photographs were always spread out on tables and countertops, and he had several large painted canvases sitting on the living room floor, leaning against the wall. On our first day together, a warm golden day in early fall, we sat overlooking the river on a stony terrace that led up to a railroad bridge, talking and talking and being generally fascinated with one another. When the sun set, we suddenly realized that the entire day had gone by and we’d completely forgotten about the rest of the world—we hadn’t touched on the topics of work or anything remotely practical. We’d forgotten to eat. We were both fond of smoking and we’d both forgotten to smoke. We realized that, and we said it out loud, and then we stayed and talked some more.
One of our haunts—where we’d first met at a show—was this amazing little coffee shop in an ancient building with shelves stacked high with books and painted tables and hundreds of varieties of teas… and that’s what he always smelled like. Like tea and old paper and paint and river stones. It took me several weeks to realize that it wasn’t the remnants of the coffee shop I was smelling; it was him. The coffee shop and the river and his apartment and all of it—I associated them all with the smell of his skin. Much later, after he’d moved away, I took a friend to that coffee shop, or what was left of it, and the smell wasn’t the same. On a whim, he and I went poking around my fascinating person’s old apartment, up those narrow stairs, and found it empty… but when I leaned close to the keyhole I detected that fascinating scent again.
Years later my brother Aaron, upon hearing that I’d started creating perfumes, approached me about a scent he’d been wanting to create, a mélange of tea and vanilla and aquatic spices, and somehow I knew exactly what scent he wanted. He must’ve had a fascinating day with a fascinating person of his own. Aaron named the notes he thought should go into this scent, and I went back and played with them and added a couple of notes of my own to spice and bind them, and thus was born Step Right Up.
. . . So hey, Claire, I want to thank you so very much for sharing your blogspace with me. I adore your writing style, and I adore the careful research that goes into your posts. I’m honored to have you as a customer and a friend. Thank you again for this interview, and these awesome questions.
Evonne, thank you! This was quite honestly the coolest thing I’ve had the opportunity to blog in a long time! Everyone, go check out Evonne’s shop Darling Clandestine, and read my review of a few of her beautiful scents. As a special treat for my readers, the coupon code “CLAIREVOYANT” is good for 20% off!