Sarah Baker | Spring 2019
Chapter One | Sarah Baker
Ahead of the first ever Bare&Bond edit we took some time to find out more about artist and perfumer Sarah Baker, who is our 1st quarter 2019 curator. We wanted to understand more about how she sees the world of perfumery and what this edit and her perfumes mean to her.
Is fragrance important?
I think fragrances are inspiring. They are calming and medicinal, just as much
as the eucalyptus oil in your diffuser. There is also a lot more going on now with different types of smells and so much more perfumery happening. It used to be dominated by all the major big brands, and nowadays there's more interesting different things happening with fragrance.
Are there any myths about perfume that you wish would just go away?
I definitely think that one of the hardest things I hear all the time is
people looking for their signature fragrance. Why would you wear the same perfume every single day? You change your outfit, you change your occasion. You have a clothes wardrobe, so build a perfume wardrobe. Collect a perfume for the daytime, a perfume for the summertime, a perfume for the evening, there could be a perfume for your first date or a perfume that you wear to go to the park for walking the dog in the autumn; those can all be completely different fragrances. To have a single signature fragrance and to just be seeking that signature fragrance... I don't understand why people would want to do that.
What advice do you have for people looking for a new fragrance?
My advice would be to test it out, wear it on your skin several times and wear
it on different occasions. I noticed that I might try a fragrance and really not like it at first. I might give it a week or two and try again and maybe there's
something. For me it happens all the time. I think the reason is because I'm
getting better and better at smelling fragrances because I am smelling more all the time. Something I experienced a year ago that I liked, now I'm like, “oh that's just so basic”. Or something that I tried 4 days ago and didn't
like, I'll try again in a couple of weeks because maybe I just wasn't ready for it. I think you have to take your time and really try it on your skin. Not just smelling the bottle cap, that doesn't work very well; I would spray it
on paper and if you like it, I would spray it on your skin.
Moving away from the industry in general, we wanted to take a closer look at
Sarah herself and her perfumes.
Who or what inspired you to become a perfumer?
As a visual artist, I've always used many different mediums with my work. I use photography, film and performance but I feel like I'm trying to constantly open the horizons for experimenting with new mediums. I've also always been interested in the whole luxury world, so I wanted to delve into perfumery, not just do a one-off project but actually create something sustainable, that can actually feel real.
Is there a perfume out there that you wish you had created?
It is not so much a perfume, but an endorsement that I wish I could inspire. Marilyn Monroe saying “I only go to bed wearing a few drops of Chanel No.5 and nothing else”. That's an extremely sexy endorsement from an elegant
screen siren that any perfumer would aspire to inspire.
For this edit Sarah has bought together three very different fragrances to showcase the breadth of her artistic exploration into luxury. We asked her to elaborate on the delicate Lace, the sexy Leopard and the fascinating narrative that sits behind Charade
Why this particular collection of perfumes for this edit of the Bare&Bond box?
I work with a lot of different perfumers and I wanted to select one perfume from each different perfumer so I have included one from Ashley Eden Kessler (Leopard), one from Sarah McCartney (Lace) and one from Andreas Wilhelm (Charade).
What would you say characterises each of the three fragrances you have brought together for us in this edit?
I think for an audience who may not already be introduced into niche, deep perfumery or things not designed for mass appeal, all three of these fragrances are probably going to smell pretty different.
Lace is probably the easiest introduction because it's quite delicate and soft. I think of it as a breeze billowing open the lace curtains on your seaside holiday the morning after, with your sexy lingerie scattered around the hotel room floor.
Leopard was the first fragrance that I ever made. I’ve been really inspired by
the author Jackie Collins and her sister the actress Joan Collins. Dynasty and
these kind of 80s power women. I'm interested because that's how I always saw my mother growing up. She was a businesswoman and so I always really looked up to her as this strong female who wore shoulder pads, had painted nails and would be on the phone yelling at somebody... that sort of thing. I thought of Leopard like “what would that person wear? What would Jackie or Joan Collins wear?” The other thing is my mum only wore Chanel No. 5, and she only wore it when she went out, so I have associations with that smell. My young glamorous mother going out.
Charade is inspired by Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant film. That's where the title came from. I feel like this fragrance is very unisex. It’s got this leather armchair going on and yet it’s also got a very strong tuberose white flower
fragrance. I feel like it's playful, glamorous and serious at the same time; as I mentioned before, it has honey in it, and sandalwood, so it's warm and sweet but not too sweet. It is a very strong fragrance that can last for a really long time. Charade is inspired by the film because Audrey Hepburn was such a glamorous aristocrat of a woman but with a purpose, a quest. Cary Grant seems like he's the bad guy and in the end he's not the bad guy and they fall in love. It really tied a lot of things together, the iconic era, the meaning of the title, the interplay between the two leads. There is this kind of unisex thing happening with the fragrance that I feel like it's very much reflected in two super classic Hollywood stars.
What kind of activity or occasion do you imagine is best suited to each scent?
Lace: I've worn Lace to sleep. I don’t know if you've ever tried wearing fragrances to bed but Lace is a very comforting fragrance. I feel it's soft enough to make me feel comfortable as I'm falling asleep. Through the night if you wake up you might get some wafts of it. Your bed sheets will end up smelling like the perfume and that's really nice. I like Lace, it can be worn day or night, also fragrances can be seasonal but I’d say all three of these are good all-around. I would wear Lace anytime, day or night, anywhere. Out of the three it's probably the most “everyday” type of a fragrance.
Leopard: Leopard is really great to wear out at night. It's also an empowering fragrance, so I wear it when I'm going to give a presentation or a talk. It lifts me up and makes me feel like I'm ready. It's like it gives me juice; it gives me adrenaline.
Charade: Charade is an occasion fragrance, but it also is not unusual enough for it to not be worn every day or to work.
Can you talk about the key notes and accords in each of the three scents? What might jump out when they wear them?
Lace is predominantly a jasmine musk and it has vanilla that's slightly sweet, with a little bit of coconut - but if I didn't tell you that you might not have picked it up although some people do. It has this kind of friendliness to it. On the contrary it is very sexy because jasmine is a very sexy note. Jasmine has this kind of relationship to indulge which is a physical sort of a smell. Jasmine white flowers are heavily fragrant flowers. They're making up for their lack of colour, so they have these quite animal heavy kind of fragrances, and that's what makes it sexy. It also has a touch of peppermint which is quite like a breath of fresh air, and gives Lace this kind of breeziness.
Leopard is a kind of a classic to me. It doesn't smell like Chanel No. 5 but it has that sort of powerfulness of it in my memory. It's much earthier than Chanel No.5. It's got patchouli, sandalwood and Frankincense which bring it down. It's also spicy. Castoreum and musk makes it sexier and it's spice comes from black pepper and cardamom. The heart of the fragrance is this kind of lip sticky rose and violet note which is used a lot in cosmetics. It's a lipstick fragrance really, and I think it's a very fun.
Charade: The leather, the sandalwood and the vetivers are what makes it have this kind of strong-man-sitting-in-a-leather-armchair type of a feel to it. That combined with the French tuberose and ylang-ylang, lifts it up and then the honey smooths it all out and it sweetens the package. Like black tea that somebody drops some honey in, it just rounds it out, like putting milk in your coffee, it smooths over to make it really satisfying.
The artistry is evident, but we wanted to understand more about the practicality of moving from a detailed montage across multiple mediums, to a finished perfume product.
How do you decide which perfumers you're going to work with?
I connected with Ashley through the Institute for Art and Olfaction. They are an organization based from LA who work with artists and perfumers. I really have enjoyed working with her so we're now working on our third perfume together.
With Sarah McCartney, I had previously been a fan of her fragrances but once I got to know her I've come to realise that she was a very interesting personality and that I really wanted to work with her more.
With Andreas Wilhelm, I first saw him giving a presentation at the experimental perfume summit. He was one of the presenters so I got a chance to experience his fragrances and we became friends from there. This was an interesting development because he was actually developing his own brand and it was something that I was using as an artistic reference before I even met him. I guess you could say it was meant to be.
What is your process of developing the perfumes with the perfumers? Has that changed over time?
I started out working with perfumers based on my direction and my art, but it's really become more fluid than that. I felt I was approaching it as an artist and it would be very directed; “this is my vision, let's do this”. When I first started working with my first perfumer, Ashley, I didn't really know very much about perfumery. I knew things I liked, and things I didn't like. She had to teach me.
When I worked with Sarah McCartney, she let me dig through some of her unused modifications and then we tinkered with them and created Lace with my vision in mind. That process helped me figured out how to work with fragrances to make it fit to my motif.
With Andreas Wilhelm I actually did try to send him very clear directives. That didn't work. What ended up working better was when I flew to see him face to face. He gave me a huge selection of samples based on our discussions and I took those home tested them over months. I came back with my favourites for the theme, and he introduced some ideas of how those could be modified. The process was much more perfume led that time. Though I did have a lot of input into how the fragrance should progress. It was really more that he was listening to what I was saying and sending me more testers to see what would work. When we found Charade, the last thing I said was “it's like drinking black tea without honey or milk” He then added a honeyed note. That just totally polished it off.