Interview with Emma Jane Leah of Fleurage
This week rather than actually reviewing a perfume I thought I would interview a perfumer. Emma Jane Leah is the nose behind Fleurage, a store in Australia specializing in bespoke fragrances. I’ve always wanted to ask questions about the process a perfumer goes through in their business, and Emma kindly let me fire away.
What was your inspiration in creating your house?
I am sure you would agree all unique and independent business is born from frustration with an industry or market? What stems from this a burning desire to bring your offerings to the wider world because you see a need and have the skills and passion to make it happen.
My partner Rob and I were driven by our feeling that contemporary perfume has lost its sensuality. Born from this was a desire to fill a recognized gap in the market where perfume lovers are looking for sophisticated, hand crafted, individual scents with botanical ingredients. In years past I, as well as my partner Rob, have preferred wearing perfumed oils as a fragrance rather than the mass market confections and when asking others there is agreement with our
concerns and ideas about how scent should be and indeed was many years ago. I believe people want quality perfumes and never before has so much money been spent on fragrance. People I have talked to like to smell desirable but more and more they are developing allergies to ingredients and not finding satisfaction in their purchase of the fragrances offered. Comments I often hear are about classic perfumes being lost and a longing for the old styles of fragrance and how it is presented. For more mature clients who have experienced or remember traditional
parfum, we see them dismayed by the contemporary product. The romance and beauty of the boutique perfumery has been replaced by perfume supermarkets. We believe the art of perfumery is too intimate to sell in such a way. This is why Fleurage is a Salon de Parfumerie. It is designed as a refined setting for 'fitting' fragrances with the help of the actual perfumer herself. It is not a boudoir style but the Art Deco fit out reminds us of the elegance of superior design and absolute beauty that can be found in workmanship and production of everyday products. I particularly lament the loss of skilled artisans who produced luxury unique items and worry about the disposability of our lifestyle and the products we use. It is getting harder to purchase products of worth that last-both in value and the workmanship. There is also an underlying drive for quality Australian made goods and industry and disbelief at the lack of availability of innovative production. We have created Fleurage products with that philosophy in
What are particular notes that you prefer to use?
I have collected an extensive range of over 100 botanical ingredients to use when creating my perfumes for both Fleurage and for private clients. I try not to get stuck with using dependable and regular sets of notes and accords and let my brief dictate what I should use. This is why I always start with a brief rather than playing with the ingredients and as a result have such a large range of different perfumes that vary widely in scent. I have personal sets of notes I prefer for me which are woods resins and rich florals and I must admit I haven’t really produced
much of a sweet vanilla range yet as I think its been done so much in perfumes over the last few years.
Would you ever consider branching out to a scent that wasn't created for an individual?
I already have a range of 45 different Fleurage perfumes that I sell in the Parfumerie with more to come this year as well as the Scent Couture service. Fleurage was actually built around my range of perfumes and the Couture service came next.
Name me a smell that you loathe, and one that you love. In nature or in a bottle.
I don't deal with the smell of grinding steel-a strange metallic, cloying, burning scent that sticks to my throat and sinuses and makes me feel ill. I adore so many scents both in nature and a bottle but I would have to say that Lady Grey tea in a fine porcelain cup(and yes it does make a difference), wild violets and cut ginger rank as high on the list. It changes with the seasons and my mood though. Scent is so intimately linked to place and feeling and memory as we know and that can effect how we perceive an odour at different times.
Do you see a trend in what your clients are asking for, scent-wise?
What I have observed when creating profiles is clients don’t like smelling like thousands of others -they want individuality. They often prefer the botanical scents for their well-being and I get asked for 'older style' perfumes without so much vanilla or sickly florals. There is much frustration that a favorite and distinct perfume that speaks to them personally is hard to find and that companies constantly change the perfumes or discontinue them. I have also had long
discussions with people about the worry of the possibility that what they are purchasing might not be the real thing due to so many retailers offering the same brands but at hugely differing prices. It would appear people are particular about their scent being genuine, unique and complex.
What is your process in building a scent for your client?
The most important part is for me to get to know the client so I can create an 'Olfactory Vision'. This is my brief and leads me to the notes I will use. I ask them a lot of questions that reveal their inner being. I associate scents with experiences people relate to me -for instance a recent client likes to wear soft colors and treasures quiet places to relax but has a strong personality and likes to listen to rock music. That information suggested to me that their scent would require depth and solid notes in the base, a lasting heart of softer calming notes and an uplifting and clear top. This is why its so important to do this in person. How does one create a personal scent that
reflects you if you have never met?
Do you find that your clients return for refills on the same scent, or do they want to branch out to building other scents. Or both?
I find a bit of both. Once people experience my perfumes they find their palette becomes more
adventurous and they want to explore the range a bit more because their is such delight in the richness and strength of the different scents.
You offer other products such as bath ones as well, any plans for more?
Oh yes! I plan to have a spa range out this year and I am also developing what we call Hauteur by Fleurage which is corporate gifting and boutique luxury hotel lines for those discerning establishments that really value their clients and want to offer a quality range of pampering products with beautiful botanical scents.
As a small house that has a more one-on-one relationship with clientele, what do you see trending as the new "go-to" scents What are people asking you for?
Perfume lovers come to me because they are bored with current market fragrance and want something a bit different with personality and style that they can relate to. For instance the men want fragrances that have depth and reflect their masculinity and women often want a scent that has power and definite personality. My clients want to be outside the trends and stand out as an individual so I would say that other perfume houses need to look outside fashion and
instead of copying one another do their own thing and maybe concentrate on the quality of the product. Here's a quote for you that I live by as a perfumer " In fine perfumery, as with other arts, the ideal conduct for the artist (perfumer) is, first and foremost to please himself. (or herself) The idea of attempting to assess what an "imaginary public"(a thin figment of the imagination) may, in all probability, like, is both illogical and unprofitable. Such methods
(consumer preference estimation etc.) are all very well for the cheap cosmetic market -But in the matter of fine perfumes it is Originality more than any other single factor that really pays"- William Poucher 1937 Soap Perfumery and Cosmetics industry manual.
Where do you see your house in 5 years?
Firmly established as an alternative and individual offering for perfume lovers both nationally and globally and at the centre of promotion of natural perfumery and niche perfumers by offering them an outlet for their art.