Get Bent, Part One: Interview with Brent Leonesio of smell bent
Saturday I was able to sit down with Brent Leonesio, the youthful founder of Los Angeles-based smell bent. I previously had emailed him 10 questions and here were his responses:
1) How did you come to found smell bent? What was your "scent journey"?
I got “scent obsessed” about 3 years ago. I couldn’t learn enough about fragrance or smell too many scents. I started with commercial perfumes, but after a while, I was more interested in learning what each note smelled of by itself. I bought my first ingredients last year and started tinkering. I began by trying to copy scents I already knew; it was the perfect exercise to teach myself. I lost my job earlier in the year and tried to find work in the perfume industry. I realized that if I really wanted to do this, starting my own business was the only way it was going to happen.
2) I really like the artwork on the website, who is the artist?
I do a lot of the artwork and all of the design work. A good friend of mine also helps out quite a bit with the drawings. I love her style and we have a lot of fun working together. She is also the inspiration for the Little Miss Panda scent as her name is Panda.
3) Name me 3 fragrances that you love, or 3 perfumers that you admire.
I love the original Private Collection by Lauder, Cuir de Russie by Chanel, Fuel by Donna Karan, Paris by YSL … I could go on for a while! There are so many amazing scents out there. Edmond Roudnitska is probably my favorite perfumer though; he has authored a good number of my favorite scents.
4) There are so many small perfumers out now; what niche is Smell Bent serving that the others might not be? Give me a sketch of the "smell bent customer".
The goal was to bring niche perfume to individuals who might not have ever been exposed to a bottle Malle or Lutens. Niche perfumery has a tendency towards the esoteric and I wanted to lift the veil a little. So far, the perfume savvy have been quick to pick us up, but I’d love to get a few newbies as well.
5) With the regulations about ingredients meaning that classic scents from large houses are no longer what they were, do you see small, artisanal artists like yourself as the future of perfume?
I was in the shock the other day when I was looking over the list of “forbidden” ingredients. Citrus, birch tar, oakmoss, jasmine, vanilla - these are staples of the industry. It’s hard to imagine the greats without them. It’s kind of like telling painters they can’t use blue anymore, or musicians B flat is off limits. I find the neutering frightening, but am thankful its reach doesn’t extend everywhere. Perhaps small houses are the future, especially if one ever wants an authentic chypre again!
6) In these days when $100 is the new $50, I really appreciate the price points of your line. Is it a challenge for you to keep prices so low?
Sure, making beautiful things that are expensive is much easier than making beautiful things that are inexpensive. But I find the challenge much more interesting and that is integral to my work. The market is oversaturated with a new breed of luxury fragrances, many which seem to be expensive for expensive sake. I wanted to show my customer that spending $20 can be as special as spending $200. I think the timing couldn’t be better either!
7) I noticed that you have some seasonal scents for Halloween; are you going to be doing others for other holidays?
Yes, Halloween just went up for October and for November, we’re debuting a holiday line as well. Fall is the perfect time for fragrance and there are so many scents associated with the holidays.
8) I see from your website you do custom scents. I've never had a custom scent made, could you describe the process for me?
The custom process starts with a consultation, a getting to know you and your likes, as well as your expectations. From there, an initial batch of scents is mixed and samples are sent to you for review. After discussion about what works and what doesn’t, the final scent is mixed and put on file. From then on, any time you wish to reorder your scent, it’s available to you.
9) Where do you see smell bent in five years?
The web is where we started, but I would like to move smell bent into the physical world as well. Ideally, I would love a brick and mortar where perhaps people who aren’t familiar with the brand might find us!
10) Any new scents you care to tell us about? New products (candles, home scents, body products, etc.)
The holiday scents will be out in early November. I’m also working on a collection of Animal themed smellies to be included in our regular catalog and hopefully, in the not too distant future, EDP sprays. We seem to get a lot of requests for those!
Next time I will review a few of the scents from smell bent, and we'll have a giveaway.
Photo courtesy of Brent Leonesio.