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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Get Bent, Part One: Interview with Brent Leonesio of smell bent

By Tom

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.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Caitlin Shortell said...

How refreshing this attitude toward fragrance as something within reach and fun and creative. I think I'll embark upon a custom smell project. I'm totally inspired by the idea that if you want to work in a field, you just form a company and do it yourself. What courage!

2:36 AM EDT  
Anonymous ScentRed said...

I don't know anything about the fragrances, but I give him high marks for a fun website and his refreshingly lighthearted approach. I'll be interested to hear more about the scents.

8:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Alyssa said...

Thanks so much for this, Tom! I was just commenting on NST yesterday that I wanted to meet the people behind the Smell Bent project. In fact, I impulse-bought their new limited edition violet scent and when Brent's email arrived to tell me it was in the mail I almost replied with a little fan letter about the graphics and the spirit of the whole endeavor. Hearing some of Brent's favorites makes me even more glad that he's launched this venture--and more confident about my little purchase! Bravo.

9:05 AM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

Delightful interview!

I ordered a handful of samples from Smell Bent and found them delicious. Although oils usually make me grumpy -- they have a "tamped-down" quality that just doesn't do it for me -- Smell Bent oils are well balanced, sparkly, and professional. (Also, my samples arrived in like, 3 days.)

For those of you that are thinking about trying it, I am adding my recommendation -- they are different, conceptually fresh, dramatic, and pretty.

1:21 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Cait-

It is a very refreshing attitude! It's nice that the scents a really good as well.

1:34 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

ScentRed-

Tune in Tomorrow..

1:34 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Alyssa-

I'd love to read how you found it. I was surprised by these. I even like Frosting Monster and I thought from the name I should cringe in horror..

1:37 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Ducks-

I couldn't (and didn't) say it better myself!

Also, young Mr. Leonesio is a very nice man.

1:38 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Very cool! Great interview, and I love to see someone making a go of something like this at such a young age. I can't wait to try these!

4:27 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

D-

It's pretty good stuff!

7:05 PM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Have heard some great things about these scents, so really appreciate this interview. Love the humorous, light hearted feel of his site - not often found in the perfume world and, imo at least, very welcome.

9:06 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

elle-

It is welcome. What's also welcome that they're good scents!

9:22 PM EDT  

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