Since my first departure from New Zealand at the age of 17, I rarely find myself in a place I call home for an extended period of time. In 2008 I visited New York for the first time and immediately fell in love with this city. I would have no doubt relocated given the opportunity. I’m not sure if natives of the world’s great cities can appreciate this sentiment but for a New Zealander, I think I speak for most of us, we find New York an incredibly intense place. Perhaps in the same way someone from New York would find New Zealand intense, but for the opposite reasons. I spent a year in South America and met a girl from Tokyo who was living in the middle of the Amazon basin. She had never heard the sound of silence before and her face constantly reflected her sense of wonderment at this situation. My friend and I, another New Zealander, had the same look on our faces when we arrived into the Lower East Side from JFK. We dropped our luggage and sat on the pavement at a local café taking in our new surroundings. Eleven o’clock at night and New York was doing what New York does, the streets full of people, going about their business.
One area that resonated with me was Soho, a true melting pot of Manhattan life. Upper East-siders frequent the area to get their culture fix and Greenwich residents stroll down to join friends for coffee or a drink. Affluent creative types inhabit the area living in plush loft apartments while the less financially able take up residence in the surrounding districts of the East Village, Nolita or Alphabet City. For me, Soho felt like the convergence of the many personalities making up Manhattan’s social fabric. I felt a real sense of authenticity there. While Madison Avenue offers a wealth of designer boutiques and Fifth Avenue has it’s string of iconic department stores, Soho has a rich sense of character and I remember feeling an intense rush of energy exploring the streets during my time in Manhattan. Le Labo has a fantastic retail space in nearby Elizabeth Street and Santa Maria Novella can be found in Lafayette Street below East Houston. Perfume shopping in Manhattan’s department stores can be an impersonal experience. The sales staff work hard to make their steep targets and in the process remove all the fun from shopping for scents. Soho offers a friendlier shopping culture allowing perfumers to present their products in a way scent enthusiasts and no doubt everyone can appreciate more.
I was happy this month to connect with Levi Pharoah from MiN New York. The Soho Atelier has been in business for over a year and carries an impressive range of scented products from some of my favourite perfume houses; Frapin, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Miller Harris, Nobile 1942 and Santa Maria Novella. Levi introduced me to the Atelier owner, Chad Murawczyk, who took time out of his schedule to answer some of my questions.
WMSSL: Hi Chad, first, how did MiN New York start? Have you always had an interest in fragrance or has it been an organic process, creating your atelier?
Chad: I founded MiN New York over a decade ago on professional hair color, hair care & skin care. My passion lies in timeless brands with specialty products of quality, made by true artisans. From furniture to fragrances, my shop serves as an atelier where Mindy Yang, my Vice President/Co-Curator and I feature products that are amazing, yet hard to find. The discovery of new products is an endless, organic process.
WMSSL: You really do carry a wonderful range of products. You talk about these scents almost as art pieces that have been curated for the space. How do you decide what products go into your Atelier?
Chad: Thank you! We take our role as Curators quite seriously here at MiN New York and we are always actively searching for interesting lines for the shop. Our guests are wonderful as they often share tips with us from their travels. A formal selection process is in place. Quality, timelessness are some absolute requirements for evaluation approval. With each item, we ask ourselves “Is there a reason for being?” and “How does this transcend a moment?”
WMSSL: Do you curate to cater to your clientele, or will we find items in the atelier that you are passionate about and want to bring to the people of Manhattan?
Chad: I would say both.
WMSSL: Looking at the atelier interior, you can see you have thought about the space very carefully. Each area looks highly considered and involves not just the sense of smell but of taste and touch. In a city like New York where you must have other perfumeries that carry similar products, what feedback do your clients give you as to why they prefer to visit you?
Chad: We’re real. We’re genuine and we care. We edit well. A marriage of old-fashioned European Perfumery and American Speakeasy, it was our wish that the space will deliver a very different experience. Our Atelier is meant to be airy and inviting. We want it to be an escape from the fast-paced, commercialized New York minute, and it be an Apothecary that tells stories… where one would fall in love with our lotions and potions. Both people and products need a proper amount of breathing room I believe. I wanted to create a non-pretentious space where one could breathe and explore without any pressure to purchase and utilize our Atelier as an opportunity to discover something new, exciting and curious! Many of our clients who have become our friends comment on the openness of the Atelier and our knowledge as they sit and enjoy an espresso (yes we have an espresso bar), as they are taken through a flight of scents chosen based on their interests and desires.
WMSSL: How do you describe the men of Manhattan according to the types of scents they show interest in when they visit you? Is there such a thing as an Upper East Side scent and a Soho scent or a Brooklyn scent? What trends do you see emerging?
Chad: Manhattan is an island of unique and distinguished individuals. Scents are incredibly personal. Some are chosen because they are “appropriate”, while others are worn to inspire. We have a very successful and discerning clientele and no matter where they reside, guests are simply pleased to find interesting non-commercial scents that suits them here. What they have in common is that they no longer wish to wear designer (department store) perfumes.
WMSSL: Tell me about Nobile 1942
Chad: Nobile 1942, an artisan fragrance house from Italy, is brand new to the United States. A collection for both men and women, each perfume from this house contains essential oils obtained through a natural process of steeping, filtering, and distillation. The bottles and boxes are all handmade in Italy as well. A true gem with notes that are beautiful, but unusual to the Americas, Mindy and I fell in love with the scents during our last trip to Tuscany.
WMSSL: What three scents do you think symbolize Manhattan, or the Manhattan man? Did Donna Karan get it right?
Chad: (Chuckle) What do you think! Manhattan is so dynamic, multidimensional. It is ever evolving and so incredibly complex. Defining Manhattan is a matter of perspective. Suggesting scents for Manhattan is what marketers attempt to do…
WMSSL: Do you have a favorite scent?
Chad: It’s hard to say. I have quite a library of incredible scents. A few of my personal favorites in rotation are Miller Harris Tabac, Amouage Gold and Frapin L’Humaniste.
WMSSL: Outside of New York, what are your favorite places to discover new fragrances?
Chad: Everywhere! I am on a continuous quest for magical things regardless of where it is in the world.
WMSSL: Thanks for the chat Chad!
Readers are encouraged to discover MiN New York for themselves on your next visit to Manhattan. MiN New York is located at 117 Crosby Street between Prince and Houston. Their website has more information and will allow you to discover the full range/buy online.