Over the next few weeks I will be publishing a number of posts that go into detail about my recent trip to New York. I have a lot of writing to do so for now, here is a quick overview of my two weeks in the Big Apple.
Last month I escaped the beginning of the Australian winter to visit New York in search of summer sun. I overlooked the fact that hurricane season around the Atlantic begins on June 1 so my vacation weather bobbed between beautiful blue-sky days and perpetual rain from dawn till dusk. The wet didn’t dampen my spirit as I had a busy schedule of places to visit and people to meet. I just needed to keep dry as I moved from meeting to meeting on those days the rain came down.
New York is one of my favourite cities in the world. It is vibrant, impressively diverse and constantly moving. Even in the four years since my last visit the city has evolved. I took a walking tour of lower Manhattan, inspired by Martin Scorsese’s 2002 film, Gangs of New York. Listening to my guide explain the history of the city and how immigrants shaped the New York City of today, I could see why it has become such a melting pot of individuals, each one attracted to the city for different reasons. In Soho, I met with Chad Murawczyk who founded MiN New York, a significant perfumery for Manhattan shoppers. He commented that people come to New York because they have something they want to achieve. It is not the place to come to kick back and ride in the slipstream of life. This constant drive seems to be what makes the city and its residents so electric.
I visited Aedes de Venustas in Greenwich Village to meet cofounder Robert Gerstner. We discussed Aedes’ newly launched perfume, Iris Nazarena, which Robert and his business partner Karl Bradl designed with Mane perfumer, Ralf Schwieger. As one of Manhattan’s longest standing independent perfumeries since the boom of niche, Robert shared with me his experience of seeing New York’s independent perfume market grow and his ideas on what the future could hold.
One of the latest editions to Manhattan’s perfume landscape is Osswald. Perfume connoisseurs in Switzerland will know Osswald, which opened in 1921 as a family business in Zurich. Still family owned and new to the lower end of Soho, close to Canal Street, Osswald comes to New York with three generations of experience from Europe. I met with Tanja Dreiding Wallace, Osswald’s owner and Clement Pinard, the Store Manager who has an impressive knowledge of perfumery. Osswald’s down-to-earth approach and focus on service make it a haven of tranquillity away from lower Manhattan’s busy streets.
Busy streets are all part of the fun of New York. During my two-week stay I explored every neighbourhood for scent, from Chelsea’s flower lined Highline to Brooklyn’s hipster colony, Williamsburg. My adventure took me on a journey through some of the world’s most famous department stores as well as independent perfume boutiques. A chance encounter with Frederic Malle in his Madison Avenue boutique saw me leave New York with a signed bottle of his Cologne Bigarade and a personal tour through the original Bond No. 9 boutique in Noho opened the possibility for custom blending, a service offered exclusively in the Bond Street flagship.
After exploring my way through the retail side of the industry I wanted to talk directly with the perfumers who work, often invisibly, to create the scents that drive New York’s multi million-dollar perfume industry. What better place to start than at Givaudan’s Fine Fragrance Studio? I spoke with Senior Perfumer, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, whose name appears next to Creations such as Tom Ford Neroli Portofino, Arquiste Flor y Canto, Clinique Happy and a seemingly endless list of other titles. Rodrigo is a rock star, charismatic and engaging. His rare talent has made him successful, winning design briefs for all types of projects, both highly commercial as well as the more avant-garde. Talking over his desk, which was filled with small vials, no doubt modifications of a new project, we talked about his perfumes and some of his most personal memories that inspired them.
I spent a day with Kevin Verspoor, one of a growing number of perfumers leaving their large perfume design employers in favour of setting up as independents. Kevin was extremely open to discussing his 20-year career working for some of the world’s big creation houses. Our conversation started over lunch at Balthazar and continued as we walked around Soho visiting some of the perfumeries in the neighbourhood. The evening ended with cocktails at Pegu Club on West Houston where I enjoyed hearing Kevin’s war stories from the unavoidably political world of perfumery.
To contrast these two classically trained perfumers I met with Christopher Brosius in his Brooklyn studio with fellow blogger, Valerie Vitale of Soliflore Notes and Cafleurebon. Christopher was one of America’s pioneering indie perfumers and his range CB I Hate Perfume challenges every aspect of the perfume establishment. Describing himself as more of an impressionist than a photorealist, a term that has previously been used by media to describe his work, Christopher pushed my boundaries in terms of the way I define perfume.
Revisiting New York confirmed for me that it is the place to be if you like your boundaries pushed. With its fast pace and anything is possible attitude; it is no wonder so many people are drawn towards the city’s magnetism.
I hope you will enjoy reading more about my New York adventures. Over the coming days I will post my interview with Rodrigo Flores-Roux, a meeting that was one of the many highlights of this trip.
Happy 4th of July!