Those deep and often unexplainable sensations triggered by the sense of smell have intrigued women and men alike for centuries. Some of the most brilliant minds in the world have studied the phenomenon, many even claiming to have mastered the science that makes it all so captivating. But the wild unpredictability of human nature, which is so intimately tied to our sense of smell, can often make it difficult to tame.
“In one of our fragrances we have something that comes from India, in which they take seashells and put them into Sandalwood Oil, then burn it and cook it. You only get native, small amounts but it has this unbelievable smell. There’s not a lot of it in the world,” Steele says. “If you go to a big company, they usually have a palette of stuff they are okay with using and putting in their machines, but something like that would not be in that palette. If you want to use it, you’d have to use it by hand.”
It’s deep in our genes to appreciate the way people smell. It’s evidence of some real sexual landscape and universe that’s really powerful and draws you in.
Instead of deciding which scene works for which customer, Goest explores approaches to fragrances that are more conceptual in format and purpose. For example, instead of attempting to mask a cigarette's trademark scene, the Smokers' Perfume—which took two years to develop—works with the habit. It has been designed to be meld with the smell of a cigarette smoke, meant for a user to apply before or after smoking. “This product is kind of our philosophy in a nutshell: that when you apply a fragrance, you don’t just smell like the fragrance,” explains Steele, noting that the scent is intended to cover up the smell of cigarette smoke. “
You smell like the fragrance, plus whatever you already smell like, so when shopping for cologne, it’s important to embrace the natural smell of the human body. It’s an approach with sexier results.” The concept of Smokers' Perfume is also intended to be a bit of a nod to Andy Warhol, says the perfumer, in that Goest takes an everyday consumer object—the cigarette pack—and celebrates it as an interactive work of art. “I love to celebrate some of the unexpectedly elite objects in consumer culture,” notes Steele.
“It’s deep in our genes to appreciate the way people smell. It’s evidence of some real sexual landscape and universe that’s really powerful and draws you in. So, finding that fragrance that really goes well with your body is one of the coolest and most effective ways to enhance your sexiness, way more so than having a fresh T-shirt or a well-tailored suit.” That idea holds even truer in today’s post-technology culture, says Steele. “So many things that we see and do everyday are visual things and information. And technology is really about getting more of that, faster and faster…things that really don’t change how you feel. Smell isn’t like that at all. You can’t deny it and you can’t ignore it,” says the perfumer.
Steele would eventually like to expand her unique approach to creating specialty perfumes to other mass-produced consumer products. “There’s room to grow and do things in different spaces that aren’t just fragrance, but I would still want to be in the very space that we occupy in terms of having control over unique formulas.”