Category Archives: Interview

A Fragrant Moment at Min New York

Top L to R: Chad Murawczyk, Harry Sheff, sipping Macallan 12 and talking scents, Amouage’s Attar, Tribute

Life has a way of getting in the way at times and the last few months have been intense. In addition to moving, I was deeply involved in completing a research paper for my Masters degree. Needless to say, there wasn’t enough hours in the day to get to blogging…but I’m back!  Continue reading

Meet Maria McElroy

As the page from summer to fall turns and we inevitably begin reminiscing about the fun times of the foregone season, one of the highlights for me was my meeting Maria McElroy, other wise known as Aroma M. Continue reading

Meet Garrett Pike

When I received my first straight shave at Martial Vivot Salon I met Garrett Pike. While he attended to me, we had a pleasant chat where I learned he was a fragrance enthusiast. We exchanged thoughts on different scents and he even turned me on to a few I hadn’t yet sampled. What struck me about GP was he quiet confidence. He knows his craft and his attention to detail makes you feel you’re in good hands. When I met him recently for a chat, he dropped a bomb on me but more on that when he’s ready. Continue reading

A Chat With Ineke Ruhland

In my review of Field Notes From Paris, I mentioned that I met its perfumer, Ineke Ruhland at the Elements Showcase. During our conversation, her passion for her craft was evident. Her recollection of studying to become a perfumer, the fact that she grows her own flowers and the attention paid to the collection’s packaging gave me the feeling I’ve been missing; the joy of discovery. I was also blown away by her genuine desire to entertain my curiosity in her work. With that I knew I had to continue our conversation. I told the classically trained perfumer based in San Francisco I wanted to interview her and she obliged. Continue reading

Meet Voon Chew

My favorite cigar spot here in NYC is OK Cigars. The energy there is unlike any cigar shop I’ve ever been to. All of the fellas have their own style, we discuss everything from politics to women and the best part, there is no pretentiousness.

On this particular day, I was sitting outside enjoying a smoke when Voon Chew passed by. I immediately liked his ensemble. I noticed his perfectly weathered Bucks because I was considering getting a pair this summer but chickened out. Next thing you know, he disappeared into the crowd on West Broadway only to reappear asking to take the picture of my smoking buddy Dexter Wimberly and myself. I was flattered because I left the house that day feel eh. We’re now experiencing that in between weather, which always poses a problem wardrobe wise, and my only pair of jeans had me feeling like a sausage after a recent wash. That said I had to pull something together that I wasn’t too happy about.

Mr. Chew pulls out his iPhone to grab a quick snapshot but he just wasn’t getting the shot he wanted. I happened to be walking with my Canon Rebel XTI to grab a snap of a gent to profile here and decided to offer it to him. An impromptu photo shoot ensued and after 15 minutes of shooting I decided to turn the camera on him as I was certain a man with this taste surely appreciated fragrances.

What are your feelings about fragrance?
Fragrance is as much a crucial element as any accessory or clothing item in personalizing your appearance and style. It is quite complex, like trying to pair a good wine with a dish that complements not contradicts. So much love and experimenting is poured into the creating of a fragrance – what makes for the most intoxicating combination? And then you still have to throw you own body chemistry into the mix to see if it makes for a good marriage. I’ve learned that just because a cologne is lovely on its own doesn’t mean it is the right one for you.

What’s your earliest recollection of fragrance?
When I was a kid my mum would take me to the Buddhist temples and they would be burning incense. The scent permeated through the entire place and the smoke created this fog of calmness. It was so intense that it was hard not to remember that. And of course like any kid, I used to open up my mum’s perfume bottles sitting on the vanity table to sniff them.

What fragrances are currently in your rotation?
Gucci Pour Homme II, YSL L’Homme and Clinique Happy.

How often do you go out looking for something new?
Once in a while I would walk into Sephora, as I love the setup there. And it is not as overwhelming as walking into the fragrance section of a departmental store where wafts of different perfumes take over, and make you want to get away from that as soon as possible.

What specifically do you look for?
I love ingredients like cedar, cardamom, bergamot that evoke a little bit of muskiness and some citrus to keep it fresh and vibrant. Recently I was intrigued by Gucci Flora for women. It contains mandarin and peony, which are very Asian-inspired and grounded by sandalwood. I always recommend that to my lady friends.

Would you ever consider wearing it?
I tested it on my skin to see how it would react with my body chemistry and even though it has a tinge of unisex appeal, its floral notes monopolized the scent to me, especially the rose which is very distinctive. However, I have to applaud Gucci for coming up with such a lovely flowery fragrance without evoking overly powdery undertones or god forbid a packet of English Garden potpourri!

Have you ever purchased the same fragrance more than once? If so, what was it and what about it made it worthy of a repeat buy?
Gucci Pour Homme II. It has been very well received. When people want to get up close to sniff your neck, even casual acquaintances, you know you have a winner on your hands.

How would you finish this statement? “My most memorable fragrant moment would be…?
My most memorable fragrant moment would be when I met this person in Chicago whom I swear oozes natural pheromones that should have been bottled as a fragrance. This is very reminiscent of a scene in the movie Michael (where John Travolta’s character makes all the women swoon as he smelled like cookies). This person did not smell like cookies of course. That was the one and only time I met someone who actually smelled heavenly au naturale.

Just another day on West Broadway. Thanks Voon.

Meet Anne McClain – MCMC Fragrances

“I’m painting a story with smells.”

 

I first became aware of Anne McClain because of her workshops, which take place the first Monday of every month at Le Labo. Subsequently after that, I would receive e-mails periodically about her brand MCMC Fragrances. One particular e-mail mentioned she was launching a new fragrance called Maui and that she would be at the Brooklyn Flea. Maui was the place I got married, so it holds special meaning to me. I’ve heard a lot about the Brooklyn Flea but never been. These two facts posed an opportunity to meet Ann and I’m glad I seized the moment. On this hot summer day, after looking around for her booth, I finally stumbled upon it and it was an oasis in the middle of stuff. There she was, a Brooklynite that produced and sold her products in Brooklyn. I was brimming with pride when I met her. As a born and raised Brooklynite myself, stories like hers makes you puff out your chest just a tad bit more. As we began talking, she told me a story about being in fragrance school in Grasse and how her classmates looked at her oddly when she mentioned she wanted to take what she learned back to Brooklyn and start a business. It recalled a line from the rap song Crooklyn Dodgers that seems so apropos, “Straight from crooklyn better known as Brooklyn never taking shorts cause Brooklyn’s the borough.”

Where did you learn the art of creating fragrances?

I originally began by studying on my own. I took evening and weekend workshops on any topic related to perfumery (which in New York City actually tended to be aromatherapy classes), read lots of books, and even did a correspondence course with natural perfumer Mandy Aftel. At a certain point, I felt that I had exhausted all the learning I could do in America and I applied to the Grasse Institute of Perfumery in southern France.

I spent one year in Grasse in an intensive training program with just twelve students. It was very hands on and classes ranged from raw materials to chemistry to genealogy and creation. We also visited farms and production facilities. In the small village of Grasse, there were really no distractions for me (I didn’t have a phone, TV, or even internet in my apartment!) so I was really able to focus on my studies, and concepting for my line, MCMC Fragrances.

Share the story about people frowning in Grasse when you mentioned wanting to create your own line in Brooklyn.

The one thing that was difficult about studying in rural, southern France (as opposed to New York City) is that no one could really relate to me wanting to start my own line. Independent perfumery is not very common (although I see more and more niche lines all the time) and it’s still a male-dominated and family-owned trade. For a newbie like me to come from Brooklyn and say I wanted to start my own line right away was very shocking to my classmates and teachers. But like so many other creative people, I just wanted to do my thing and had no fear!

What is the concept behind MCMC Fragrances?

Before studying perfumery, I was a photographer. I love to travel and the feeling of those fleeting, ethereal moments that we are so lucky to have in life. My photographs were an attempt to flatten these experiences and preserve them. However, after my very first perfume class, I realized that this was the medium for me to work in.

So all of the fragrances from MCMC Fragrances are based on an actual experience from my life. Maine is based on a day in Maine falling in love; Noble is about four months I spent living in Nepal with a Tibetan family and the jasmine and incense that permeated the house, and Hunter is about an old friend who lived in the woods and harvested maple syrup. I’m painting a story with smells.

What sparked your desire to create your own collection?

I have so many stories I want to tell in scent, and so much inspiration, that I knew I had to create my own collection. Working for a corporate perfume house as a perfumer, you are receiving briefs from clients to create their dreams, and their visions. I just couldn’t wait to put my own creations out into the world.

What’s your earliest recollection of fragrance?

Well, I know that the first perfume I ever wanted was Angel by Thierry Mugler. My sister gave it to me when I was 15 for Christmas. This baffles me now because it’s so strong and I’m surprised my 15-year old self was attracted to that, but I’ve always loved woody, oriental scents.

As for my first meaningful recollection of fragrance, while I was in Nepal (I was 21), I bought a jasmine candle at a place called Mike’s Breakfast. At the time I didn’t know that the scent was jasmine – I didn’t know the name of any scents then, really – but I was so in love with this candle. To the point where even after it had burned, I brought home the little wax stump and kept it in my closet for months. To this day, jasmine absolute is one of my favorite ingredients.

How would you finish this statement. “My most memorable fragrant moment would be…?

…smelling a beach plum rose on the coast of Maine while falling in love, mingling with the scents of cool air and dried seaweed.

Thanks Anne.

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33 Seconds with Eileen Harcourt

Introduced through a mutual friend because of our shared passion for fragrances, I met Eileen Harcourt two years ago. Our first meeting lasted for almost five hours. We sat in her living room and talked our heads off. I sampled many of her creations and she explained her holistic approach to perfume making. The more she talked, the more I became intrigued. There I was, a newbie to blogging about fragrances and I was welcomed into the home of an actual perfumer. (That’s unheard of right? Perfumers can be so standoffish, especially when you’re not from one of the majors.) She was the first one I ever met and she was totally open to talking to me. I was humbled and in awe at the same time. She had me hooked from Davana Bud, or so I thought. You see I knew Eileen without ever meeting her. I met her, or rather one of her creations, in 2002 when I stumbled into the hip little shop Base on Lincoln Road in Miami. That was my first time down there with my girlfriend, now wife, and I was on sensory overload. But all of that was settled when I picked up a bottle of Sand. This roll on fragrance took me to sandy beaches and blue skies and being the impulse buyer that I am, I snagged it immediately. Since then my taste has dramatically changed but for some reason I held onto Sand. When I began telling Eileen about how much I love this scent, a smiled erupted across her face and she simply said, “I created that.”

Eileen and I have met many more times since then and she is constantly encouraging me to continue following my fragrant passion. When she told me she would be setting up shop at the Hester Street Fair, I knew I had to drop by and hang out with her for a while. As is usually the case when we get together, what was supposed to be a quick pass through turned into a two and a half hour visit. I had so much fun watching the reaction of the people coming into her booth and smelling her creations. By the time I reached there, she was already sold out of a few scents. But after being there for a bit, Eileen and I began talking about fragrances and here is a piece of the conversation.

Thanks Eileen for entertaining my passion and being my first video interview.

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Meet Chad Murawczyk of MIN New York

I recently attended a press preview conducted by MIN New York. I’ve been meaning to go by the store and took the invitation as a sign I had better go. I’m so glad I did.

This Crosby street alteier is a spacious emporium filled with goodies. I love discovering brands I’ve  never heard of and they had quite a few like Linari and Parfums d’Orsay.

What I love about the store is its openness.  Not only is it a nice sized store but the staff is extremely nice. There’s no pressure and they’re available if you need them, but not in a stuffy stand-offish way.

That open, transparent feeling carried itself through to my meeting with MIN’s owner, Chad Murawczyk. Perhaps my initial impression was shaped by his attire that day, he was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but it was more so what came out of his mouth when explaining MIN’s curated selection of products. There wasn’t an ounce of pretentiousness and that made me feel welcome. We were two cats that connected on a love of scents and grooming products. I cannot say I’ve had the same experience in some of the New York’s other fragrance destinations.

Here’s a snippet of my conversation with Chad:

Explain the concept behind MIN New York?
Inspired by the New York minute, MiN New York was created on the belief ‘The world doesn’t need more products. It needs better products.’ I wanted a place where you could escape the hustle of the City and slow things down to a space that offers a curated range of honest, artisan things that have endured the test of time. We wanted an Apothecary that respects the rituals of beauty and grooming. Where you could explore your personal style through the Art that is Perfume or shave. An Atelier that celebrates the senses and a Collector can find worthwhile additions.

What is the history of the store? Who are the owners? How did they get into the business?
I founded MiN New York back in 1999 on professional hair color and specialty hair care for men. MiN New York focused on identifying, formulating, and communicating effective solutions for everyday grooming challenges. I have been exploring bundled benefits and how efficacy affects time. Over the years, my passion and business evolved to defining simple luxury in the New York minute. Alas our Apothecary & Atelier was born! Our space is where I curate niche brands, fragrances, and curiosities.

What do guys look for when they shop at MIN? What kinds of questions do they ask?
Our Guests are savvy shoppers. They appreciate that true artisans make the products that we feature. Our customers know what they want and they are eager to explore. They want to know about the notes, the brands, and the inspirations behind each product or scent. They like it that we offer a well-edited selection and our collections evolve continuously. We’ve been told that having a choice to leisurely shop alone or receive a guided flight of personal fragrance is ‘a real treat’. We believe that it is important that our customers test fragrances on their skin prior to purchasing. Upon request, we help our Guests build a wardrobe of only what they love, what works for them.

What are their top-selling fragrances for men?
Miller HarrisFeuilles de Tabac [unique yet traditional] and Notte Bianca [rare, modern and complex] by Linari are a couple of our top sellers. Our customers enjoy scents that are distinctive yet unobtrusive. They appreciate fragrances that are made from the best ingredients by Perfumers, not laboratories. We are fortunate to have Guests that understand that fine fragrances are like wine and spirits. They appreciate our informative guidance and spend much time discovering new scents with our Guides. Unlike the department store environment, artisan fragrances are personal and very dynamic. We are thrilled to see that our Guests have fragrance wardrobes that tailor to various moods and external factors such as the weather.

What are the most interesting men’s fragrances you have? Anything really different out there?
Le Petit Rien by Miller Harris won ‘Best New Fragrance – Limited Distribution’ in the prestigious CEW awards in 2009. This timeless fragrance pays tribute to the great tradition of the cologne. Themed around the orange tree, it incorporates every element from the flower to the leaves. Sweet orange and angelica racine are fused with bergamot from Italy and Sicilian lemon, grounded with rosemary, red thyme, French tarragon and lavender. The heart is petitgrain essence and Tunisian neroli, whilst the base is oak moss, vetiver and patchouli leaves.
The coolness of hesperidia alongside vetiver makes Le Petit Grain a supreme summer choice and a joyful morning addition for any in-between season.

Frapin and Parfum d’Empire are 2 other striking collections that will be available this Fall. From these collections, many scents are very different and suitable for cooler weather. A great way to discover unique scents is to drop in for a flight or call up fragrance samples.

What’s your earliest recollection of fragrance?
My earliest recollection of fragrance was when my mother would head out for dinner with my father. She would check in with me and I would catch a whiff of Shalimar. It is quite a memorable and sophisticated scent.

What fragrances are currently in your rotation?
Currently, I wear Kilian’s Straight to Heaven, and Miller Harris’ Vetiver Bourbon.

Have you ever purchased the same fragrance more than once? If so, what was it and what about it made it worthy of a repeat buy?
Yes. Paul Sebastian. It was masculine, refined and subtle.

How would you finish this statement, “My most memorable fragrant moment would be…?
I was in Hong Kong touring some shops. A big expensive car pulled up, the chauffeur got out and out stepped a seriously well-kept woman. Her fragrance was foreign and intoxicating. The juxtaposition between the odiferous Hong Kong air and her fragrance made for quite the memory…

Thanks Chad.

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Meet Dennis Cahlo

It has been about a year or so since I reached out to Dennis Cahlo. I came across his blog and really liked what he was bringing to the blogosphere. Madetomeasureny is a style blog offering men great tips and advice on how to look great on a budget. How can you go wrong with that? I love that he offers looks of the day, talks about great finds like tweed blazers he’s found on eBay or takes his viewers through the redesign of his apartment. So often we such things in magazines and think we can’t do that sort of stuff ourselves. If Dennis can do it, why can’t you? Anyhow, meet Dennis Cahlo:

Where do you get your sense of style from?
My style is a culmination of everything I have seen through my years as a musician and my love of classic movies. Those two elements help me shape my own personal style greatly from suit cuts to watches. I tend to lean towards the slim 60′s look very much. There is something so clean about it that I cannot deny.

What made you start the blog?
I remember I was flipping through GQ one day and got really frustrated at the pricing of the pieces (I’d like to clarify that I really admire the work GQ puts out there). So I just took what I’ve learned about photography and started shooting my inexpensive clothing in the vein of GQ and Details with information of where to get them and how much they are. From that seed of an idea my own journey into menswear, fit, and measurements started and Made To Measure, NY started to take shape.

What’s the secret to finding clothing bargains?
While I don’t think there is a big secret, I think there is a good amount of research one has to put into to hunting down a bargain. It’s also good to do things like having measurements for your suits and shoes handy at all times in a notebook or on a card. If you do that it’s way easier to shop on places like E-bay and other online outlets. It’s also good not to focus so much on brand but rather on fit. Imparali tailors here in New York will make you a fully canvassed made to measure suit for about $500 at start with full on customization. Places like that are not hard to find if you really dig.

What’s your feelings about fragrance?
Fragrance is one of the essentials in any man’s wardrobe. I think it’s really necessary for a man to have AT LEAST two colognes in his arsenal: one for the day and one for the night.

What’s your earliest recollection of fragrance?
I remember my dad and grandfather always smelling great. My dad would pick me up and give me a hug before he would go to work and I can recall how great he smelled and looked after a proper grooming. He didn’t use very expensive colognes but I always get nostalgic when I smell British Sterling or Jovan Musk.

What fragrances are currently in your rotation?
I have six in my rotation at the moment: John Varvatos Artisan (for Spring/Summer), Dolce And Gabanna Light Blue, Banana Republic Classic, Clean Shower Fresh for Men, Curve Crush, and Demeter Pure Soap. Demeter you can find for $15 at Duane Reade and it smells just like you got out of the shower. It’s probably my favorite out of all of them.

How often do you go out looking for something new? What specifically do you look for?
I look for something new every 6 months or so. My next acquisition will be Yves St. Laurent Pour Homme. That is one of the best scents to wear with a Tux.

Have you ever purchased the same fragrance more than once? If so, what was it and what about it made it worthy of a repeat buy?
Dolce And Gabanna Light Blue is my more than once fragrance. I love its crisp notes and every time I put it on my fiancee loves to bury her head on my neck. It’s also the one that I get the most compliments on so I know it works with my natural body chemistry.

How would you finish this statement? “My most memorable fragrant moment would be…?
I was 18 years old and in the Big Bear Mountains of California. Due to jet lag I woke up way before the rest of my group and walked outside to greet the most amazing sunrise and smell of fresh mountain air I have ever experiences. I think that moment really influenced what I look for in a scent. I may even be trying to recreate it every time I look for one.

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Meet Matthew Waldman

Nooka_MattWaldman

When I was on my way to meet with Matt, I was nervous. I was about to interview the cat behind nooka. Dude oozes cool, is featured on all the “cool” blogs and here I was about to sit and chat with the cat. Well, an ease came over me when he greeted me in a regular ole white t-shirt and jeans. His office was filled with so many toys. I just wanted to reach out and grab a few. While we chatted, I sat on a swiss ball. I’ll admit now, my lower back started to hurt after awhile but I couldn’t let on.

Matt is passionate about design. He’s smart, funny but he really is a cool. He’s a big communicator as well. But it’s his non-verbal communication that speaks volumes. It reinforces his philosophy seamlessly.

It was refreshing to watch his matrix unfold as we kicked it. I could have spoken with him for at least another hour but the time we shared was well spent. Here is a snippet from our conversation.
While Nooka is known for its watches, what made you venture info fragrance?
Up until the fragrance, nooka was perceived as a watch company, which is understandable, since that’s the easiest way to describe the first product line. But to me and people who understand the brand, nooka has always been about universal language, communication and futurism. I wanted to create something that expressed my ideals, and fragrance really struck a cord – sure you can read the romance copy about a scent, but at the end of the day, it communicates to the user and environment without words – perfectly “nooka“.

Explain your belief that scent is the universal language of the future?
Well, it is a universal language at least on our planet for all living things large and small and will certainly be so in the future. I feel that with convergence, we will need fewer and fewer physical objects [for example, the iPhone eliminated the need for me to carry a laptop and a mp3 player]. This doesn’t mean humans will have a lessening desire to acquire new things. I see a focus on fashion and fragrance returning in a big way because of these trends.

Some brands either categorize their scents for men, women or label them unisex. Who is The Future Distilled catered to?
Well, I hate the word “unisex.” There is no “unisex” with people. We are not worms. We are men, or we are women. It is not my job to tell anyone I haven’t met what they should experience as “masculine” or “feminine.” therefore, it is for men if you are male, and it is for women if you are female.

Give us a little insight into the bottles design.
Glam-future! Man-made satellites, giant gemstones, chrome coated surfaces, shiny shimmering mystery!

What fragrances are you personally wearing these days?
nooka all the time now. I really love it. Sometimes Prada Infusion d’Iris

How often do you go out looking for something new? What specifically do you look for?
To me, something new is not limited to shopping. For example, I noticed recently that I rely too much on my right leg when bicycling, so as of yesterday I decided to make an effort to push off with and leave my left foot in the stirrup. It’s a body memory action, so very hard to change, but challenging myself to change small things somehow makes my mind sharper and has a halo-effect on other things. Does that make any sense?

Have you ever purchased the same fragrance more than once? If so, what was it and what about it made it worthy of a repeat buy?
Oh yes: eau de correges! It reminds me of being at summer beaches AND cut grass in a park all blended together.

How would you finish this statement? “My most memorable fragrant moment would be…?
The first things that come to mind are too dirty to print, but consistently, I love the way the city smells when I’m riding my bicycle in the rain.

What’s next for nooka?
We are adding to our accessory lines, just launched a cool belt called the nooka strip and a wallet called the nooka asset organizer, and more to come next year. I’m building what I like to call a mindstyle™ brand!

We are not worms…I couldn’t have said it any better Matt. Thanks for the time and the great scent.

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