Fleur Fragrance Jan02

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Fleur Fragrance

Designing a fragrance is a mystery to most people, who are happy enough to visit a department store or a boutique perfume site, and simply purchase something that appeals to them… or not. Vanessa Damoth was perhaps more inspired by the ‘have nots’ of the perfume world than the ‘haves’ – she was so discouraged by what the current fragrance market had to offer that she decided to craft a custom scent of her own, and offer it to the public.

Only a year along, Fleur Fragrance is quickly gaining fans – and they have little old ladies (Damoth not included) to thank.

“My disdain of commercial fragrances probably started when I was a little girl,” Damoth says. “I cannot stand ‘classic’ fragrances, because they always smelled ‘old lady’ to me – maybe it was all the time I spent at Mass, surrounded by clouds of grey hair and Chanel No. 5, but there’s something about designer fragrances that always smell artificial to me.”

Inspired most, she says, by ‘natural scents’ (“I love the smells of nature, especially flowers”), the gardenia family of flowers appealed to her so much that she chose one in particular as her fragrance muse.

“There are many varieties of gardenia, and each one smells a little different,” she explains. “I fell in love with the variety from Tahiti – Tiare Flower. It’s a slightly sweeter and less strong version of gardenia, which I thought was a perfect jumping-off point for designing my fragrance.”

In case you’re surprised that Damoth seems to be giving away her fragrance secrets already – well, she just doesn’t care. She says that one of the most startling things she discovered as she began her fragrance project was just how secretive the fragrance industry is.

“I would write to fragrance companies to ask what I thought were seemingly harmless questions, and was rebuffed with ‘that’s a trade secret!’ emails,” she laughs. “My logic was, who better to ask than the experts – I’m not one to keep secrets. And I’m pretty confident no one’s going to ‘steal’ my blend – it took me about 200 tries to get it just right. They could try if they really had the time, I suppose.”

Fragrance design is both an art, and a science of sorts. Classic perfumers, or ‘Noses,’ as they’re called, are experts in creating perfume compositions, having been trained in-depth (usually as a perfume apprentice) to put forth abstract concepts and moods through scent. Damoth arrived at her fragrance skills via a somewhat roundabout route. Having owned a fashion boutique (“fashion has always been sort of an obsession of mine in every regard”), Damoth developed a keen eye for clothing, accessories, and fragrances in part inspired by her grandmother, who taught her to sew and embroider at an early age.

When Damoth’s boutique had to close due to the bleak economy, she temporarily went into a ‘regular’ job – and found it a struggle to shift her perspective from the creative outlet that her boutique had become to sitting in what she called the ‘grey cubicle of death.’

“I was so grateful to not have difficulty finding another job, but it was difficult giving up what I loved (fashion.) I suppose it was the lack of a creative outlet – and my constant daydreaming – that helped me form the idea to create my own fragrance as a business, because clothing and fragrance were two of the ways I expressed my creativity while working in a white-collar office.”

Not one to be deterred by what might be thought of as the ‘rules’ of perfume craft, Damoth did some research on the process, and embarked on her own, for the most part.
“It’s a lot of trial and error for those who don’t have years of experience blending fragrances,” she explains. “Each part of the fragrance is called a ‘note.’ You have top notes, middle notes, and base notes, and they all present themselves at different times while you’re wearing the fragrance.”

Top notes, Damoth continues, are the initial notes of the fragrance that you smell – they fade quite quickly. Middle notes are the ‘heart’ of the fragrance, what ties it all together; and the base notes blend with the middle notes to create the lasting scent.

“Designing a fragrance, you have to blend each of these (notes) until you get something that works well together, and that also smells nice when applied,” she says. “Once you’ve formulated the ‘recipe’ for your scent, you add a carrier oil to it, because the full concentration of the fragrance oil can’t be applied directly to you. I use fractionated coconut oil, which is colorless, odorless, and absorbs well. I believe fragrance oils (in roll-on) form communicate the true intention of the notes of the fragrance, because a lot of the time, alcohol added to spray perfumes can change the scent.”

Currently bringing in more ‘creative minds’ to help her expand Fleur Fragrance’s line – which she says is doing great in its first year – Damoth describes The Little Fragrance That Could as a “fresh take on a floral scent.”

“Fleur has notes of the Tahitian Tiare flower that I mentioned before, plus monoi oil, orange blossom, vanilla orchid, and ylang-ylang. That makes up the majority of the blend,” she says. “I didn’t want it to be too sweet or too flowery – just a fresh scent you can wear anytime. A lot of different people like Fleur, so it’s really quite up to what you enjoy in a fragrance.”

“I find my customers are a lot like me,” she smiles, “they wear Fleur because they love how it’s so different from anything else they’ve tried.” – Kristi Kates

Fleur Fragrance is available at a range of shops in the U.S. Midwest and West Coast, and is also available for purchase via Damoth’s Fleur Fragrance website.