JUS perfume interview
Your name Ericka Duffy
Your work Artist, Barista, Top Banana for Lush Handmade Cosmetics
- What first attracted you to the world of perfume / scent / fragrance?
I don’t know what first attracted to me to the world of scent to the point of where that is mainly what I focus on nowadays, but I know that as a child I was certainly aware of smells. I was very familiar with the perfume bottles that dotted each of my grandmother’s desk, I knew the two my mom oscillated between, and each mood that went with each. I knew also the colognes of my grandfather and father and the smells of the shaving cupboards they were stored in. But I suspect this is true of most children, curious by nature. I grew up with a profound interest in food, and this came from my paternal Italian-Canadian grandmother who cooks her tomato sauce with cloves dotting an onion, with a bay leaf swirling around- I can’t tell you the rest of the recipe. It took long enough to get it from her. I am not sure how it’s gotten to be that scent has become a focus for both work and as a passion in general, but if I could narrow it down I think it would be that in taking on part-time jobs that I thought would earn me pocket money on my way to becoming, so I thought, a lawyer. Firstly, I started working for Lush Handmade Cosmetics in Canada- and this introduced me to scents that were here forthwith unfamiliar to me in scent experience if not in name. I knew what, say, jasmine was supposed to smell like, but I didn’t know how jasmine actually smelled like until, by working at Lush, I developed a skill set, as does most everyone who works there does, in being able to differentiate scents. I then moved to Auckland, New Zealand and continued with Lush, law studies, and became a barista. I was unaware yet of the grip this would have over my life, but coffee became something for me there. I say a lot that coffee is an edible perfume (as are many things we drink, really). Now, years later, I’m doing what I was doing then- sort of. I’m working with Gorilla Perfume as part of my role with Lush now, but the barista part, I guess that’s almost pretty much the same.
- What perfume would you rescue from your collection if an evil perfume tax collector came round and said he was going to take every scent but one?
I’d keep Karma by Gorilla Perfume, created by Mark Constantine. I’ve loved and worn a lot of fragrance in my life, and will continue to do so, but Karma has been a constant with me- as I’ve worked at Lush for so long. By virtue of this, at points in the Lush time span, sometimes the only perfume in the shop was Karma. So the nice thing about working with Lush is that you can do a face mask, a deep conditioning hair treatment, hand treatments, etc, all in the line of your job, or if you happen to be going out right after your shift. The easiest thing to do is to spray Karma before leaving. And therefore, Karma thus became a part of my life. It’s been with me through many years and a lot of things. Even if I don’t wear it for months, I couldn’t bear to see it go.
- If you won the lottery, what would be the first perfume in your shopping bag?
Le Parfum de Therese by Edmond Routniska for Frederick Malle.
- If you could only wear one scent for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I’m going to answer impulsively, as I think all “for the rest of your life” decisions should by made and say Diorissimo by Edmond Routniska for Dior.
- What is a smell, or combination of smells, you wish was a perfume that you’ve never come across in any bottle before?
The smell of my grandmother’s tomato sauce! No joke.
- Can you describe a moment of passion or poignancy in your life linked to a scent?
A moment of poignancy was when my lovely maternal grandmother, the most feminine and stylish of women, who never hesitated to talk to me for hours on the telephone when I was 7 years old and awake at 5 in the morning, who never failed to send a classy Valentine’s card, who taught me how to hold a cocktail glass, who was a warm, clever, funny lady- when she died, when I was 12 years old, I took her bottle of Beautiful by Estee Lauder from her vanity as my keepsake of her.
- What is your earliest memory of perfume?
My earliest memory of perfume is trying to make perfume, as children do, with water and collected flower petals that they screw in a jar and forget about until their mother finds it, a month or so later. The perfume of decomposition, of mould.
- Is there a perfume you wore in the past that you no longer wear, and why?
Yes! Of course. Oh dear. The list is long. Love’s Baby Soft from ages10-13, Vanilla Fields from 13-16, gifts that were bequeathed and I couldn’t let go to waste despite their unsuitability to me, like Cool Water, Light Blue by D&G, Angel. Of course it could be because of their memories they evoke from each time frame I wore them. But I think really its because they probably didn’t suit me also.
- Is there a particular figure or house in the world of perfume that you admire, and why?
I really admire the scent artist Sissal Tolaas. I think she is just amazing. In terms of perfume in the classical sense, I know it may seem biased because of where I work, but I would say Simon Constantine because the viewpoints for his fragrances The Smell of Freedom and Breath of God (which was just included in Luca Turin’s 100 Best) come from such an abstract and artistic place. He’s doing intriguing work with perfume.
- Is there any art (literature, poetry, theatre, visual art, music, etc) that you have experienced that uses scent in a provocative or beautiful way? If not, can you think of an idea for scent in art?
I think that there are many things where scent is used in an evocative way-but that we don’t super pay attention to. I don’t think we consciously think enough about scent. The scent of a place or event has a large part to do with how we interpret it. Carnivals and circuses, for instance, these things have particular smells, as does each and every different environment we are in. In a weird way, I consider perfume to be an art unto itself. That’s why I tour department stores perfume counters because they’re free art galleries. Presently, I think there’s interesting people working in scent, like Christopher Broszius, like Sissal Tolaas, amongst others, who ask us to consciously consider our sense of scent. I very much enjoyed scenting the film “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” for the Edinburgh International Film Festival at Inspace and I would love to do something like that again. I’m also thinking of a scented interpretive dance piece with edible perfumes. That last line sounds like a joke but it isn’t. These are the things I think about!