Monday, February 3, 2014

Win Candles From A Room With A View + Interview With Founder Graham Way


I wonder whether the home scent market is harder to break into than the world of fine fragrance. At least when someone launches a new perfume brand, they can invoke some of the glamour which, rightly or wrongly, tends to go hand-in-hand with the milieu of J'Adore, No 5 and Shalimar. But candles? They're just gifts for people for whom you couldn't think of something more personal, right? Okay, I confess I'm exaggerating for effect, but there's no denying that parfums d'ambiance are often seen as functional items, on a par with vases, rugs and wall hangings. They exist to provide olfactory background music. So it must be difficult to get potential customers to treat them in the same way they treat the contents of the pretty bottles from the likes of Mugler.

Graham Way is confident that he can make people pay attention. Having worked for Penhaligon's, Crown Perfumery and Floris, he's now formed A Life With A View, a brand which currently consists of four home scents - available as candles and reed diffusers - inspired by geographic locations. As far as concepts go, his isn't especially novel, which means the products themselves can't rely on clever marketing spin for sustenance; they have to be robust and convincing in their own right.

The 'England' and 'Italy' scents certainly don't disappoint. Based on a cottage and a villa, respectively, they succeed in conveying a textured, multi-dimensional impression of a locale. The latter pumps out a summery, Neapolitan fig note over a well-handled, dusk-and-dawn mix of musks. The former, as I mentioned in a recent post, captures the delicious sensation of walking into a room at a B&B, smelling the scents from the garden outside the window and then burying your face into the freshly laundered sheets. Sadly, the other two creations are less successful. The Provençal gîte is a melange of sticky, over-sweet mint and vanilla notes, while the New York loft makes excessive use of garish synthetic sandalwood materials.

Still, a 50% hit rate isn't too bad for a first effort, and I gather Way has plans to extend his range before too long, so it'll be interesting to see what he comes up with. In the meantime, I'm pleased to announce that he agreed to answer some questions, by email, about his new venture and also to provide a prize for a give-away. More details on this below. But first, the interview.

Persolaise: The fine fragrance and home scent markets are currently heavily over-saturated. Why do we need another home scent brand?

Graham Way: We don’t need another scent brand; I believe we need to redirect consumers' thinking about home scent. Too much emphasis is now placed on single note (or limited complex) ideas. Very few brands address consumers' lifestyle, aspirations and thinking, but A Life With A View attempts to stir the thought processes and approach the idea of perfuming a space in such a way that ideas are evoked, not that there is simply ‘a scent in the room’.

P: At what clientele is A Life With A View aiming to pitch itself? Is it a luxury brand? If so, what does ‘luxury’ mean to you?

GW: A Life With A View has been created for a customer who maybe feels the need to be challenged. Luxury is that little something that is not a part of everyday experience; that little something extra. In a sense, all home fragrance is a luxury, it is not strictly necessary but enhances a room. A Life With A View’s client can be anyone, anyone who wants to recall a view, anyone who needs to transport themselves to another place.

P: What’s the reason for choosing the name, ‘A Life With A View’? In your opinion, how does ‘a view’ relate to ‘a smell’?

GW: The idea really just came to me - I had wanted to use the name for many years. All views have a smell. Open a window and there is a smell, it might not be pleasant but it is there. By opening a ‘window’ to one of the destinations of the initial collections, A Life With A View would hope to stir a memory.

P: Your brand appears to want to project an image of ‘Englishness’. In what ways does it differ from foreign brands, such as Diptyque, L’Artisan Parfumeur or Amouage? Is there something particularly ‘English’ about it?

GW: Absolutely everything about the brand, including the creator, is English. Sadly there is still an idea that English perfumes are not as desirable as those from, say, France. While the French make superb perfumes, the English have been doing the same, for hundreds of years. What we have striven for is clarity in design, not only visual but also olfactory - even the most untrained perfume buyer should be able to identify the notes within the perfumes with confidence. To be English is to be understated, perhaps quietly confident, underpinned by a history stretching back 2000 years or more.

P: In what ways do English customers differ from those based in other countries?

GW: English customers can be sceptical, finding change difficult. English customers tend to know what they want or perhaps what they like; mostly they are not experimental but prefer the security of familiarity. (This applies mainly to English customers outside London; in the metropolis, different thinking tends to hold sway). We would hope to present the English customer with a familiar idea within which they could begin to explore.

P: Could you expand on the idea of customers wishing to be “challenged” by home scents? Do your customers genuinely want their interior spaces to smell ‘challenging’? I'm finding this difficult to reconcile with your statement that the A Life With A View products display “clarity” and the ability instantly to evoke a sense of place.

GW: By challenging, I don't mean I want the fragrances to ‘invade’ or appear difficult, but I hope that customers experience the fragrances and feel that they want to spend time identifying notes within the scent as well as associating it with their own personal experience. I want customers to take time to explore and have fun with the fragrances, relating differing elements within them to views. I believe there is a clarity within the compositions which enables the customer to identify favoured elements and to experience the complexity of the creations for themselves.

P: Reed diffusers are often viewed with a considerable amount of disdain: they’re seen as impractical and unsophisticated. Why was the decision made to offer reed diffusers in your range?

GW: This may be true but every home fragrance house of repute offers a diffuser, or equivalent, as in the Diptyque model. Candles cannot and must not be left unattended so on a purely practical level; diffusers offer continuous fragrance in a room with minimal attention.

P: How would you respond to the assertion that the packaging of your products is not in keeping with their price?

GW: The design was absolutely deliberate. A Life With A View began in interior decoration, working with designers and architects creating wonderful interiors. The inspiration for the first fragrances is as ‘Architectural Fragrances for the 21st century’. The packaging is simple, minimal, unfussy and architecturally designed to merchandise easily in an interiors department. The row of vertical green lines imitates a row of perfect columns. The packaging is also completely ethical and recyclable and does not require import thus has minimal carbon footprint, a major consideration in the 21st century. Given all this, it is made from the finest materials and printed to the highest standards to conform to our ethical ideal.

P: What are we to understand by the term “architecturally designed” packaging? On the face of it, the packaging of your products appears fairly standard (boxes, inlays etc.) so what makes it ‘architectural’?

GW: The fragrances are architectural in that they relate directly to buildings within a particular setting or view. To reflect this and in order to make the packaging as clear as possible and give it the ability to relate to forthcoming collections, the typeface and design are deliberately very linear and very clear. The packaging simply had to be as clear as we could possibly make it, using straight lines and colour blocking.

P: The New York candle is the only one based on a city; the other three are based on countries or regions. The New York candle also smells very different from the other three: it’s composed of hard-hitting (some would say: harsh) musk and sandalwood notes, whereas the others are more concerned with ‘outdoors’ smells. What’s the reason for this apparent discrepancy?

GW: Having worked in a famous department store in the 1980s and 1990s, I came to understand that New York and the US were very different; recently having tea with a New Yorker this was confirmed. New York is a destination location. Our accountant, a young man with a young family who runs football teams and seemed a most unlikely candidate suddenly announced that he loved buying scented candles. We knew then that we had to create a scent especially for men. Although it already has female devotees, the fragrance for New York is far more masculine. Other houses are now creating candles for men and I believe we have provided a product here that men would enjoy in their homes.

P: Are you able to provide the identities of the perfumers who worked on the scents and give some insights into the different ways in which they approached their respective projects?

GW: The perfumes were developed by both Robertet and by Ruth Mastenbroek. Robertet generally do not discuss the development process. All information is passed by their perfumers to their marketing department who put together a very skeletal idea of their compositions and these are then passed to their evaluator who presents the finished fragrances. Ruth Mastenbroek on the other hand, as an independent perfumer, has discussed in some detail the varying elements of her compositions, allowing me to make a more direct assessment of the success of certain ingredients. Perfumers are very secretive in their work and this is, I think, part of the charm of the art.

P: Apart from A Life With A View, which home scent brands would you say offer their customers a cohesive, well-edited range consisting of high-quality products?

GW: Diptyque; their move into fine fragrance has been very well done. Jonathan Ward: utterly beautiful products, wonderfully thought through. Annick Goutal can’t be ignored. Agraria have the most incredible perfumes; Bitter Orange is wonderful.

P: Finally, I'm aware that you've written a dissertation about perfume in the Roman Empire. Could you tell us something about it?

GW: I could, but not with justice here; there were years of research and lengthy documents associated with this. Aromatics were important in the late Roman Republic and Empire and were sourced from far afield, as was revealed in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a captain’s log of the time. Aromatics were also taxed as a luxury except for incense which was considered a necessity for use in religious ritual. There is mention of the uses of perfumery in many original sources, in particular the uses of aromatics in a social setting, particularly the Roman interpretations of Greek Symposia, or dinner parties.

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A Life With A View have offered a set of all four of their debut candles to one lucky Persolaise.com reader. For your chance to win this prize, please read the Terms & Conditions below and then leave a comment at the end of this post on the subject of your favourite home smells. Anything goes: a treasured room spray, a pizza in the oven or maybe just coffee on a Sunday morning.

Good luck!

My thanks go to Graham Way and A Life With A View for making this give-away possible.

Terms & Conditions

i) the draw will be closed at 10 pm (UK time) on Sunday 9th February; ii) the winner will be selected at random; iii) the winner will be announced on Persolaise.com on 10th February; iv) if the winner has not made contact with Persolaise.com by 16th February, an alternative winner may be selected; v) the winner's address will be shared only with A Life With A View, who will post the prize to the winner; vi) readers from anywhere in the world are eligible to enter; vii) by entering this competition, you indicate that you are able to receive perfumed candle products in your country of residence; viii) Persolaise.com takes no responsibility for the contents of the prize, particularly as regards potential allergens and/or harmful components; ix) if the prize is lost in transit, it will not be possible for a replacement to be posted; x) relatives of anyone associated with Persolaise.com are not permitted to enter.

Persolaise



16 comments:

  1. What a great competition! I live with dogs and cats so room fragrance is very important to me and possibly more so to my friends and guests!! My favourite at the moment is a spray called Cafe de Paris from Parfum de Nicolai. It is coffee, tobacco, brandy - all good things but it has been discontinued so I am seeking a new favourite - maybe you have the answer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bee, if it's a Nicolai, it must be pretty good!

      You're in the draw.

      Delete
  2. I burn various and sundry candles from cheap to expensive, but probably my favorite scents are imported incense that I burn and the smells of cooking; namely, caramelized onions (cooking smells are so homey and filled with love - there is a "lived in" quality to it). I also have a room spray, Fleur de Chine, from Maître Parfumeur et Gantier, that they provide to some hotels, I don't recall that they sell them (I could be wrong). :-) It is beautiful and I keep it on my Art Deco vanity to spritz in my bedroom. Thank you so much for the giveaway, these candles sound absolutely lovely!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GG, I'm with you on the caramelized onions!

      You're in the draw too.

      Delete
  3. What a wonderful draw to be able to experience Graham Way's first set of candles. Having lived in NYC in the past I certainly would be interested in his artistic vision of the city in a scented candle. My favorite home scents remain those of the Christmas holiday with cinnamon, clove, ginger and pine being the dominate notes.

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    Replies
    1. Martin, yes, I couldn't agree more about Christmas smells, especially pine.

      Your name's on the list.

      Delete
  4. Thank you for this very interesting article and very generous draw. I tried to come up with one favorite home smell but my mind kept jumping to others so here are some of those musings in no particular order: fresh brewed coffee, toast made over a fire, baking bread, fresh squeezed oranges, the Sunday roast cooking, after I've polished the table with old fashioned furniture wax, when the window is opened after a shower...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SallyM... ah... the power of the smell of baking bread! Utter magic :-)

      You're in the draw.

      Delete
  5. I have just recently gotten interested in scented candles and other home fragrances so I am super excited about this giveaway :) I have many favorite home smells including coffee first thing in the morning, molasses and cinnamon based baked goods in the oven, and hay (I have pet guinea pigs, so the room with their enclosure usually smells of fresh timothy hay if I am lucky). Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yuki, hay and cinnamon sounds like an interesting combination :-)

      You're in the draw.

      Delete
  6. Thank you so much for this draw! I really love home fragrances: they make your place feel special and festive... I get the impression of a more personal and cozy space when I light the occasional candle or burn a papier d'armenie.
    In my home, I like the smell of lemon peel, of a cake cooking in the oven, or the invigorating smell of freshly picked herbs aligned on the kitchen table, ready to be put in good use.

    My favorite candles so far cover the whole range of the price spectrum: Lostmarc'h (their pamplemousse is truly amazing and very inexpensive), Dyptique's annoyingly "cult" Figuer, la Bougie Fleurs de Neige from pure altitude (brilliantly captures the "smell" of snow, very relaxing) and several Cire trudon (Abd El Kader and Chandernagor, both very minty and herbal!).
    I'd love to find a candle that truly captures the smell of a conifer forset (green but not searing or artificial), or that of a late 19th century boudoir: violets and woods and musky sweetness. And what about the smell of a lazy summer day? Linden blossoms, a slightly tarry note, the feeling of heat...
    Making candles might be a tricky business, but it must be so fun and inspiring!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zazie, I agree about the lemon peel. And orange too!

      You're in the draw.

      Delete
  7. Narcissus and toast - not necessarily together! I love L'Artisan Orangers en Fleurs and Diptyque Opopanax candles

    London

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. London... I wonder what narcissus and toast would be like if we DID put them together??

      You're in the draw.

      Delete
  8. Bizarrely I rather like that smell you often encounter in air conditioned hotel rooms and corridors. It's certainly a rather artificial odour with a distinct chemical overtone and is noticeably stronger in new buildings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cornish, that's an interesting one!

      You're in the draw too.

      Delete

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