There are few sensations that speak to our collective consciousness the way perfume does—its fragile, ephemeral nuances conjuring both fantasy and memory in our minds and bodies, with layered possibilities shifting between the wearer and those who share their personal space. The ambiguity of scent holds its own fascination, the incongruous experiences of different responders raising questions of reactivity and perception. Do we smell the same things? Do they evoke the same emotions and feelings?
Creative director, Kaya Sorhaindo, is re-defining the collaborative and artistic barriers of the perfume industry with his latest fragrance project: Folie à Plusieurs. Translated as ‘madness of many’, the name stems from the idea (and medical condition) of shared delusions. For Sorhaindo it encapsulates the collective spirit of creation within his new brand—where artists make perfumes and perfumers make ‘scent tracks’ for film, introducing a new melting pot of scent-based creation. Sorhaindo’s first projects have included tapping nose Mark Buxton to scent a screening of art house director Michel Gondry’s film Mood Indigo in Berlin this May and a fragrance with photographer David LaChapelle in the works for September. Neue Luxury spoke with the vagabond creative on the existential significance of the fourth sense and how he plans to celebrate it.
Dan Thawley: So, why perfume? Kaya Sorhaindo: Well rather why me? I ask myself this question many times, because scent is a medium that found me—she chose me. Through the medium, I have been able to expand a way of working as a creative director ways. With my client projects it has always been about interdisciplinary collaborations and creating a multi-sensory and emotional experience through perfume I was able to push this even further. This is definitely far from my childhood dreams of being a reggae dancehall singer or a communication and design student in university, but in the end I think the ambitions are the same—to communicate. I am really honoured to be able to create and communicate within the medium of perfumery.
DT: How do you choose your ‘plusieurs’, your collaborators? Do you choose people who push you? KS: In all cases we definitely look for folie or madness in their work. There are several different olfactory projects and collections within Folie à Plusieurs—each collection has different criteria for curation. Our main Gallery Collection launches in September and focuses on very established artists from a diverse range of disciplines such as performance art, music, film, literature, photography and fine art. For projects like our Olfactive Library, we are working with emerging artists whose work we generally just love. In our art department I have a bright young curator named Rita; we are very much aligned taste-wise, but she is constantly introducing me to new artists. This is the beauty of constantly having young talent and energy around me. However, the general principles that we have outlined together and that cover all collections and product collaborations is that the artists must continue to reinvent themselves, are cross-disciplinary, produce a high quality level of work and have madea firm statement in whatever discipline they are primarily engaged.
DT: Who do you want to wear your creations? KS: For us it is not about wearing a perfume, it is about living them and living through them in the same way that one lives through music, literature, art and food. We are interested in people who understand new notions of luxury and what should constitute a meaningful human experience. We are interested in people that demand more from a product, and use these products to aid larger human pursuits. It could be that person who goes to a Phillip Glass concert or visits an Ai Weiwei show at the Tate, for example.
For us it is not about wearing a perfume, it is about living them and living through them in the same way that one lives through music, literature, art and food. We are interested in people who understand new notions of luxury and what should constitute a meaningful human experience.
DT: Where and how is a Folie à Plusieurs perfume created, manufactured, and sold? KS: We have a creative studio in Berlin and studio in Paris. The concept development and design happens in Berlin, and the olfactory development in Paris—depending on the project we work with different independent perfumers and fragrance houses. A lot of our special projects such as Le Cinema Olfactif with Soho House will be sold exclusively on our website. However, for our main Gallery Collection, each fragrance is created in two parts—the Art Box and the Fragrance Box. The first contains the fragrance and a limited edition artwork by the contributing artist, sold through a very exclusive distribution channel of galleries, museums and one concept boutique per market. The Fragrance Box is purely the perfume, sold at select apothecaries and department stores. Each fragrance in the main line is first launched in a gallery and then in stores a month later.
DT: Tell me about the packaging… KS: The objects vary for each collection. For example, for the Le Cinema Olfactif Collection (with Soho House & Mark Buxton), each piece serves as a memory box, where you can revisit moments from the film on your own terms, so it is packaged in a small black box with a 12ml bottle and a ceramic applicator. For our main Gallery Collection, two to three scents a year are commissioned by prominent artists, and UNCOMMON MATTERS jewellery designer Amelie Riech will design the bottles to correspond to each artist. The black bottle is encased in a surlyn material so you have the feeling that the bottle is floating, almost like a Damien Hirst sculpture. The casing and the bottle change with each artist, but the bottle remains black with no branding. Once empty, it can be used for another purpose, such as a vase for a rose or ink, etc.
DT: Do you think about the environment when you make your perfumes? KS: Absolutely. As mentioned, our packaging specifically for the Main Collection is about extending the use of an object, designing it in such a way that it lives far beyond its initial intent. I am really tired of this disposable culture. I believe if you create you should create with meaning and everything should be human and environmentally considered. This is not 100% achievable all the time, but the more you try, the more pieces fall into place and you come closer to the goal/ideal.
DT: If you were one ingredient of a Folie à Plusieurs perfume what would you be? KS: It is incense for sure: soft, mysterious and contemplative—but still sensual and accessible.
DT: Do you remember the first olfactory experience that pushed you towards the industry? KS: I grew up in Antigua in the Caribbean. My mother is a designer who studied at FIT in New York, where I studied too. Although living and working in Antigua, she was well travelled, amazingly talented and an all round super cool lady. She always had the most exquisite fragrances from France and I would sneak a few sprays from her collection. There is a custom in parts of Antigua where if you go to a special event or wedding, you spray a little of your perfume in the air as you walk down the street. You do this for the people you are passing, and if you didn’t do it people would probably talk about you. I so enjoyed this story. I loved the idea of perfume being this thing that was shared and the idea of being able to offer people the luxury of smelling, to be transported to another place.
I loved the idea of perfume being this thing that was shared and the idea of being able to offer people the luxury of smelling, to be transported to another place.
DT: So you think that perfume should be shared, not protected? KS: I feel that the medium of scent is social just by its nature and I think this is the beauty of fragrance. As much as you want to keep it a secret, a good perfume, like any brilliant work of art, finds its way to an audience. Whether intended or not, it cannot be restricted and it affects others with whom you come into contact. This is my desire for perfume and partially the inspiration for my brand name Folie à Plusieurs: this idea of sharing a madness, sharing your fantasy, your way of seeing the world.
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