WHAT DO YOU DO AND HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
I have a fragrance design studio based in New York City. On one side, we have perfume and home scent collections that are selectively distributed in many of the best points of sale worldwide. On the other, we function as a kind of creative agency for companies and brands looking to establish their own unique and innovative fragrance identity. I got here by being curious, focused and persistent—and by learning to listen.
HOW DID THE CONCEPT FOR JOYA COME ABOUT?
Joya began as a boutique scented candle collection with an emphasis on original and sustainable raw materials. The ingredient selection and sourcing has always been the most mysterious aspect of this industry for me, as well as one of the most compelling puzzles to piece together. Luckily, our first collection was met with an immediate editorial and consumer response, which is when I realized that I was just as interested in the design and fragrance profiles as anything else—maybe more so. Artists and brands approached us with custom requests, which allowed me and my team to experiment and to explore the needs of different markets and to refine our skills. And so the concept for Joya has evolved—we have become designers, manufacturers and scent translators all in one.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED IN THE HOTEL INDUSTRY AND HOW HAS THE BRANDED SCENT BECOME AN IMPORTANT PART OF SHAPING THE GUEST EXPERIENCE?
Many years ago—actually in my company’s infancy—Toni Stoeckl got in touch about a project, but it never completely materialized. A couple years later, we reconnected and he tasked me with using the style and signature for which Joya had become known but translating it into a dynamic experience for the Renaissance Hotels. Toni is a real visionary and understood early on that a surprising and inspiring, consistent global scent would make a powerful statement. He never cut corners but rather empowered us to develop and produce a seriously beautiful program: candles and diffusers in custom porcelain containers that we make 100% by hand in our studio in Brooklyn. We now supply these to all of their properties worldwide, handle the production, logistics. We have also added air fresheners and another critical scent marketing initiative with ScentAir.
WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION AND HOW DO YOU RESEARCH THE TYPE OF SCENT TO ALIGN WITH A PARTICULAR PROPERTY? WHY ARE CUSTOM SCENTS SO DESIRABLE?
Inspiration is everywhere and especially heightened for me when traveling. But, really, it’s not hard to find—you just need to pay attention to words, tastes, details. I do a lot of research into botanical and cultural histories, read poetry to keep my editing skills sharp. It’s important that an environmental scent feel seamless but, in a way, unexpected—kind of like a chocolate with a cayenne pepper kick. Custom scents are beyond desirable: they are critical component—the finishing touch—in telling your story, whether you are a retailer, hotel group or even an individual.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE HOTEL IN THE WORLD? IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY, WHAT WOULD YOU PEG AS ITS SIGNATURE NOTES?
My favorite recent experience was at Casa Violeta in Tulum. It’s at the end of the main strip—so relaxed, elegant. Don’t think I wore shoes once. Its signature scent would have to be a purple basil mojito: fresh yet dark, sweet yet clean, precise yet effortless.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN ASKED TO COMPOSE A SCENT THAT SEEMED COMPLETELY OUTLANDISH OR IMPOSSIBLE?
There is an avant-garde fashion label called Oak, for whom we produce a range of custom scented candles. The brief was a real challenge: no words or ingredient or product references, just black and white archival images of people and places. The idea was to recreate moments in New York history vis-à-vis important intersections in the City. The collection is quite special. We are in the process of launching a global scent program for the Marriott Hotels. This was a different kind of challenge: Matt Carroll and Lauren Webb really pushed us to create a signature scent, called Attune, that feels both personal and universal. We blended top notes of cassis and sparkling fuji apple with an ocean water accord, pink jasmine, wild rose. They pushed for more warmth, so we landed on mountain sage, white cedar and pale musk for the dry down. I think this scent is going to make quite the impression and should be represented in all of their properties by 2016.
ARE THERE ANY JOYA PROJECTS THAT STAND OUT TO YOU AS EXEMPLARY OR FAVORITE ACCOMPLISHMENTS?
We produced an extremely limited edition for Zaha Hadid that was so difficult and very beautiful. This past holiday, we created hand-cast, 22k gold-painted candles for the Catherine Martin and Baz Luhrmann partnership with Barneys New York. These were incredibly gorgeous and had a spicy tea fragrance we called “Sandman.” A portion of the proceeds went to Room to Read, an organization dedicated to improving literacy and gender equality in education in the developing world. Most recently, Joya launched its fourth perfume, Foxglove, which The New York Times called “The unofficial scent of New York City.” We spent two years developing a scent that could represent the parks and ethos of New York. I am proud of this. It has been a bestseller on Net-A-Porter and hard to keep in stock.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HOSPITALITY AND OLFACTORY BRANDING EVOLVING IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS?
Obviously, companies are proposing all sorts of flameless options for olfactory branding, new diffusion systems, other innovations. I think there will be new, immersive and 360 degree approaches to the category. It used to be that your skin and home should smell different—or that you should eat in an environment that is perfumed. Without giving too much away, I think some of these “rules” are going to be flipped upside down and that hotels will benefit by making bold decisions and true, signature fragrances that leave a real impression. Consumers are becoming more and more educated about their purchases, so bespoke is naturally becoming the norm more and more. I also think the classics will be back and stronger than ever. There’s a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal about Celine where Marco Gobbetti says that he is “building a house more than a brand.” This really resonated with me. I won’t be around long enough to see Joya develop a storied history, but we are already affecting the supply chain, employing local artists and artisans, and offering our own unique approach to the beauty industry—a return to simplicity and nature—from both a design and business standpoint. We are going for modern classic: An innovative American fragrance house with a point of view and timeless fragrances.