‘Think of Esprit, think of Disney’s The Little Mermaid and of that first Vogue cover that Anna Wintour did; with Peter Lindbergh shooting the model in jeans and a Lacroix couture top…’
Regime Des Fleurs was founded in 2014 by friends and collaborators Alia Raza and Ezra Woods. After discovering a mutual passion for scents - and in particular the classical, complex beauty of florals - they began experimenting with their own perfumes. With a unique sensibility, equal parts reverential and progressive, they have carved out a particular following for themselves amongst that most coveted of groups: those in the know. We spoke to them about the rich world they have conjured…
How did Regime Des Fleurs come into being? What were you doing beforehand?
Alia: I was a video artist and filmmaker working on a gallery show for a space in downtown Los Angeles. I had made a series of videos inspired by a fragrance in my head and decided it was finally time to make the actual fragrance. Since I lived in New York, Ezra (a friend who I've known for a decade) offered for me to stay in his apartment in LA while I worked on the show. I brought along all my flower oils and aromatic molecules and plant extracts and other scented materials I'd been collecting and researching. It turned out Ezra had a whole collection as well! So after my show was done, we put our collections of ingredients together and started really learning what goes into making a perfume. We did some trials that we thought were cool. Then we started wearing them and people started telling us we had to offer them for sale. A friend offered for us to go to Paris with him and show the perfumes to buyers during fashion week. Suddenly we were getting press requests from Vogue! It all happened really quickly.
What was it do you think that drew you to florals when you first began experimenting with creating scents? Do other olfactive families play a role in your scents?
Ezra: My family is in the flower business, so I grew up around flowers my whole life and I have always loved the scents of flowers - as does Alia. We love the classical perfumery way of rendering floral scents and the new ways we are coming up with to do that. Of course we also love the nuanced smell of actual fresh flowers. We really try to bridge all those worlds of scent in our work. We love all types of scent families, not just florals, but usually for their way of creating w more complex floral expression.
There seems to be a rich conceptual side to the scents you create, could you talk a little about that? The evoking of the Chateau de Versailles… What you mean by the ‘fresh and bold aesthetic of the early 1990s’…?
Alia: We realised once we started working together that we had a lot of shared cultural and visual inspirations. There are a lot of aesthetic things that we are both obsessed with. 18th century European royal courts are important to us! Also the bright colours, clean lines and strong graphic shapes that were happening in design and visual culture and fashion in the late 80s and early 90s, when we were coming of age. Think of Esprit, think of Disney's The Little Mermaid, and of that first Vogue cover that Anna Wintour did, with Peter Lindbergh shooting the model in jeans and a Lacroix couture top. That's what we mean. We like to combine all these references and add in some ancient Greco-Roman vibes and that's what makes up the aesthetic codes of our brand.
Tying all these ‘influences’ together seems to be a sense of nostalgia, whether real or imagined. Was this a conscious decision to tie into scents specifically?
Alia: To be honest we are not so into the nostalgic aspect of scent. It can be fun or sad or uncanny sometimes to be reminded of your childhood or a vacation or whatever, but in our work that's not really what we're trying to do. We want to create new smells and experiences with our perfumes. That's why they don't smell like anything else out there.
Ezra: We hope to create new memories to share with people.
And how do you actually then translate these ideas and inspirations into an actual scent? Perhaps you could briefly talk through the process of developing a new scent, from start to finish?
Alia: We start with an idea. My favourite novel since I was a teenager is Wide Sargasso Sea. I told Ezra all about it and read some passages aloud. Then we talked about the world of the book, the humidity, the tropical setting, the feverish feelings of the characters, the hot islands and cold winter in England, the bronzed skin of Antoinette (the principle character) and we equate those things with smells. We have a library of hundreds of ingredients. Single molecule materials, essential oils of plants and flowers, resins and barks and saps, and things like ambergris, which is a beautiful substance that's humanely collected from beaches - it's a waste product of sperm whales that has aged for years and dried out and then tinctured. Anyway, we smell everything and start to combine ingredients to create accords that represent the different inspirations we discussed. Once we have several accords, we combine them in various proportions and then test the formulas on our skin. Then we go back and adjust and change ingredients in each accord to get them right, and repeat and repeat and test and test. We give trials to friends and tell them to give us feedback without telling them what we were trying to achieve. The whole process is long and difficult and very fun.
Ezra: We sort of decide that certain scents represent things: It can be literal, like the scent of basil represents basil. Or it can be more abstract, like cucumber represents "freshness". Then we sort of write a poem or draw a picture with these signifiers. We play with our materials a lot and try to focus on what we are smelling- and what our impressions of different materials are separate from what we know about the note - noticing the differences and similarities between our experiences. These impressions stimulate conversations that guide us a lot when we are creating.
You place your perfumes into three distinct tiers: the Lyrics, the Ballads and the Epic. How do you define these? Are there particular occasions where you might wear one over the other, or is it something that would be more personal to the wearer?
Alia: Lyrics are bold and young, Ballads are graceful and referential, Epics are sublime and made of the rarest ingredients. That was how we defined the categories when we came up with them. But sometimes there's overlap.
Ezra: It's almost arbitrary. It's just a feeling. There are other things that go into it: complexity and preciousness of materials, we want the lyrics to feel like bold and thematic, the ballads sort of touch on classic perfumes and epics are sort of deep: emotional and maybe even spiritual.
Do you have a favourite flower?
Alia: I love jasmine, gardenias, stephanotis, lilacs, fleurs d'oranger, and tuberoses. I need them in my house and car and around me at all times!
Ezra: I love all flowers: antique garden roses, tree peonies, parrot tulips, heirloom carnations, cattleya orchids, muguet, Water lilies, violets, forget me nots, birds of paradise, lemon blossoms, cyclamen, bearded iris, Japanese iris, night blooming cereus, wisteria, stephanotis, Hoya, passionflower and gardenias.
And a favourite floral scent?
Alia: Stephanotis flowers are probably my favorite, if I have to choose. My mother planted a vine that grew up the staircase that lead to my bedroom when I was a kid. Every summer it bloomed. That's probably a big part of why I feel so connected to white floral scents.
Ezra: Water lily, violet, jasmine, gardenia and orange blossom. I love the scent of roses but rarely love rose as a note in perfume.
Photo Credit: Darian Zahedi and Andre Pinces for Régime des Fleurs