Thursday, March 19, 2015

Handsome heart of perfumery!

An interview with Neil Morris


I don't know what he hides behind his evergreen smile but for sure Neil Morris is the most lovely man in perfume world and you can see from every interview and review about Neil and his fragrances that how everyone loves him! However, this is not all I love about Neil Morris, as it must be, his talent in perfumery is on focal point of my interest. These last months all by coincidence and suggestion by a friend I encountered Neil and I found strong similarities in taste of smell without even talking on it.
I temporarily lost my sense of smell nowadays for flu and I found this nice opportunity quite appropriate to fulfill a mandatory task that I've been dreaming for a while; an interview with dear Neil.

Me: Neil, thanks a lot for the time you speared for this interview! For the beginning let's start with the cliché question: how long have you been making perfumes? I know you started to sell out Neil Morris fragrances since 2003 (if I'm not mistaken). Would you please tell us how and when it began. Did anyone help or motivate you?

Neil: Hi Keiwan! Thank you for taking the time to interview me! Yes, I started NMF in 2003 with my then business partner, David. David was a prime force in getting things started. I wasn't much of a business person (though I’m more so now) and that was David’s forte. I preferred focusing on the perfume creation. We would chuckle and say that he was the brains and I was the nose! 
I started making perfume when I was 19 years old. I had always been a scent lover and when I was 19 I started collecting some scented materials. I played around with blending and it led to my launching NMF in 2003 with David. But it was Paula Goldstein of Desana Fragrances, which used to be on Newbury St. in Boston, who gave me the push I needed to get me started with creating my own perfumes. That was in the mid 90’s. I will be forever in her debt.

Me: I find your perfumes very subjective to deep emotional source; although; they are considerably strong and immense. Can you tell about that? Can you tell how emotional a dense perfume can be?

Neil: I love all kinds of perfumes but I do love exploring the darker, deeper, more intense side of perfumery. I love scents that I would consider bewitching! All perfume types can be emotional. It all depends on the person’s “scent history” as to how they respond emotionally to a given fragrance. My mom would wear Chanel No.5 or Emeraude when she and my father were going out to have some fun. As a result, I always associate the scent of Chanel No.5 with having a good time! I also have great memories of Halloween when I was a child so all the dense, warm scents of autumn in New England have a strong emotional impact for me. Hence my perfumes October and Chasing Autumn.


Me: Every try of your olfactory arts increases my power of imagination, I start to write and the finger go on keyboard like Chopin on piano! What happens when you're working on a perfume?

Neil: Thanks so much for saying that, Keiwan! What a wonderful image! Different things happen at different times and with different perfumes. When I focus on creating a new perfume it really takes over my psyche. With some perfumes, I know exactly where I’m going to take it and which materials I’m going to use. I may get the basic scent impression in just a few tries; then taking more time to “tune” it until it’s the way I want it. With other scents it is more complicated.


Me: You often spend a long time on your perfumes. Takashimaya took 8 months; so as Chasing Autumn.Which one is the most time-taking one?

Neil: Neil Morris for Takashimaya. When the elegant Takashimaya on 5th Avenue in New York asked me to create a scent just for them, I took it very seriously - how to combine the sophistication of 5th Avenue with the serenity of the Japanese vibe you would encounter the moment you walked through their doors. I worked day and night on this project till I thought it would drive me mad.
So, I called my dear friend and fellow perfumer, Sarah Horowitz, because I knew she would understand what I was going through. She calmed me down and told me to take a complete break from it for several days, which I did. When I came back to it, I went to sit in the Japanese Garden at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I sat there all afternoon, even through a thunderstorm, and after the rain I smelled a special aroma from the wet garden and I suddenly knew where I was going to take the perfume. I had several versions of it and asked dear Ida, David and my friend Catherine to help me choose which one I would submit and they did.


It took me 8 months of constant obsessing to complete Neil Morris for Takashimaya, New York. It was a great success and I’m grateful to Sarah, Ida, David & Catherine for their help and encouragement.

Me: I know you made a lot of perfumes devoted to specific places; Izmir, to give a name. Why places and memories of them are that important to your perfumery? Generally what sort of places attract your olfactory attention?

Neil: For me, perfume is all about storytelling. When I create a perfume, I am trying to tell you about something I care about or have a happy memory of. I want to invite you into my memory by using scent to convey the message. That is how I choose the places I use in my creations.

Me: You have a long category of perfumes in a series named The Vault; what The Vault stands for?


Neil: When we first launched the website, we had our Signature Collection of 8 fragrances available. They were very popular but I soon discovered people were looking for more variety so I decided to delve into some of the other fragrances I had created over the years that didn’t make it into our Signature Collection. I went into my “Vault” of perfumes, so to speak. That’s how the name was born.


Me: Some people call synthetics, some say man-made. You once called "art essence" why? Do they give significant identity to your perfumes?

Neil: Yes, they do. And I believe they are art-essences. The term “synthetics” sounds so cold and impersonal and many of them are so much more than that. Don’t get me wrong, I love natural scents. But I find in my work that natural essential oils alone are limiting; it limits the perfumer’s palette. Chandler Burr says: “Creating a perfume without synthetics is like painting a picture without blues or reds.” I agree with him. I use what’s called mixed media – essential oils and synthetic/art-essences together, maximizing the strengths of both. 

Me: Everyone likes to make profit of his/her talent and business; however; being an indie niche perfumer, among this mess up in "niche" market, is so precious. What is the advantage of being an indie niche and small house?


Neil: The advantage is that I can create what I want, when I want. I don’t have to pay attention to current trends if I don’t want to. I can create a retro perfume and know that there are people out there who will love it. It doesn't have to be 10 million people because the perfume doesn't have to support a giant company. This gives me tremendous freedom to express myself.

Me: Why you don't go with advertisements? Or it's me that i haven't seen any?!


Neil: I've found over the years that the internet, with its perfume blogs and perfumistas writing about niche perfumes and perfumers, has been a great way to get the word out. I’m so lucky to have so many friends and fans that love my work. It’s quite humbling and gratifying.

Me: What is your personal type of fragrance?


Neil: There are  many types of fragrances I like. It all depends on my mood. Most of the time I prefer scents that are unique or unusual in some way. Other than my own creations, I like to wear M7 and Terre d’Hermes. In spring and summer I enjoy my Clear and Un Jardin Sur le Nil, created by Jean-Claude Ellena.


Me: You once mentioned in an interview that you feel great affinity to Jean-Claude Ellena, if we're gonna pick a perfumer. It's interesting cause I see a big contrast in context of perfumeries, can you tell more about?

Neil: Jean-Claude Ellena, to me, is the perfumer’s perfumer. He was initially brought to my attention when I discovered his perfume; Firstthat he created for Van Cleef & Arpels. In my opinion, and many others agree, it is a masterpiece. From then on I became very interested in his work and when he became the perfumer for Hermès, I knew we were all in for a treat. He created Un Jardin Sur le Nil, the creation of which Chandler Burr wrote about in his book The Perfect Scent. A wonderful book, by the way.
What I most love and admire about Ellena’s work is his ability to create scented masterpieces with minimal ingredients. Now that takes talent!

I am also a fan of Olivia Giacobetti.

Me: What do you think about new rose/oud movement of Arabian perfumes?


Neil: Arabian perfumes?
I love both rose and oud, though I think the oud trend has run its course. It seems to be everywhere in perfumery at the moment. I can understand it because oud is such a rare, rich scent that lends itself to blending with almost anything.

Thank you Neil :)


Thank you so much, Keyvan! Fragrant Dreams!

Carpe Odor!

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