Reading time: 6 min

It’s Friday the 2nd of August and I’m sitting on the Subway en route to the Bronx, once known for its gang activities and its poverty stricken neighbourhoods. In recent years though this former poster boy for urban decay has witnessed significant development, and so it is that I find myself here in the heart of the Bronx visiting a perfume house of course – The Society of Scent!

Hailing from Glasgow I immediately identify with the familiar surroundings of high rise blocks and sidewalks. Although as I exit the Subway the booming heat is less familiar, the lack of Manhattan polish quickly puts me at my ease. I navigate through the huge council waste trucks resting dormant in their super sized crib garages towards my destination. Ringing the buzzer of an industrially battered door a friendly local glimpses up from his vehicle to reassure me I was in the right place…

The Society of Scent is an independent scent creation lab realised by four partners: Jean Claude Delville (The Nose), Frederic Jacques, Mireya Zedejas and Beatrice Duprice. Both Jean Claude & Frederic were away in Europe, but I’m here to chat with Beatrice Duprice the Creative Director and Content Creator or  the ‘Mastermind’ as Frederic Jacques describes her. For once I’m early.

The Society Of Scent - Jean Claude Delville

Beatrice comes to the door, visibly french in demeanour It’s difficult not to admire the effortless chic, yet urban vibe my interviewee projects. The purple vintage jumpsuit (slight wink to the 80’s) being an initial indicator of cool in my book. With this I’m eager to find out more. It’s swelteringly hot, Beatrice invites me in with a purposeful twist of the key and with it the wonderful world of scent draws us up the stairs to the lab like an old cartoon’s freshly baked apple pie might entice Goofy.

Super perfumer, Jean Claude Deville worked with Kenzo, Cinique, Jo Malone, etc, etc, whilst Frederic and Mireya have both worked as experts in the luxury fragrance industry for years. Together they have sought to do something new, outside the code of the perfume industry, totally independent, which can manifest as a real physical experience, self funded and transparent. Focusing on the power of scent, wellbeing, knowledge, education and experience.

This is where Beatrice comes in – having been given the seed idea from Jean Claude three years ago she was asked to develop the platform with a vision to disconnect from the  luxury fragrance world. To develop a vision of high end without the snobbery, transparent, truthful and down to earth. Elevated but accessible with a focus on perfume as an art form, aiding wellbeing with an active social commitment.

I ask Beatrice about her background and how she ended up in New York. She explains to me that she had founded the International Festival of Fashion Photography under the High Patronage of the French Ministry of Culture. The festival was to become a huge success and grew to a point where she eventually needed a change. Following this she was invited to curate the “Yves St Laurent, Forty Years of Creation” exhibition in NYC and with this success New York became her home.

The Society Of Scent - Beatrice Duprice

The Smelling Bees

So what is a children’s fashion journalist doing hanging about this odoriferous part of the Bronx… The Society of Scent are soon to launch their children’s range of fragrances ‘The Smelling Bees’. This was as a result of working with local children from South Bronx in scent workshops that they set up as part of the start up’s social commitment.  Beatrice explained how they worked with simple fresh farm ingredients, such as honey, strawberries and tomatoe leaves. Some of the kids could not identify the scent of real honey as they were only used to the sucrose honey they normally splash over their pancakes. What was highlighted was that kids and family members shared in the experience of playing with scent and knowledge. The Smelling Bees is a product range of scents specific for kids to enjoy, both fun and high quality allowing kids to play, develop and share a knowledge of perfume…. In fact they are also working on an education scent kit where parents and kids can share the scent experience and know how. The idea is that the consumer receives the scent kit, and the parents/ kids go onto the website where they can be guided by the expert nose of Jean Claude’s podcasts. A little like a science kit but for beautiful scent. I love the idea!

We are not cute… When we sit around the table with the kids after school they want to have a real experience, not sprinkles… They want to discover something real.

What strikes me is their take on the world through scent and it’s powers…i.e wellbeing and mood. Projects like the South Bronx workshops are organised under the aptly named S.O.S. platform taken from their own initials. Beatrice explains they work as architects of mobility, An example being how they can develop better wellness for kids, for example It could be possible to make a very specific diffusion scent to help a child get to sleep – similar to a smart home light or thermostat. It’s possible to do the same with scent… to create a mediative room with visuals and scent, or even a portable wellness emergency scent kit (working title). I stop and think about this being a possible healthy alternative to the remedial G&T I have to take before getting on a flight.

The smelling bees - The Society of Scent New York

 

We discuss their collaboration with various hotels – Beatrice explains how they are producing the scent for different hotels, looking at their specific personalities and how they develop an individually tailored perfume. I could talk for hours on the subject of scent, it’s been a fascinating afternoon.

We walk around the studio and then to the lab. My father was a pharmacist and used to own one of those old fashioned pharmacies with the wooden draws and shelves stacked with precious ribbed glass bottles of potions. From an early age before the rise of disposable plastics, etc I would wash the empty bottles ready to be refilled. Eventually I would be allowed to do my favourite job of mixing the creams. My Dad was famous for his lotions, his eczema cream was known as ‘Katie’s lotion’ after my own ailment whilst my brother’s occasional cough resulted in ‘Ghostbuster’s medicine’ cough syrup. However his biggest success by far was ‘Queen mum’s nipple cream’ for breast feeding mothers with cracked nipples. Midwives travelled from far a field to get a bottle and I remember him receiving thank you letters from all over, although whether one of those was from the Queen Mum I’m not so sure ;). I digress… it’s the little brown bottles beautifully back lit and lined up along the shelves that have me reminiscing, that and my morning’s exercise of our most nostalgic of senses – the nose.

 

The Society of Scent in New York reminds ,e of my father's old pharmacy in Glasgow

 

So Scent - The society of scent

Smelling Bees and The Society of Scent


The Society of Scent

As well as The Smelling Bees their adult range So Scent launches soon (end of September) including wonderful collaborations with artists and independent designers.

This assembled team of industry experts are doing it their way, outside the code of the perfume industry, totally independent, a real physical experience, self funded and transparent…. I’m ‘So Scent’ now!

Discover the Society of Scent manifesto.