I first discovered Smoke Perfume after seeing the gorgeous photos all over instagram. I instantly fell in love with the elegant, simple packaging, especially the wooden perfume packaging which I thought was genius! After some time I have gotten to know Kathleen, the creator of Smoke. Smoke all began with a single perfume, hand blended and based around the strong, earthy scent of vetiver. Vetiver is known to calm the senses and ground our energy, which I am sure is just one of the many qualities this perfume imparts to the wearer. Since Vetiver is also one of my favorite scents, I knew I had to try it. Smoke has grown from this one flagship perfume oil, into several other handcrafted artisanal perfumes, and bath scrubs. In this interview we learned a little more about perfumist and magic weaver, Kathleen Currie.
Hi Kathleen, I am so glad we could connect through this weird and wonderful world of the internet. I believe I started following you last year sometime and I instantly fell in love with your packaging. I sincerely appreciate people who create an entire experience through their product, and from the outer packaging, to the simplistic, elegant labels to the description of the fragrance, I believe thats what you have created. What drew you to experimenting with essential oils?
Thank you so much for your sweet compliments:) Yes, I love the people I've been able to connect with through Smoke and the internet! I started with just the blend that would become Smoke Perfume (the original scent in the company line). I work as a massage therapist, and at the time (2009) I was fascinated with aromatherapy. I was going through alot of changes having just recently moved to New Orleans, and the essential oils inspired my creativity in new ways. I was playing with blends to wear and custom blending for my massage clients, and I just landed on the Smoke blend of oils.
Vetiver is one of my favorite essential oils to work with, and this is what inspired you to create your first blend? What are some of your other favorite oils to work with?
I love Vetiver so much! At the time I created Smoke, Vetiver was just fascinating to me. I love it because it's so grounding, and I love the earthy, grassy scent. I'd wear it plain, and then began adding to that--which became Smoke! In the beginning working with oils was very organic for me, and now they have really taken on this 3d personality, and I love that! Typically when I create a blend, I land on one or two oils and become entranced by them, and build around those. Smoke was Vetiver, Ritual was the neroli and cinnamon.
What gave you the idea to create packaging made from reclaimed wood? It is truly beautiful, not the kind of packaging you would just throw away!
Thank you! Well, I really did not have a business plan or idea beyond just...launching Smoke as a single entity! To me it was such a particular project, and i wanted the packaging to match that. At such a small level (as a company) it can be hard to find packaging that is unique yet elegant in my budget. I could not afford to go to China for custom, but I wanted something truly special. The wood seemed like a natural step, and it suits New Orleans. I feel like using the locally made reclaimed wooden boxes from the beginning set the tone for a Louisiana-made product early on. Now, that story is one of the foundations of the entire company!
At what point did you decide to start selling the perfume you created for others to enjoy also? People must have been giving you compliments left and right!
Well, like I said this entire project has grown organically and slowly. Yes, I decided to move forward with the product because I'd get compliments whenever I wore it. Then friends asked for bottles, and thy'd get compliments too! Initially I was just giving it away in little 5ml spray bottles while I looked for a designer to help with the project. Once I finally launched in 2013, I already had a small fan base, and they've been wonderful. Smoke has grown by word of mouth.
I love that your fragrance is unisex. I would love to wear something that I can share with my boyfriend. I am always drawn to more masculine perfumes, so this seems perfect for me. Are you also drawn to more earthy, base notes?
Thanks, unisex is very important to me and the brand! I've definitely never been into heavy florals or ultra feminine perfumes personally. I like how clean earthier notes smell, and they are so beautiful and long-lasting!
I once read that scent is our strongest memory trigger. What would you say your signature scent makes you think of? Is there a particular moment or place you are recreating?
Yes, and I agree. I love working with scent because it is such an interesting memory trigger! I do feel like my signature blend is rooted in New Orleans history. Vetiver, citrus, and jasmine are all important scents in New Orleans, and really draw on the history of New Orleans as a major port city of America/the Caribbean. I think I was subconsciously channeling late night bike rides through the fragrantly blooming streets when I created Smoke! Beyond that, I often have customers tell me they find Smoke to smell very "nostalgic," and something they can't quite trace.
Can you tell us of any upcoming projects you are working on or are they top secret? :)
Sure, it's an exciting time for Smoke! I finally see beyond the original single blend, and I do feel like a "real" company and brand. Given that, I am just thinking of growing the product, while staying true to my small-batch, hand-made roots. I am working on a third scent which will include ylang-ylang. I am launching a sugar scrub in my second scent Ritual (which launched in 2014). I am redesigning some elements of the business to reflect where the company is now-- a new website is in the works, as well as some new packaging stuff.