On a breezy February night in Delhi, fashion designer Ashish Soni lets the spotlight lay, not on his sleek apparel, but on a newly concocted perfume line for Chivas. Loosely inspired by whiskey, he created three perfumes with numbers instead of names. Soni doesn’t want anyone to put a gender tag onto them. “Let the fragrances be free,” he says.
18/49 created at Bloom Perfumery is citrusy. 18/60 created at Floris London, one of the oldest perfumeries in London, has an aquatic-floral feel. Created at Pell Wall, London 18/70 is mostly woody with 70 notes from Chivas 18, the liquor it is inspired from.
“I have always been inclined towards the art and science working behind perfumes. So, this might not be one-off thing for me,” Soni confirms. The Delhi-based designer, who started his eponymous label in 1991, is looking into logistics to make the perfumes commercially available and also develop more variants in the future. While the West has seen designers and luxury goods houses turning alchemists, has Soni sparked off a trend of sorts in India, we ask. “I hope so,” he says with a hint of optimism in his voice.
The enthusiasm in perfumer Jahnvi Dameron Nandan’s voice is palpable too, as he speaks to us from Paris. “I was waiting for this moment as we begin to rewrite our fragrant tales,” she says, with a child-like zest.
The Perfume Library, a labour of love by her own admission, is going to be in a great company—Manan Gandhi’s Bombay Perfumery, Forest Essentials’ cologne intense-Madurai jasmine, Kama Ayurveda’s line-up of body and face mists (mists are much lighter scent than perfumes owing to its lower oil level), Soni’s perfume label, Rajiv Sheth’s All Good Scents, and Delhi-based Sue Mue’s soon-to-be-launched exclusive perfume line.
“For ten years, I have been working on fragrances, smelling thousands of ingredients and developing perfumes that imbibe the essence of my memories,” she says. An author and an architect by training, for her much-cherished and widely appreciated Aftoori Absolute, she gave a twist to the good old jasmine fragrance.
“While travelling through different countries, I realized that there are so many ways of taking in the aroma of jasmines. My idea of it is smoky,” she says. This and others such as This Space In Between You & Me are retailed at Good Earth in Delhi and Mumbai, Ogaan in Delhi, and Raj Mahal Palace in Jaipur. Nandan, who divides her time between Paris and Delhi, designs each perfume with close to a hundred ingredients, sometimes more. Creating perfume is physically taxing, emotionally exhausting, but a creatively satisfying process.
The Indian perfumer, who has a modern perfumery of her own, is optimistic that India will find a way to recreate the legacy.