Azzi Glasser: The Perfumer's Story
"In this time alone, you can really get to know yourself. I would suggest don’t just spray the room, spray yourself and get to know your own sensual identity too...”
Second in our series, Jade speaks to celebrity-favourite perfume designer, Azzi Glasser, on how she's mastered the art of scent-making, that even Orlando Bloom himself are like "precious time capsules" to transport the wearer to fond moments in time. In this conversation, Glasser talks about how scent is really just another way of getting to know yourself and gives us some tips on how to liven up the aroma of your home.
While Azzi Glasser’s extremely impressive clientele, such as Helena Bonham Carter and Anthony Gormley, have ascribed a witchlike quality to her nose, speaking to her reveals the allure of a snake-charmer. Between the shimmer of her rings, the listener is drawn into a wonderful story about smell’s unique seduction…
Rather than rely on ingredients alone, Glasser’s brand holds the character of the wearer at its heart. This attitude, she confesses, made her somewhat of a rebel in the market. But, given that this is the woman who launched Agent Provocateur’s first scent, would you expect any less? “It was against all the trends” she recounts “the 90s was very much about light and watery fragrances… Whereas I thought why would I base my fragrance on a trend? I highly doubt Agent Provocateur base their lingerie on a trend. They base their identity on doing something unique that nobody else is doing”. Nor was Glasser looking to fads… Instead, she built a business upon the notion of smelling different to the rest and so “the Perfumer’s Story” was born.
After some time working with fashion houses like McQueen and Nicole Farhi, Glasser started her bespoke business. “Throughout each collaboration”, she muses “the fragrance has to totally represent their brand through a distinct story. It is like creating a DNA print through my nose; it is their character and style so it has to embody what they are about”. With sessions that have reminded her clients of therapy, Glasser will chat until satisfied she has ascertained what their one-off scent should be. However, the guarantee of a truly individual smell comes with a hefty price-tag which is far outside of most consumers' price range. But, alongside this, Glasser has a collection of fragrances that also seek to emphasize the wearer’s style and character.
“The whole idea is that you should be buying perfume that suits who you are” she explains “in the same way you dress to reflect your identity. With perfume, there isn’t just one ingredient in there. There could be 200 raw materials in a perfume. If pretty little Rose is mixed with Sandalwood and Oud, it changes the note to this dark character. So, I decide what ingredients to put in my perfume to tell my story.” Given such a fictitious twist, it is hardly surprising to discover that Glasser ended up concocting scents to aid actors in becoming their part. “It is very manipulative”she laughs “it works really well on film sets!”
With the National Health Service providing guides on how to look after our mental health during the pandemic, it seems likely that many of us will be searching for new ways to enhance and alter our moods. Out of her own collection, Glasser suggests “I am going with Sequoia Wood. That character is creative, edgy and sensual. It isn’t too pretty pretty, it is unisex and has a freshness on top of the Niroli. It really boasts you up.”
Over the last 20 years, the International Flavours and Fragrances Inc. (IFF) have been conducting research into scent and their emotional properties, finding that certain relaxing scents were able to release muscle tensions. But, for now, Glasser suggests we take a slightly more playful approach. “For most people”, she says, “the sense of smell is subconsciously led. They don’t even teach us how to analyse it in school. Right now, the world is at war with a virus so we are having to slow down. With that, we are appreciating what we have and learning to do things differently. In this time alone, you can really get to know yourself. I would suggest don’t just spray the room, spray yourself and get to know your own sensual identity too”.
Given that our ability to travel is necessarily restricted, it might not be ourselves that we seek to alter but rather our surroundings. But, via tapping into smells inextricably linked to memory, Glasser also has a cure. After noting the aroma of figs in the lush heat of Corsican summers, she set to work. “Corsica is not very polluted, the figs come out more vibrantly than elsewhere. It is very green and rich”, she says reaching for one of her fig scented candles. “There is something about summer time, you get all the sap that comes out from the trees. When you touch them, those trees and the leaves, you come back smelling of it. If I am going to call an item of mine Fig, it needs to transport you there straight away”.
Despite the name, Glasser’s candle does not just smell like fig. As with the best stories, there is a deep complexity hidden beneath more immediate sensual revelations which disarm and distract you. Led by your memories, you might pick up another note rather than the body of the scent first. “It even changes when it is on your skin”, Glasser adds “it depends what you have eaten or the climate that you're in”. Either way, the richness of Glasser’s nose will guide new thoughts and feelings into your day.
Find Glasser's collection of fragrances here and take a little trip abroad with your nose.