I'm with the brand: Memo

I'm with the brand: Memo

Scents and sensibility

Text: Renée Batchelor

With gorgeous, memorable scents inspired by destinations, niche Parisian fragrance brand Memo sets itself apart from the competition

Memo fragrances are all about the olfactive memories that we associate with places. Made for people who love to travel, these are not the usual run-of-the-mill scents you're used to sniffing out in department stores. Instead, the scents are inspired by exotic places like Inlé (a lake in Myanmar) and Lalibela (in Ethiopia) as well as the emotions you experience when you're in these unique places.

The brand has so much integrity that it will not create perfumes for the sake of launching them at specific junctures. Instead fragrances are created only when the brand's creative director Clara Molloy is inspired, be it during a particular trip or when an emotion is sparked off by a memory. We speak to co-founder John Molloy who created the brand with his wife Clara to find out more.

Tell us about the concept of Memo.
Memo is a brand that everyone can be a part of, especially those who have a curiosity for travel. It's a simple brand to understand. Every fragrance is linked to a destination. What we do is to make people travel with fragrances. You can travel by watching a film and you can also travel by reading a book. But you can also travel with a great fragrance. 99 per cent of fragrance is about seduction. We're the one per cent who is not working on fragrances in that manner, but we're helping people to escape for a little bit every morning when they put on their perfume. 

How do Memo's creative director Clara Molloy and nose Aliénor Massenet collaborate?
The two of them give Memo a female vision of the world. They are not necessarily creating female fragrances, but it's with a female vision. It's quite a straightforward process. The first thing is the emotion. Clara has the emotion — whether it's while she's in the place and something happens — or when she returns and something strikes her. It's about capturing the emotion and writing it down and being able to communicate it.

The second part is translating that to Aliénor Massenet, the nose. They've been working together for over seven years — Memo was created in 2007 — so  they have a good relationship. Where Clara says something Massenet understands. Then Massenet will start putting together various prototypes and send them to Clara and she will get back to Massenet with her feedback. Clara knows exactly what she likes and doesn't like — that's a great talent of hers — and this relationship is how they work together. Also all of the designs of the bottle are done by Clara and each one is linked to a place. So for Siwa, the image on the bottle is the cracking of the desert and for Inlé the bottle depicts the clouds above Lake Inlé.

Shams Narcissus Limited Edition

Would Memo ever produce a scent that its creators do not like? 
No. One thing that is very important to us is the moment of truth. We are a family business, and we want to be true to ourselves and true to our customers. If you bring out a perfume in the masstige world, you're trying to find a perfume that suits every type of skin and every type of ethnicity and sell like a million bottles in the first year. That's trying to find something that suits everyone. We're not trying to do that at all. We bring things out when they're right and we have no fixed agenda or fixed timing every year. And that's why we're growing. People today are looking for real stories and real people behind a brand.

Tell us about some of Memo's signature scents
Memo is divided into three collections. The first is Les Echappées which has 10 scents. Siwa was meant to be a comfort fragrance like a second skin to protect Clara at night. Siwa is an oasis in Egypt where Cleopatra bathed and Alexander the Great saw the oracle. A lot of people in the perfume industry adore this because its not 'shouty'. It is not for the boyfriend or the girlfriend, but for yourself. It has notes of cereal, popcorn, cinammon and a dry vanilla in it.

Lalibela Eau de Parfum

Lalibela is in Ethiopia. It famous for its rock cut churches that are built into the mountain. The clay around the church is a pink clay so it gave Clara the idea of the rose. The churches were burning frankincense and myrrh, so these elements combine to create a sort of mystical rose. Moonfever is the idea of what it would be like on the moon if man was not there... and capturing the energy there. It is a very energetic, masculine fragrance, but a lot of women love it.

We also have a collection called Graines Vagabondes that is inspired by grains. Grains fly and blow in the wind and move with the birds, so they also travel. Kedu is one of the two scents in this collection that is inspired by a place in Java. If you walk through Borobodur you'll smell this lingering scent of sesame. There's a double white musk, sesame and oil of grapefruit to give it that freshness. It's been doing well as it's kind of an oxymoron — a fresh oriental and the first fragrance to have sesame notes in it.

Irish Leather Eau de Parfum

You have a leather collection called Cuirs Nomades. What is the concept behind that?
Do you know the link between leather and perfume? There are a couple of links in history. The towns that had tanneries also had perfumeries in France. When you rode horses, you would use leather gloves and after taking your hand out of the glove after riding for four to five hours, there was no running water. So you would carry a bottle of perfume with you. In those days, perfumes were used to hide rather than to accentuate things.

Leather in perfumery is where Memo has really taken the area and turned it upside down. Leather in the past were associated with leather chairs and cigar smoke. There are four scents in this collection. For Irish Leather, Clara was inspired by my father's farm in Ireland, as he breeds racehorses. There is the fresh, lingering odour of fresh green grass and the citrus soap that we use to wash our hands. It's the first green leather and one of our best-sellers around the world. 

Tell us about Memo's newest scent African Leather.
My mom is Kenyan so Clara and I have been to Africa. When we're talking about this scent, we're talking about the neverending skyline which you see when you're there. When you smell this perfume, it gives you this energy, strength and feeling of Africa. We worked with a geranium, but we distilled it making it more than 99 per cent pure, so it was very rare and expensive. It is quite warming, thanks to the leather base and cardamom notes. 

Memo fragrances are sold at Escentials