Aroma M Perfumes
"Steeped in the ways of ancient Eastern fragrance traditions"
Maria McElroy of Aroma M Perfumes
● Can you tell us of your background?
After receiving an MFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute I continued my studies in Australia and became a Certified Aromatherapist. During that time I was living in Japan, where I studied Kodo, the ancient art of fragrance, Ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement Koto, Japanese harp, Shiatsu massage and Zen Buddhism. This seven-year journey, rich in Japanese history, romance and mystery, became the genesis of aroma M and the inspiration for my signature Geisha fragrance line. Aroma M is based in New York but is now known worldwide and is in its’ 20th year.
● How did your love for perfume begin?
My earliest recollection of fragrance is that of the tantalizing aroma of Greek pastries that would cover the linen tables cloths in my childhood home. These are delicacies doused in honey syrup and nuts delicately spiced with cinnamon nutmeg, clove and crushed almonds. These were the treats my mother, Opium clinging to her leopard silk blouses, would give my adoring, five year old self on sunny afternoons.
I have an Aromatherapy background, and am actually a licensed Aromatherapist. I would say my olfactory love came from this as well as from Kodo, the Japanese Incense Ceremony. Kodo is like a very elegant game from the esteemed Heian era. One smells the burning incense in a small brassier and must describe the perfumed elements in poetic language, creating art from olfactory art.
● Also can you tell us about your brand?
The inspiration for aroma M is Japan and the Geisha. I am very influenced by Japanese culture and the wonderful years I lived there. The tradition of Geisha is all about beauty, elegance, glamour, mystery….this is the allure for me. This is what perfume is all about. We want to wear a perfume, and feel beautiful, powerful, and sensual. I want you to try on a scent, as you would slip on a silk kimono. One may be white, and pure and delicately embroidered with gold, while another is black, and adorned with bold designs, brocaded and resplendent with a sort of mystery. My fragrances are like this. Noire or Rouge is that black Kimono; it envelops you in sensuality, and makes you feel rather daring. Blanche and Pink is like the white Kimono, one worn by a young girl (Maiko) or a bride. It is flirty and a bit shy. We all have a bit of the Geisha inside of us. Aroma M allows us to explore that mystic. Aroma M perfumes are both modern and ancient, delicate and bold…a true dichotomy of olfactory exploration.
In 2012 I launched aroma M Beauty, an organic Camellia Oil Beauty line comprised of five products a Face Oil, Hair Oil, Body & Bath Oil, Cleansing Oil and of course an all natural Camellia Perfume. My appreciation for Japanese culture and aesthetics in addition to my extraordinary experiences in the secretive world of the Kyoto Gion Geisha’s, have been the bases for aroma M’s Beauty products. The Gourmand combinations are a direct influence from my Kyoto born chef husband. Tuberose and Rosemary, Jasmine, and Frankincense essential oils are designed to smell beautiful and simultaneously enchant the mind, the soul, and the skin. Drawing on my Aromatherapy background, I have conjured elixirs that will satisfy all your beauty needs.
● Did you have any fears starting out?
After spending seven years in Japan, I returned to the US where my newly found adoration of fragrance led me to experimentation in my own home. Imagine bottles lining every surface and essential oils wafting through the rooms cluttered with hand- printed Japanese papers and cherry blossoms (my flower of inspiration)! I started creating perfume; bottling them in delicate glass adorned with silks and velvet and friends started asking for more and more them. The next thing I knew we were launching the first three Geisha Perfumes o-cha, hana-cha and nobara-cha in New York City at Bergdorf Goodman and in London at Harrods. Aroma M started without much thought, it was organic and fun, and I really did not have any fears.
● If there was one thing you could change about the fragrance world what would it be?
As I have been in the industry for over 20 years I have seen many changes. I think that with every turn, the industry has become better and more interesting. The only thing that I would like to see is a more clear understanding of the categories of perfume companies Niche, Independent and Artisan. It would help the industry and all of us involved to have the differences clarified.
● What are some of the themes that you use in your brand?
Japan and the Geisha most definitely are aroma M brand themes. The Yuzen papers from Kyoto that adorn our bottles are also a recognizable theme. In addition, I always include notes that reflect Japan in each Geisha perfume. Like Lychee in Geisha Blanche and Camellia, the namesake of my Camellia Perfume, have become aroma M signatures.
● Can you name a few things that inspire you?
So many things inspire me. Living in New York City, I am able to see amazing art exhibitions and fabulous theater and dance. I love flowers and relish my weekend visits to the farmers market where I get our weekly bouquets. My husband is a chef, so food and the art of Japanese cuisine is a big influence and inspiration to me. I adore fashion, and NYC is the center of style. I also travel to Tokyo once a year where I get a big dose of cutting edge Japanese fashion trends. I am half Greek and have an affinity to the Mediterranean. I love traveling through in that part of the world and recently have added Morocco to my list of places that I must travel to as often as possible. It is such a magical place full of olfactory riches, the ultimate inspiration for a perfumer.
● What is a word of advice you can share with someone wanting to enter the fragrance world as a perfumer or nose?
The only advice I would give is that you must really have a passion for perfume because it is very competitive. It really takes a lot work and time to create a successful brand. You must be up for a challenge. It is important that you love fragrance because that energy will help get you though the tough times, which are inevitable in any industry. Ultimately have fun, enjoy yourself. It’s such a privilege to be able to create without restrictions, be brave and follow your vision.
● Where can we find your perfumes and works for retail?
Aroma M products are available on our website www.aromam.com and www.luckyscent.com, the Scent Bar in Los Angeles, Tigerlily in San Francisco and Twisted Lily in New York.