The Olfactive

Deco London

Interview with

Sophia Fannon-Howell

  • What is your background and history?

History is very important to me. I believe that you never really know a place or a person until you understand their history.  My family has traced their genealogy back quite a long way and I come from a line of interesting characters including John Wilmot Earl of Rochester and Grace O’Malley the Irish Pirate Queen.

I was born in Surrey, UK and have lived in England all my life. I studied Geology at University and history at college and I am fascinated by history, all things old and vintage. I am a Dr of Geology and worked as a Consultant in oil and gas industry for over 17 years.  In 2004 I started learning about skincare product formulation, natural ingredients and essential oils in my spare time.  I began blending essential oils for the natural skincare products I was creating, for their therapeutic benefit and their fragrance.  My interest and hobby grew and I launched a skincare brand in 2011, selling luxury natural products online.

 

  • Have you always had an interest in scent and fragrance?

I have been in love with fragrance from an early age. I used to collect scented soaps, scented pens and pencils and fragranced stickers when I was a child. 

 

The first perfumes that I ever bought were Avon fragrances, because they were accessible and inexpensive. My first premium perfume was Dior's Dune followed by Lancôme’s Tresor.  My love of vintage scent really started after I bought my first bottle of Chanel No5 in 1992, which has been my signature scent ever since.  Once I started exploring essential oils in 2004, my passion for fragrance really took off as I began to understand more about the components and chemistry behind perfume.

 

  • How did the project begin?

The idea for Deco London evolved over the last 10 years. Id always wanted to create a brand with a historical bias and I used the idea of vintage design for my facial skincare products.  However, the facial skincare market is extremely busy and I found it hard to stand out from the crowd. I learnt quickly that people tend to buy skincare products based on the smell, rather than the quality of the ingredients in the product. This was disappointing, but ultimately it led me to think more about the fragrance and how I could create complex vintage fragrances.  Whilst I knew a lot about fragrance and natural ingredients, I was not a perfumer, so I sought help from some of the best experts in the business. Through talking to them, I began to understand what was possible and the vision of Deco London the fragrance house was born.

 

  • Tells us about the brand, it’s themes and character.

Deco London creates perfumes inspired by history: the exuberance of periods of history and the perfume trends of the time.  Our first range of perfumes is inspired by the 1920s. 

There are periods of history that stand out for me and the 1920s is one of those times. It was an era of great social change, new modernistic design and an explosion of fragrance creativity, with the invention and introduction of various synthetic molecules.  Many great perfumes were launched in the 1920s.

The idea is to introduce classic perfumery to a modern audience and to create easily wearable fragrances that have a distinctive vintage feel. I love vintage perfumes and the slightly ‘old fashioned’ smell that they have, but I realised that there are a lot of people who don’t and perhaps wouldn’t want to wear them. So Deco London is looking to bridge that gap and create fragrances that embrace the past and the present.

I have given each of the Deco London perfumes a name and a personality, to help people identify with them, but also to add a little humour to the brand and make people smile.  Perhaps on Monday you might feel like being Loretta, the dreamy bohemian, or on Tuesday the vivacious Constance, or perhaps the witty, debonair Quentin on a Friday.  There is a personality for every mood!

 

  • What are your views on where the perfume world is now and where it’s headed?

I think it’s a very exciting time for perfumery as there is a lot of creativity out there. 

Not everyone can afford £100 or more for a bottle of fragrance, but they still want an aspirational purchase. I think its safe to say we will continue to see releases of inexpensive celebrity perfumes that cater for that market. I would like to see the big fragrance companies release a smaller number of better quality offerings that can stand the test of time. 

The niche market is predicted to grow, as there is always demand for the unique and exclusive.  But many niche brands are not ‘niche’ anymore and are readily available worldwide in the prestigious perfume shops and department stores.  Perfume exclusivity is dictated by price, not really by how rare the perfumes are.  Once a niche brand gets to a certain size, they may be acquired by one of the bigger global companies who need to expand their portfolio and reach new customers.  That seems to be the natural way of things and it happens in other businesses all the time. It’s the circle of business! Niche is where the real creativity is and will continue to be and I am sure we will see more ‘niche’ brands enter the market offering the customer something really different and unique… until it goes global!

For many years we have seen the release of modern fragrances based around new synthetic aroma chemicals; Iso E Super is one example.  I am not keen on extremely synthetic smelling perfumes, as I prefer a perfume to have a balance between natural and synthetic ingredients.  However, if restrictions on natural ingredients continue, there will be increasing demand for perfumers to accurately reproduce natural aromas with a combination of synthetic components. Making a natural smelling synthetic fragrance could well end up being the skill most in demand.

 

  • What were your fears if any when started the company?

The biggest fear for me is the financial risk of starting a business.  My family are putting a huge amount of faith in my abilities and trusting me with their investment, which is a massive responsibility. I have looked to mitigate risk by choosing suppliers who can provide me with scalable solutions.  I have worked in business a long time so I understand risk and how to manage it, but even so its one thing managing a corporation’s budget and quite another managing your own investment.

 

  • Where can we find your perfumes for purchase?

The perfumes will be launched in October/November this year.  I will be selling the fragrances through premium retailers in the UK and Europe to start with.  I cannot divulge the retailers yet, but as soon as the details are finalised I will let you know!

 

  • Finally, do you have any thing you would like to share?

I have met some truly amazing people during my perfume journey. The suppliers, perfumers, retailers and perfume enthusiasts that I have had to pleasure to work with have been so kind, helpful and supportive.  It is wonderful to meet so many people who really love what they do. 

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