Dana El Masri
- Can you tell us of your background?
I consider myself a citizen of the world; born in Budapest, to a Lebanese father and an Egyptian mother. I was raised in Dubai, moved to Montreal at eighteen to study Communication Studies with a deep interest in singing and sound production. Growing up. I was very into arts and culture and identified especially to music. I grew up surrounded by people from different cultures, I was lucky enough to travel and get the chance to come to Canada where I have been for the last ten years or so. Perfumery came to me through a whirlwind of events that awakened my spirit and set me on the path that I am now on.
- Did you have a interest in fragrance growing up?
Yes, actually. I have very strong scent memories. Some of growing up in the Middle East, the Gulf in particular.I remember a lot of ‘bukhour’ (Oud wood chips) being burned at weddings and in the home. My whole family has great taste in perfume, so I grew up surrounded by YSL, Dior, and Bucheron for example. My mother gifted me with my first perfume; a 10ml of Soleil by Fragonard. From then on, I had a perfume for every season and had a keen curiosity for it.
- Well, how did your current journey into perfume begin?
It was fate! Meant to be.
After graduating, I felt disconnected and not prepared for the world, so I decided to spend a lot of time reading. I read ‘Jitterbug Perfume’ and ‘The Alchemist’ in that order, and had an exciting aha! moment. My curiosity had gotten the best of me and after I closed those pages. I realized that I had always been quite attached to my sense of smell and that if there were a way to find out more about perfumery and olfaction in general, that I would go full force in doing so.
So that’s what I did! I kept reading, researching about the industry, where to train and after many failed attempts, I found the Grasse Institute of Perfumery. I applied, waited impatiently for months, got a letter for an interview with Clement Gavarry and within the month I got my acceptance. And so began one of the most rewarding years of my life, because without that year, I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't have some of the beautiful friendships that I have and I wouldn't be following my dream.
- What would you say is your creative process if you can share?
It depends on the type of perfume that I am creating. If I am making something for the Jazmin Saraï collection, i.e. inspired by music, then I usually have a gut instinct as to which song I would want to encapsulate in scent. Certain sounds equate to certain smells for me, from there I make a list of all the ingredients I think would transcend the message accurately. The transformative quality of each ingredient is important for me too.
In terms of structure, I think of the tempo of my perfume, how fast or slow I want it to evaporate. Does it have a rhythm? Is it harmonious? I review many times until I’ve been able to translate what I have in my head in real time. I let the blend sit for a day, and then I come back to it, then I repeat if it doesn’t feel right. I don’t usually have very long formula, I feel like I only use ingredients that serve their purpose. I also look at either juxtaposing ingredients together to create an accord or creating an illusion of an image; a scent; a message, or it could be pushing the dose on one ingredient, the possibilities are endless! I’m always open to playing and keeping patient, my ingredients will sing to me when they’re ready.
- Do you have any advice for those that may want to become a perfumer or designer of scent or anything that is creative in general?
If this is something you want to do, keep at it! Do your research, try to stay up to date. Be patient and don’t second-guess yourself. Give your work some space when you need to, don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion (after all, scent is subjective, you’re trying to create something you love but that intrinsically needs to connect to others on a deep level too.) And have fun with it! Art is all about expression, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and discover who you are in the process. Oh, and practice!
- What is your brand about the themes that you use?
I launched my company Jazmin Saraï last year; I call it the palace of musical perfumes. This is where I explore the scent/sound continuum. I love exploring feeling and enjoy playing with different modalities.
I went to GIP with the idea of music and scent and upon further research; I had stumbled upon Septimus Piesse’s ‘Art of Perfumery’ and Synesthesia. That pushed me in the right direction and solidified my need to delve into the structural similarities of scent and music and their primal, instinctive connections to true emotions. Scent, music, culture, that’s really what my current work is about.
- If you were not a perfumer what do you think you would be doing?
Ahhh! That’s interesting…I feel like being a perfumer makes me feel like I am can access different worlds, and I have learned more about other worlds/industries/perspectives through perfumery. The way I see it, there’s no limit to what I can be. Even though I am incredibly happy being a perfumer, I see myself as an artist; I love delving into the visual arts, singing, and writing.
So I’m really happy being all of those ‘people’ I look forward to seeing what else I will become in the future. I would love to explore olfaction through a more sensorial approach (playing with sensory spaces for example, art exhibits too), as well as focusing on more scientific research on Synesthesia and our sense of smell. I really want to know as much as I can, from every angle. I’m excited to see where it all leads! Otherwise, it would be nice to follow my ‘little girl Dana’ dream of becoming a ballerina.
- Where can we find your perfumes for sale?
Online on my website at www.jazminsarai.com and on Indiescents.
If you live in Montreal, I have a couple of retailers there: Maison Fusion, Arterie Boutique & General 54.
There are many more in the works! Expanding into the US this year if all goes well and more news to come!
- Finally do you have any other words that you would like to share?
Thanks for the chat! It’s important to share the world of perfumery with others, I’m tired of all the misconceptions, I really believe it’s important to share the right kind of information with others, to stay open with them, to possibly change the course of their day because you made them think of their sense of smell. It’s a change in perspective, one that can brighten their everyday. So let’s share this beautiful, mindful, olfactive journey together!