Six Scents/PARFUMS QUARTANA
Creative Director Joseph Quartana
Six Scents Parfums Established in 2007, the brand creates artisanal fragrances by translating the unfiltered creativity of artists into the language of scent. Our goal is to trigger momentum around each cause through fragrance and creativity with a conscience.
PARFUMS QUARTANA that explores the treacherous beauty and intriguing lore behind nine of the world’s most poisonous flowers.
Six Scents Parfums explores new conceptual directions in the art of perfumery by pairing today’s most visionary fashion designers with the world's most celebrated perfumers, in order to render the designers' visions through fragrance and shape tomorrow’s olfactory palette.
Each of our four series of six scents apiece has garnered prestigious industry awards or nominations, including an FGI International Finalist Award for Best New Fragrance Series in 2012, the coveted Fragrance Foundation's FiFi Prize for Best Indie Fragrance of the Year in 2011 with a second nomination in 2010, and a Cannes Lion for Innovation in Packaging in 2009.
Additionally Six Scents has been privately commissioned to develop fragrances for Project Zero Zero’s Them/Her multi-sensory project with Nicola Formichetti/Kaimin/Miles Aldridge, The Arnheim Mode Bi-enalle, and The Standard Spa Miami Beach.
And with each series, we donate a portion of our sales proceeds to a deserving charity: Designers Against Aids, Pronatura International, and War Child, so you can feel good while smelling good.
Six Scents was co-founded and is currently headed up by Joseph Quartana, the former director of the avant-garde fashion boutique, Seven New York.
- Growing up was scent a large part of your life?
I wouldn't say I was a fragrance fanatic per se; but as a well-dressed gentleman and someone who takes pride in his appearance, fragrance was important and continues to be important to me as a means of finishing a look. It's like the cherry on the ice-cream. Without it, I would feel only partially dressed.
- How do you think that smell in general, affects the growth of a child into an adult?
It's one of the six senses vital to our survival but it also happens to be the strongest in terms of triggering memory, so naturally it's going to shape one's identity, at least in terms of what one finds to be attractive.
- What is your background and how did you begin working within the fragrance world?
I did a human behavorial science concentration at NYU which combined two majors, economics (i.e. how and why people behave they way they do in the marketplace), and social-psychology (i.e. what makes people 'tick' and how and why do they behave the way they do around other humans) as a foundation for marketing. And I knew I wanted to work in a creative industry, but in a business capacity. Anyway I wound up working in the fashion industry as a buyer and opened my first boutique, Seven New York in 1999 on the Lower East Side. The shop specialized in cutting-edge fashion designers that I felt were underrepresented in New York and over the years we developed a healthy alternative celebrity following (namely Bjork, Courtney Love, Jay Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Ciara, Estelle, Black Eyed Peas, JLo, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Sacha Baron-Cohen, Claire Danes, Marisa Tomei, Sienna Miller and Tilda Swinton for example were all long-time regular customers). In 2005 I moved the boutique to a bigger location in Soho, and once I got that going, I began to feel I needed a new challenge. So my former partner in Six Scents, Kaya Sorhaindo, phoned me up one day saying that he had the chance to develop a capsule collection of fragrances with Symrise and if I had any good ideas and if I wanted to be involved. So I suggested we do a series of scents envisioned by fashion designers that were influential in the industry that they SHOULD have a fragrance, but not necessarily big enough that they COULD have a fragrance. By combining six designers, we could reach factory minimums, and thus the first and original Six Scents collection was born.
- What are your thoughts on how the fragrance industry is changing?
I think the era of celebrity fragrance is finally done (thank God). The future is about choice and individuality, and so I feel everyone should be able to wear a unique scent that appeals to them and not be limited to a selection of boring scents from the same 15 companies that all smell the same and are safe.
- How does background or culture play a large role in your work?
I bring a fashion perspective to my creations. They are all informed by my 14 years as a designer fashion buyer. The brands that I used to work with (I unfortunately closed my boutique in 2012 after a 4 year protracted dispute with my landlord over, of all things, scaffolding blocking my facade for years) were the most creative in the industry (for example Raf Simons, KTZ, Juun J, Peter Pilotto, Mary Katrantzou, Rad Hourani, Gareth Pugh and the like), so I got to know them, I studied them and their work inside and out, and I learned how to create something compelling and with high-quality but that leverages value.
- What would be your favourite smell?
- I read that scent has much to do with attraction, do you believe that scent, smell, fragrances has a role in love?
ABSOLUTELY. Smell is fundamental to attraction. In fact, when one is attracted to someone's smell, one is actually smelling the person's immune system and honing in on what they are resistant to in terms of disease. This insures a better chance of survival for offspring, so it's a biological imperative.
- At the moment fragrance is an art form, how do you feel about arts in all forms importance in the life of a person?
A world without art would be a dreary one. It colors every facet of one's life and makes it worth living.
- How would you describe your work?
Different. Alternative. Unique. Not for everyone. I try to appeal to those that own their own identity, have a perspective, and are strong minded. My work has integrity; I wouldn't dare put it out into the world if I didn't feel it did. One might not personally like it, but they will hopefully at least respect it.
- Finally is there anything else that you would like to say?
Your choice of course!
- The new line, what inspired you to create it?
I was watching an episode of Breaking Bad on TV called 'Lily of the Valley' and in it, Walt used that flower to poison someone on the show, and it got me thinking it would be very interesting to create a fragrance series based on poison flowers, to feature and showcase their darker side. I liked the idea of the femme-fatale, a beautiful woman who is deceptively dangerous, so that became the guiding principle for the collection.
- What was the process like in the beginning, say finding the correct people,artist, firms to work with?
With the fragrances themselves, and after I conducted months of research, I briefed the entire Symrise team and each volunteered to develop the particular poison flower that appealed to them the most. Thereafter that process flowed pretty smoothly over the 2 years we developed them. With the films and packaging I essentially worked with creative friends whom I trust and who still like to make art for art's sake! And we had fun with it!
- The art direction is so strong, what can you say about the artwork and the branding?
Thank you. The packaging is inspired by the concept of aposematism which is when organisms signal they are toxic by having bright colors and bold patterns on their skin and they are therefore left alone by predators. As well, I wanted to boxes to be colorful if only to offset the 'darkness' of the collection, in an ironic way. As with everything in this collection, things are not what they seem...
- The scents themselves can you give a small walkthrough of each scent in the new collection?
Venetian Belladonna is the essence of the femme-fatale and was directly inspired by Italian witchcraft (Stregheria) as the belladonna berry figured into their male seduction spell rituals and is equated with aggressive feminine sexuality. So it's seductive but in a burning and dark way to suggest both passion and a witch's fire. With Bloodflower, with just the name alone it was begging to be made into a Gothic experience. So we added of course blood accord, but to sweeten the blood (as it was admittendly a bit disgusting in the beginning) we added an Italian dessert liquor called Black Sambuca which is sweet and aromatic and smells like anise. The Sambuca element transformed the blood element into a black sweet liquid that one wants to lap up in a vampiric way. Midnight Datura, also known as Moonflower, is a white flower that blossoms at nighttime and glows in the moonlight. As such it figured into pagan lunar worship. We imagined a LOT of daturas all opened up and glowing in the moon, so we made it into a super floral (there are 10 different flowers) but we gave it a platinum luminescence to suggest a glow.
With Digitalis, this particular poison flower was used to summon woodland spirits like Faeries, and so we make it sparkly and ozonic to suggest their presence in a woodland setting with a crisp, fresh brook flowing through the scene. Hemlock became a bondage-y fragrance, as the perfumer envisioned a girl strolling through a green, grassy field and eating the delicate white flowers, which caused her face to melt off revealing a black, vinyl gimp mask (hence the addition of the black vinyl accord). So it is an interesting mixture of natural and extremely synthetic, plastic notes. Lily of the Valley as a fragrance is traditionally rendered as a Spring-time, innocent floral fragrance. Our version, which emphasizes its poisonous aspect starts with that at the heart, but we corrupted its innocence by wrapping it in a black shroud and giving it a black leather base. It's basically the wedding dress the next day. Mandrake, if you've ever seen Harry Potter, is said to emit a fatal supersonic shriek if you rip it out of the ground. And this is one flower that we actually really liked the smell of the flower (which is like apples) so we used mandrake accord as well as red fruits like apple, rhubarb and pomegranate as the heart, but emphasized the root of the plant with birch root and leaf, and we pulled the two elements together with something Carlos the perfumer created called 'Deadly Addiction Accord' which is basically rhubarb mixed with creamy, gourmand woods. Finally we captured the scream with a sharp aromatic note. With Poppy Soma, Emilie Coppermann was actually the understudy of Jean-Louis Sieuzac who created 'Opium' for YSL in 1978; so we wanted to pay homage to it but simultaneously stay as far away as possible from it for obvious reasons. So our take on it was essentially the before and after of the white nectar that drips out of the poppy bulbs which is used to refine into raw opium. Ours begins with the smell of the sweet white nectar but transforms into the pungent smokiness of opium, and it's all imbued with a warm sensuality to suggest being under the influence of the drug. Finally with Wolfsbane, this one is EXTREMELY masculine, as as a poison flower it was used by hunters to exterminate wolves (by dipping their arrowhead into the poison) but as well used by warriors to exterminate their enemies. We captured that virility of both a hunter/warrior and the ferocity of a wolf, and made it so full of rage to be psychedelic, hence the addition of the absinthe in its heart note. It's extremely animalic but opulent given the addition of the woods and black truffles.
- Will line expand into home...such as candles and ext?
Candles are indeed coming next!
- A word about the Six-Scents line will they become available soon?
After releasing the candles I will begin to re-release each of the four Six Scents collections one at a time but in new, updated packaging. I may develop Series 5 too.
- Where can we find the line in retail?
For the USA, Twisted Lily in Brooklyn. For Europe, there are a lot of stockists so best to consult our website.
- Lasty what is your best advice for anyone wanting to be in the creative business?