We got the chance to sit down with Dawn and find out how she managed to translate one of the arguably most interesting, confounding celebrities of our time into a perfume, what exactly it is she actually does, and why fragrance has such a strong impact on her. Then, check out this video to get a more intimate peek into Dawn's fragrant world.
What exactly is a synesthete?
"Synethesia is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. A synesthete is a person that has these experiences and uses them to understand one sense though the use of another. As such, I use my vision to understand smell through color, texture, and emotion. I also use color to identify letters, numbers, and music. Science calls this a disease. Art calls it a gift."
How does it vary from the traditional path of being a fragrance nose?
"The world of perfumery uses a borrowed language from the other senses. The reason it does not have its own language is because the sense of smell predates birth and, thus, the development of speech. Because of this, the olfactive memory is not connected to the part of the brain that processes language, which is why it is so difficult to speak about emotion, scent, and olfactive memories. As a perfume designer, or nose, this disconnects us from our end consumers. Fortunately, the part of the brain that process color is connected to both smell and language; therefore, if you can understand smell through color, you can create a new language for scents."
Take us though your process — how do you go from an idea to a fragrance?
"I have slightly different processes for creating a fine fragrance for a person versus designing a scent for a brand. I ask key questions about color association, texture references, emotional territories, and target markets. I understand that the world of olfaction is mysterious and somewhat intimidating, but through these references, I can break down the desires of the client and directly translate their identity into an olfactive vision. It is an intimate, beautiful, romantically complex process."
Photo: Courtesy of Dawn Goldworm
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