"Armchair travel" is how D.S. & Durga describes its immersive niche fragrances. The husband-and-wife founders, David (aka D.S.) and Kavi (aka Durga) Moltz, aim to take fragrance lovers on an olfactory journey — one that spans across all the senses.
David is a musician and self-taught perfumer, while Kavi has a background in architecture and design. Perhaps it's not surprising then that their brand's unique and evocative scents draw from cultural, geographical and historical references, including music, literature and art. But there is also a celebration of mundane, fleeting moments, like the sound of a crackling radio in Radio Bombay, or the experience of sipping a coffee while reading a book at a busy cafe evoked by Breakfast Leipzig.
Among aficionados and novices alike, D.S. & Durga has gained a reputation for telling stories through perfume. In advance of the brand launching Plumes, exclusively available at Mecca and inspired by the joy of basking in the Australian sunshine, Refinery29 Australia spoke to David and Kavi to find out more about their process.
On the inspiration for Plumes
David: Plumes was born from my study of frangipani flowers. Whenever I travel in a warm climate, I seem to always find a frangipani tree inviting me to unwind. It is such a unique aroma. I made a copy of a pink frangipani I found in Turks & Caicos. I realised that the aroma is like a little portal that connects all these lovely places together, so you can spray and armchair travel to Australia.
Kavi: We always make it a point to explore local flora when we visit a place. The Botanic Garden is always a stop for us, and I really loved the one in Sydney. I created the artwork for Plumes. I was going for bright and happy!
On Aussies loving 'cheery' fragrances
David: I can’t speak to the [Australian perfume] market in general, but for our brand, Australians seem to dig our fresher, flower and green fragrances most. I’ve encountered many Aussies in my life and would have to say they are among the nicest people I’ve met — so it makes sense that cheery fragrances would go with their sunny disposition.
On perfume trends and layering
David: Our gourmands are getting very noticed — Pistachio, Debaser, our Breakfast candles, and Pasta Water candle. I Don’t Know What keeps doing very well. I think people like that they can play with and layer their own mix of perfumes.
On the inspiration behind D.S. & Durga’s perfumes
David: Each one has its own inspo — it could be a song, a movie, an observation I see, a poem. Anything. We put them on the box and try to show exactly what we were going for. It’s very clear with us, because the perfumer (me) made it... with no middleman. Nothing is lost in translation.
On TikTok’s influence on the fragrance industry
David: Tiktok is cool — it’s like in-camera edits I used to make when I was a kiddo. And a great platform for people to speak their minds. It’s helping get the word out on the magic and artistry of perfume for sure!
On coming up with I Don’t Know What
David: I like to wear lots of rare oils — ouds, patchoulis etc. They are nice but don’t perform like a perfume. I thought, “how can I make a display case for what I want to wear at any given time?” I made an aromatic building with no real heart that can layer over anything and make it a modern, transparent perfume. But that was just the idea. Most people wear it alone, making their own skin the heart of the fragrance.
On having a signature scent
David: I prefer to have a wardrobe of fragrances. To me, perfumes are like albums of bands. You get to sniff one all day and go into the world of it. I wouldn’t want to listen to the same album every day — nor wear the same perfume every day.
On the companion playlist for each scent
David: Music is my first love. I try to attach any song that opens up the world of the fragrance. I love working across artistic disciplines; describing one with the other.
As with all D.S. & Durga perfumes, Plumes is both complex and imaginative. The frangipani dances with tuberose and is grounded by notes of coconut and musk. It's the feeling of a cool breeze on hot skin; of running through the garden with the sprinklers on.
Plumes launches on February 28, 2023, exclusively at Mecca.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.