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
How did you get involved with the creation of Lady Gaga Fame?
"I worked for Coty Beauty Global as the in-house fragrance designer for eight years. At this time, I developed fragrances for celebrity, fashion, and lifestyle brands including, but not limited to, Victoria & David Beckham, Kate Moss, Kylie Minogue, Heidi Klum, and eventually Lady Gaga."
What was it like working with someone who has such an obvious appreciation for the nuances of scent and how it affects our mood?
"Lady Gaga represents individuality, freedom, and unbridled expression. She lives how we dream. And that is what perfume is…a dream in a bottle. She was the ultimate vision for a perfume."
How does one go about translating the essence of Lady Gaga into a scent?
"Lady Gaga had a very clear, strong vision about her perfume. We spoke through the language of music, her language, which I and the Coty team translated into Fame."
What's your favorite scent?
"I love the smell of freshly cut grass from my childhood, juicy lemons, and fresh basil in the kitchen, the salty sea air of the Northeast, the damp green earth of a forest, and of course, the unequivocal perfect smell of my lover."
What fragrance has the most emotional impact on you?
"Coco Chanel. My mother wore it when I was a child. I remember her dabbing it behind my ears and knees on special occasions. When there was only one drop left in the flacon, my mother would give it to me to put in my intimates drawer. I was 10 years old."