Scent is the most triggering sense we have. It has the power to divulge old memories and emotions and transport us through time. My first job ever as a teenager was working at a psychic shop that focused in aromatherapy, and I will never forget those scents of incense and the aura cleanser spray my boss would have me spray around the shop.
These memories are with me as I sit down in a little coffee shop next to Kathleen Currie, founder of Smoke Perfume. Her smile and attitude is as light and refreshing as the blends of oils she concocts in her New Orleans Studio. Within the past two years her brand, Smoke, has grown from a personal routine to an internationally distributed Artisan business.
When did you first realize you wanted to launch a perfume line?
“I started Smoke by accident in 2009. I had just moved into the French quarter and I was a fairly new massage therapist using aromatherapy a lot to create blends within a session, using 3-5 essential oils at a time. It was a natural process that I began creating and wearing my own blends.
I wasn’t thinking about creating a perfume line, but had been focusing on the protective and health benefits of essential oils. I would get compliments all the time around New Orleans and this one blend I created using vetiver, (which became “Smoke”) really became my signature scent- it was my invisible cape. I couldn’t leave the house without it.
It really grew from there. Friends would ask for blends and my family made up of entrepreneurs was very supportive and helpful when I started to launch my own business. It took a few years of working with designers and getting my brand down and juggling work until I finally launched Smoke in February 2013.”
What about New Orleans really drew this creativity out of you?
“I was living in Tucson for a while before moving to down here and it just wasn’t the right city for me- at one point it had been but It was just time to go. All of my family lives down here, so after coming home for Christmas, it was just a very dramatic decision that I just wanted to be down here as soon as possible.
Moving into the quarter was just a very inspirational period to me. To live there sparked something really creative for me. The positivity I felt from New Orleans was a combination the empowerment from moving across the country and being supported by my family. And the lifestyle down here is so different from anywhere else in the US. Being down here, everything was just so easy and laid back. New Orleans helped me become more of the person I was supposed to be, which is more of an open and creative person.”
How did you come up with the name “Smoke”?
“I was brainstorming a lot about the name for the brand with my brother. We had a running list for the longest time. We were at Felipe’s in the French Quarter and someone stepped outside to smoke, and once we heard the word it just clicked. It’s very descriptive for the scent. And it didn’t know this at the time, but he word “perfume” has its etymology in the word “smoke” because the first perfumes were actually incense and that’s how they would scent rooms.”
Do you have your own personal beauty ritual that you follow that spurred your brand?
“It’s a very holistic brand. My background has always been about health and wellness. I do consider it to be a lifestyle brand and I try to think about what that looks like for me in my personal life. I do all sorts of holistic routines throughout my day. I have to take into account the season, how I’m feeling, or how busy my schedule is. What stays pretty constant is my skin routine. Cleansing and doing a face massage with the body oils from my brand. You get the aroma-therapeutic benefits as well as the benefits from the oil absorption.
Beyond that, nutrition is very important to me. As well as doing restorative yoga poses daily. I also swear by the steam room, which is a huge part of my wellbeing!”
What raw scents inspire your process?
“I’ve been really obsessed with cypress lately and it grows naturally here so it was perfect for summer. It’s a very grounding and cooling quality and it’s got a really rich but light scent. I use the raw oil or I infuse the leaf and branch with other oils.
That’s going to be in my new scent that I’m working on. It will also include Ylang Ylang (called the poor man’s jasmine), which has similar qualities to jasmine. It’s a very sensual and refreshing smell.”
Any upcoming projects you can give us a sneak peak of?
“I have a new scent launching this fall, called “Wellspring”. It’s going to be a kind of musky floral scent with ylang-ylang and amber and ambrette seed. I’m re-launching my candle that I’ve been working on redesigning.
I’m also working on a collaboration with Porter Lyons. I’m really excited since the two brands seem to be a great fit. We’re both Louisiana inspired and sourcing raw local materials within our products. You can also find samples of “smoke” perfume in the swag bags at Porter Lyons Deco Bohemia Launch.”
I’ve noticed that a lot of your products are inspired by your environment and that most products are sourced from the gulf and surrounding areas. Is there anything New Orleans has personally inspired in your scents?
“Nature is my biggest source of inspiration. No matter where I live I always tune in deeply to that nature of that space. In Arizona it came so easy being surrounded by mountains right in my backyard. It’s been really interesting to try and find what nature here speaks to me. Cypress was a big one.
Sourcing locally as a company makes it so a lot more fun and rewarding because I have to inherently build these relationships with suppliers. The sugar company is in the Bayou, and I go and shovel sugar for my sugar scrub in the swamps. I’ve also been working with a local rose grower and getting roses for oils. I love these different avenues of exploring. I always learn something new. I took an herbal course on the North Shore and that’s been deepening my connection to nature around here as well.”
Keep your eyes on Smoke Perfume this season. Between some exciting collaborations and new products launching in the near future, Kathleen Currie is certainly taking her time to stop and smell the roses.
Love & Lyons,