Samantha Akhondi Arsi, a passionate perfumer who was born and raised in Paris. She was fascinated by chemistry since high school and decided to pursue her career in perfumery which combines art and science of intangible beauty and mystery. She is a world traveller and has made trips around the world to search for her scent inspirations. She worked at well known perfume houses in New York, Spain and France and now lives in Paris, working at The Alchemist Atelier. She loves flowers, travelling and she speaks 4 different languages. No matter where she is, she lives and breathes with aroma and global culture.
What inspires you to be a perfumer?
I always liked science in high school and I love Maths and Chemistry then I specialised chemistry in my prep school. One day, I decided to pursue a career that can apply my practical chemistry skills. So I just went on google and searched “what job can I do with practical chemistry” then the first thing came out was “École Supérieure du Parfum”. Then I went for the open day to understand what I could possibly learn in this school if I really apply for it. I am absolutely amazed. Perfumery is a mysterious art, it’s the perfect combination of art and science. After that day, I knew that I had found the passion of my life.
Hence I studied for 5 years specialising in perfume. It opened the door to the world of perfume and I had my internship abroad in many different countries including Symrise in New York, an independent fragrance making studio in Alicante, Spain and Champs Elysee in Paris.
How does aroma contribute in your living and daily life?
Fragrance is more impactful than a photo album. When you smell, the sense goes directly to your brain area called the hippocampus where you store all your memory and emotion. Sense of smell is very close to our inner deep emotion. Sometimes, people are not able to explain the reasons why they like or dislike a particular sense. But it is always linked to your deep emotion and your childhood memory. Also, the scents represent you. It’s part of your personal branding. I can easily tell one’s personality, preference, lifestyle or aspirations from different perfumes they are wearing.
Everyone has very intimate stories with fragrance. I am absolutely fascinated by it.
What’s your approach to design a bespoke fragrance for your client?
First of all, I will ask what kind of fragrance he/she usually uses. Then I will have a conversation about if there are only 3 characteristics the client would like to have in her/his life – emotion, attitude, or a particular ingredient you like. It can be very abstract. But through these 3 elements, I can guide the clients to the dreamland with specific base, core, top note that formulate his/her desired bespoke scent.
If now you have to create a bespoke fragrance for House of Serene, what scent will it be?
I love that idea. Tell me what are the 3 emotions / attitudes that represent the House of Serene.
[from House of Serene
- Calm, a peaceful of mind
- Living in present
- At ease, feel content and comfortable for who I am and where I am]
Before talking about the ingredients, let me explain more on the concept of a fragrance. When we picture a fragrance, it always comes with an olfactory pyramid with top note on the top, heart note in the middle and base note at the bottom. Top note is the first thing you smell when you spray the fragrance and it will last max 30 mins. It is expressive and the beginning of your fragrance. The heart note is the soul of the fragrance and it usually stays for 4 – 6 hours. Then you have the bottom note. It appears 10 mins after you spray the fragrance and it lasts over 12 hours or even more.
In the winter, if you would like to smell nice, comforting and warm for a long time. You will prefer to have a lot of bottom notes so it can last a long time. It’s the same concept of a house fragrance so I would usually go for the bottom note. Something with very low velocity (I told you it’s all about chemistry). If you want to feel warm and cozy, you can consider using warm notes such as wood, oriental and leather which bring you a musky sense and cocoon feeling. When your house has saddle wood, I would suggest you add some warm spice onto it such as nutmeg, cinnamon and cloth. As I said, smell links close to your memory and emotion and those notes remind you of a cozy, happy Christmas.
How many notes in total do you usually use?
There are bases and chords. In base notes, you have top notes, heart notes and bottom notes. While in the chords, it is less complex. There are either top notes, heart notes or bottom notes. The base is like the structure and the foundation of the fragrance. The core is like the added elements to customise the fragrance. Imagine it's like the outfit of the day – base is the clothes you wear and the chords are the elements like jewellery, hat and scarves to add dashes on top of it.
What’s your personal favourite?
I love winter, oriental and ambery fragrance. For the base, I would usually choose Madagascar vanilla with a small amount of Madagascar pepper. It’s musky and has the incense element in it. It's a very sensual base to use in the winter.
I also like creamy wood and Australia saddle wood. It gives you a creamy, milky sense. For the chords, I love to put a small touch of leather to add a dash of character. Apart from leather, tonka bean, vanilla and Turkish rose are my top usual picks as well.
How do you feel during the lockdown and how do you cope with it?
I love travelling and I get inspired for my fragrance development from my travelling experience. Yes, it is a frustrating situation as I couldn’t travel as much as I did before.
To be honest with you, I am actually a person who needs to go to work physically. There’s no way to disconnect with work when I am at home as there is no physical boundary between work and life. As you can see, I am very outgoing so I am so glad they opened the workshop in Paris a few months ago that I can go in to work and actually talk to colleagues and customers. It is just not the same as connecting solely through the screens.
Even though I really miss the proximity to work closely with people. But I am extremely grateful for still doing what I love through online workshops. It is definitely a challenge to understand the customers’ needs and what customers want through the screens. But it also gives us the opportunity to think out of the box and unleash our creativity to make it happen.
We send the fragrance testers to the customers and collect feedback digitally. The customers couldn’t smell on the spot but they can still smell it later on. It gives them the anticipations of what they have created. We are thankful that our team has developed some different skills to understand the customers better and serve their needs.
What’s your daily routine?
When I wake up in the morning, I love to connect with the most recent fashion trends and news. I read my Vogue, yes you are right I still read a physical magazine. In the fragrance industry, it is very important that you keep abreast of what is going on in the beauty and fashion trends as they are all related. I love doing a mini exercise of linking the landscape and clothing with fragrance when I see a picture. I will spray one of my favourite home fragrance and wear a light fragrance on my wrist before I start working.
I like to smell pretty and put in energy into whatever I do. I will try it at least. In between work, I love to inject some energy and relax my brain a bit so I will have a 15 – 20 minute exercise session at home.
What’s serenity mean to you?
I think it is a balance of life. I love working and learning. I am happy to feel useful at work but I wouldn’t only focus on work. I like to spend time with my boyfriend, friends and family. To me, serenity isn’t only about stillness. It’s about balance between activities and stillness. It’s a state of mind that makes you feel relaxed and comfortable. My comfort corner isn’t a place. I previously was a dancer and I enjoy dancing so much. I have a very imaginative and over functioning mind where all my creativity comes from. But when I dance, I am fully present and all my focus is my body movement. It really relaxes me. So, does reading.
Please share three serene life advice.
First of all, do simple things that make you happy. It can be cooking or it can be reading. Second, look after yourself in the way you enjoy. You can put on a face mask to relax or wear a light perfume / body mist that makes you feel pleasant. Last but not least, sharing is the most important part of making your life happy and balanced. Sharing emotions and feelings, and showing your love by making your friends and family a small handcrafted gift.
Sometimes, you feel the joy by making others joyful. It’s not about the gift itself but the love and efforts you put.
Get more inspiration from Samantha.