There are so many fascinating people in the fragrance and beauty community. From the creative minds that bring products to us to the critics who tell us what to buy, you can learn so much by asking a few questions. In this series I send a list of questions to individuals I look up to and share their answers with you.
This week I spoke with perfumer Terri Bozzo from Perfumes by Terri. I reviewed Terri’s entire lineup last month, and she graciously provided five of my readers with Discovery Sets of their own to try. Her brand has really taken off in recent months, with a feature on Fragrantica and enough orders to fill a lifetime. I am very grateful indeed that she took a moment to chat.
Below are her thoughts about Chanel N°5, her new line of oils, and the creative process for making perfume.
1. You studied Nutritional Sciences in school, and now you’re making niche perfumes – did you ever think that this would be your profession?
No, I really had no idea! I have always been into scent, perfumes, soaps, lotions etc. But I had never thought about creating until the last few years.
My addiction to perfumes escalated about 5 years ago, and I started to delve deeper into non mainstream houses… I would go off on tangents researching one scent or another and got really hooked on researching notes that I found I was drawn to. From there it was more exploration and more of an interest in the “bones” of the perfumes than the finished products for a time.
2. On your website you mention that you owned a bottle of Chanel while in grade school – which was it, and what memories of it do you have? Does it inspire you today?
It was the classic Chanel N°5. My mom gave me hers and I loved it. For the most part it reminds me of my mom though.
As for inspiring – no, actually. I have found over the years that aldehydes and those sorts of fragrances are just not me. I love to smell them, and smell them on others, but I really want to create what I personally want to wear.
3. Vanilla, honey, coffee and caramel – most of your fragrances have a lot of delicious gourmand notes. What’s the attraction?
I’m not sure, but there is a comfort in those scents for me. But also in woody scents, the smell of the outdoors, and florals. I remember the first date I had with my husband too. I was wearing vanilla perfume and lotion and a raspberry hairspray. He couldn’t take his nose out of my hair and commented that I smelled delicious! Who wouldn’t want to make a date feel that way? And honestly I like smelling myself when I have something delicious on!
4. Think back to any particular event in your perfume-making experience that stands out, negatively or positively. What was it, and what did you take from it?
I don’t think anything really stands out, it’s sort of been a free form experience that rolls with my life. It’s still a hobby for me that sits in priority behind all of my other responsibilities with my family. I let it ebb and flow, and let ideas take me when they come up. Sometimes I don’t have time to create and that’s OK too. It’s all just a creative flow.
5. What is your creation process like? Does it start with a set of notes, an idea, or something else?
I’m usually trying to create something I want to smell but can’t find. I mean if I can research it and find it in a database and be happy then yay! I have a lot of favourites from a lot of perfumes houses. My collection is pretty big. What usually gets me is when I think a perfume I’ve purchased will smell a certain way and it leaves me wanting. That will inspire me to create something I was hoping for. Of course sometimes just one smell and another smell will seem to go together and ache to be put into a formulation. So I guess my muses vary.
6. What is it like managing the business aspect of a niche perfume brand?
Honestly I’m really new at this. I’m learning as I go on the business end. A lot of time I’m catching up… realizing I ran out of something I need to make one of my perfumes, running low on bottles, needing to update accounting software, etc. It’s a little bit of everything all while trying to care for my two boys who are 9 and 3.
7. What advice would you give to aspiring perfumers?
I don’t know that I have much… just follow your passion. I didn’t intend to start a company, or a perfume line. I just made what I wanted to wear, and I know a lot of people like perfumes in the same genre that I do. It grew on its own from there. But really follow your passion.
8. The quality of ingredients is so important. Do you test a lot before using new notes in your compositions?
I usually order a lot of samples from various companies. Occasionally with an idea in mind, and sometimes just because I want to smell a raw material and see where it leads… what it pairs up with. There are some naturals that smell so good, and some synthetics I like better that the natural counterpart. I have no hierarchy of better or worse… I only want things to blend well, and work.
9. Where do you draw inspiration?
Usually things I’ve smelled before, sometimes ideas people want me to work with… life I guess. I just follow the flow of things.
10. The names of your fragrances are so romantic; how do you come up with them? What about the packaging?
Ah, the names and packaging are a top secret process involving one of my closest friends and adequate amounts of wine paired with weekend time. 🙂
11. I’ve heard rumours of a hair/skin oil in the works – what is it, and how did you come up with it?
The oils are mostly done… samples have been going out, but I haven’t had the time lately with all my life events to completely finish and list them. I will get them out. I wish I could buy more time, but it’s another year before my little guy is in school and my two sons are my most important projects!
12. Do you have plans to bring Perfumes by Terri to brick and mortar stores?
No, not at the moment. It’s just me creating and hand pouring perfumes. I’ve chatted with a few places that want to wholesale, but there is no way I can create the volume needed to sell that way. I really am an art line. And I refuse to take time away from my family to do this. Possibly in the coming years if I find a way to ramp up, but there are only so many hours in the day.
13. Do you wear your own fragrances? If so, which ones? If not, why?
Yes! Absolutely I wear my own! That was the main reason for making them! I never post my scent of the day if it is mine though. I feel like that is sort of vulgar. My favourites? Oui Plus!, Douceur Brulee, and a tie between Confit de Rose and Vanille Debauche.
14. Oui Plus! is your latest EDP release; what is its story?
My muse for Oui Plus! was my friend Bethany. She asked if I would try to build a perfume around the smell of s’mores. I thought it was an interesting idea, right up my alley. Of course it couldn’t just be candy being part of my line… there always needs to be something a little dark that keeps them from veering into the too sweet teenage perfumes. So the trick was not so much the main notes, as it was the background. I do love how it turned out!
15. What does the future hold for Perfumes by Terri?
I’m taking it day by day. I’m hoping to grow gradually, but really intend to stay a small handmade niche brand. I like making everything by hand and knowing what I really love to do is going into every bottle!
I would like to thank Terri for taking the time to share her ideas with me. You can find her at her website.