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Khamnsin, Ella K. Sonia Constant and some technologies to empower a perfume

An ode to inspiration in the perfumery industry: women proudly maintain a very strong dignity, even in poverty

Ghibli, Harmattan and Khamnsin are the names of the three new fragrances inspired by the winds of Africa by Ella K. Lampoon interviewed Sonia Constant, founder and creative nose of the perfumery house inspired by Ella Maillart, Karen Blixen and Alexandra DavidNeel. Female explorers from another time who have inspired generations of women since their exploits nearly a century ago. 

How the brand came to live

«In 2001 I enrolled at the Givaudan’s School of Perfumery. At the time it was the only perfumery school in the world, under the direction of Jean Guichard. Now there are a few others». In 2017, in parallel with her work as a perfumer, Sonia created Ella K.

«I needed more freedom in my artistic career and I wanted to express my own philosophy of life through the name. Through the history of my own brand, and translate each travel into a present. The name Ella was inspired by a Swiss woman who lived between the two wars, a woman who had to stay at home and do all the things women were supposed to do at the time. But who instead decided to travel the world: Russia, China, Caucasus. A woman who lived the dream: Ella Maillart».

Ella Maillart was born in Geneva in 1903 to a fur trader father and a Danish mother, she took up sport at an early age. She became a skier, a hockey player and a sailor. In the latter capacity she also participated in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Later she became an English teacher, a typist, a photographer and a model. But it was with her books and travel reports that she became famous. For her most renowned journey, a harrowing 7-month, 3,500-mile trek from Beijing to Kashmir through Chinese Turkestan in 1935. She set off with two pounds of marmalade, a rifle. A bottle of Worcestershire sauce, writing paper, a Leica camera together with Peter Fleming, Ian Fleming’s younger brother.

«The K comes not only from Ella Maillart’s most famous nickname–Kini–but also from the initial of my grandfather’s name. He inspired me with his stories about travel and adventures in Africa during my childhood».

Each of Ella K’s perfumes is a journey

«Many trips have been an inspiration for the creative direction of my brand. I can’t even say which was my favorite, but I can certainly say which one was the most significant: India. Pushkar, one of the oldest cities in the country. It inspired me to create the fragrance Lettre de Pushkar. India is the kind of country that changes your life. The culture is totally different from ours, the people, the colors and the smells were a shock to me.»

«Women proudly maintain a very strong dignity, even in poverty, and this led me to reflect particularly on certain issues and to meditate. And from there my life changed forever. It is a non-traditional journey, but a journey into oneself. This is also why I chose the symbol of metamorphosis as the logo for my perfumes. A dragonfly drawn by the japanese artist Senjiro Nakata.»

Khamnsin, Ella K

«It is an invitation to explore and to take that interior journey, following your own desires and your own path, and not what society wants you to follow. When I created Ella K I was almost 40 years old. I started to look back and ask myself what I had done, and I felt it was not enough. I felt I wanted to do more, to merge my passions like photography and poetry into my creations. To look inside myself and follow my own needs.»

Lettre de Pushkar is not the only Ella K fragrance with a strong source of inspiration behind it: «I like to transform colors into fragrances: for Rose De Pushkar it was the saturation of the Indian Sari–blue, pink, yellow–that inspired me the most. Ghibli is part of the trilogy dedicated to the winds. Which is also a journey into leathery fragrances, inspired by the wind from which it takes its name. A hot, humid wind that originates in Syria and blows over the Maghreb in spring and autumn. Cri du Kalahari, instead, is inspired by the baobab wood, an ancestral symbol of African history. If I think of inspirations from the past, I particularly loved Jean-Claude Ellena’s work, Terre d’Hermès, and the freedom he was given in his creation».

Natural elements meet craftsmanship and technology

Technologies and environmental tracking tools are empowering perfume creators to step up to sustainable and green demands. «I love working with Ambroxan. For me it is always a modern ingredient, not too feminine and not too masculine. But I also love musk, and many other ingredients. Talking about ingredients, at Ella K we use an extraction technology called Headspace. You just just put some flowers, woods or anything that smells inside the glass bulb for two hours to capture the molecules of their smell. The substrate inside captures the scent molecules, and then you can bring it to the lab to decipher the smell and recreate it. We could call it a ‘Shazam’ of perfumes,» she says.

Developed in the 1980s, Headspace acts as a fragrant camera that captures and decodes the molecules in the air surrounding a particular material or object. Providing a perfumer with raw data they can use to piece together a familiar smell using other notes and ingredients. This technology allows a perfumer to take an olfactory snapshot of something in nature that isn’t extractable via traditional methods, or if it is able to be extracted. The end result varies significantly from the smell of the real thing. «It is an eco-friendly approach, because we do not cut plants. This technology is a great source of inspiration for me, it allows me to unleash my creativity everywhere. When I travel I can trap every single scent and smell and analyse it».

Sonia Constant – an expert of the perfumery industry

Sonia Constant is now one of the most established names in perfumery: before creating her own brand. She worked with Narciso Rodriguez, Burberry, Lanvin, Coach and many others. «I have worked for many brands, but the one that has inspired me the most during my career has been Narciso Rodriguez. Narciso Rodriguez has a very respectful vision of women. Respect is the core value in my vision. Which I try to incorporate every day in my work and in the path of my creations. He has always tried to elevate the image of women, not only in terms of the image of the female body but also in terms of its essence: he has never tried to transform a woman’s skin into something it is not or should be according to society’s standards. We share the same values in the process of creating our products».

Very few of today’s perfume houses have been created by women. «Through marketing and social media, artistic perfumery might seem like a purely feminine world, but it is not. I think the world of perfumery today lacks authenticity and transparency. Creating your own brand in this field is difficult. And when you are a woman you have to multiply this difficulty by ten. It takes a lot of resilience, a lot of energy, which not everyone has. I do everything myself: Ella K is my personal brand, I choose the ingredients, I create the fragrances. I can afford it, but not all women who work in my industry are like that: there are lots of male noses and perfumers from the past that I admire, but in the present, the ones I admire most are the women who have the courage to open their own perfumery houses».

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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