Experimental Perfume Club is a creative perfume studio in the heart of East London which specialises in bespoke perfumery. They run both expert and creative perfumery courses for individuals and businesses, and design fragrance for brands. Emmanuelle, who founded and runs the project (on her own, may I add) has been working on the project for about 2 years. First very small in her bedroom, where she gave her first workshops and tried it with friends, on the side of her full time corporate job, until about 6 months ago when the first lab opened in Dalston; the current wonderful space on Netil Lane opened a month ago. Aside from the workshops, EPC also hosts events with external companies (recently partnering up with Somerset House and Soho House). If all this isn’t enough, Emmanuelle is launching a fragrance collection in September. The project was born out of Emmanuelle’s frustration at the disconnection between the fragrance industry and its consumers.
How/when did it all start?
“When it’s your business and you’re on your own it’s really bizarre, you think when did I actually start it, because there are so many stages of growth. So the idea of EPC was really to help people reconnect with their sense of smell. I’m a classically trained perfumer, I’ve been working in this business for 12 years now and I was always quite frustrated to see a disconnection between the fragrance industry, the people who create the fragrance and the consumers – my friends, my family, etc. And I just thought it was a shame because I remember when I studied perfumery 12 years ago it was such a big… it was mind-blowing because all of a sudden you use your nose in a way that you’ve never done it before, it’s almost like you discover a new world around you, of smell. And it’s by training your nose that you become more aware of smell, because everybody has a nose and everybody smells stuff, but you’re not necessarily connecting with it. So I remember this feeling of going to the perfumer school and thinking it was absolutely amazing and …this frustration of seeing my friends and family, always asking the same questions. There are so many urban legends around fragrance, how you should use fragrance, what can you use, what’s good for me, this impression as a consumer of “I don’t know how to smell, I don’t have a good sense of smell I don’t know what I like I don’t know what I don’t like” – these kinds of things, 95% of people. And you come here for 1 hour workshop and your realise that all of your beliefs around what you thought as a consumer, you realise you’re really good at smelling. So today we’re doing open access which is a unique concept that doesn’t really exist in perfumery, it’s the first open perfumery lab – the idea is bringing knowledge and materials to people for them to experiment in their own time, as opposed to a workshop structure. So I do workshops etc, that’s how EPC became what it is today and became known. So it started very small in my bedroom, and I gave my first workshops and tried it with friends and then I thought this is amazing because as professional in the fragrance industry, you do it because it’s your job because you love it, because you’re surrounded with people who are experts and you go round in circles with them, but then the consumer has no idea that this is going on behind closed doors and if you spend up to 3 years developing your product that no one cares about, what’s the point.”
What did you want to do as a child, did you always wanted to do this?
“Yeah I was sure of this career maybe at 13/14. I met someone who’s now a very close friend of mine, I was really lucky. She’s a bit older and we met when I was a teenager – I met her through my mum – you know in France there’s only one school that does this, and she was in this perfumer school. She got me all of my first internships and this all got me into this industry.”
Why this area?
“I’ve always lived in North London and I moved to Haggerston for my personal life 3-4 years ago and I’ve always stayed in the area so it was natural I couldn’t see myself anywhere else than in East London! Most perfumery shops are in West/Central London and they’re quite different, this is more conceptual, more craft. So the open access lab was actually inspired by Open Access ceramics studio in Haggerston, which does the same but for ceramics.”
Favourite thing about this area?
“I know it sounds a bit cliche but I just really like London Fields, Broadway Market and Netil House, I like this triangular… it attracts so many young people which is the type of audience I’d like to attract so I think it’s really quite spot on for what I do.”
What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
“Crowdfunding, it’s insane! I’ve come so far with this business, I grew from my room to this, I went through quite a bit of legal challenge and all the things that go with putting together a company on my own and doing everything on my own. Crowdfunding is a level up, this constant nagging. Because I’m quite low profile brand in terms of communication I find it quite unnatural. We’re 2 weeks in though and I’m almost 50% into the goal and I have more and more familiar names contributing, people are starting to talk about it, my perfumer school posted about the crowdfunding on their FB. It’s hard work and with my job, I do everything me and my intern and crowdfunding on top of that is just…!”
What are your plans for the future?
“What I’d love to do is to make people aware of this space, that this concept exists and that it’s never been done before. The idea in the short-mid term is to gather more and more people and educate people around their sense of smell. I would love to have the same type structure as a pop up in other cities, New York – I have a lot of people asking about different cities on social media – my collection of fragrance that is launching soon, for me that would be a way to get the brand, the message out around this idea of creating something different and being creative rather than a consumer in fragrance. In that sense, in 5 years down the line I could be more international and have this brand/concept established.”
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