April 11, 2024

A creative and a psychotherapist walk into a bar...what do you get? Say hello to Justin James. An Aussie determined to keep his left and right side of his brain active, this graphic designer, nose and therapist brings all of his talents together under his namesake, House of James. Want to know his happy place? Keep reading, it will surprise you!
Meet Justin James, Fragrance Designer of House of James! 


Q: By day, you are a Graphic Designer. What do you love about that profession and how does that dovetail into perfumery?
In graphic design, problem-solving involves crafting visually appealing solutions to convey messages effectively. Similarly, in perfumery, there's a synergy between marketing, branding, and packaging design. Yet, the creation of fragrances adds another dimension, akin to navigating an alternate reality. While briefs guide both processes, determining the completion of a fragrance is more fluid compared to a tangible graphic design project like a business card.

Q: You are Australian, growing up in a small bayside village, Somers, on the Mornington Peninsula. Have your younger years inspired you as an adult in fragrance concepts or inspirations?

Ironically, despite growing up surrounded by bays and beaches, I haven't yet developed a true aquatic fragrance for my brand. My biggest inspiration, and the basis for my brand's first collection, stemmed from my travels in Europe before the onset of COVID-19. Visiting the UK, France, Spain, and Germany ignited my Euroflections Series, featuring scents like Hyde Park (UK), Sun King (FR), Tantomonta (SP - Grenada), Rambla Del Mar (SP - Barcelona), and Berlin NYE (DE).





Q: Many of your fragrances are inspired by your travels. Do you have a favorite travel spot and what is your process in transforming your experience into a bottle of fragrance? 

My first trip to Europe left a profound impact, particularly in Spain, though the rich history of perfume in France was equally captivating. Crafting a concept based on memories is akin to adding color to a black-and-white photo.

Take "Berlin NYE," for example, inspired by our unforgettable New Year's Eve in Berlin. The acrid smoke of fireworks inspired Smoky Vanilla, the sweet scent of alcohol translated to Fig, the essence of intimacy became Musk and Civet, and the lingering aroma of cigarette smoke in bars transformed into Tobacco notes. It's about encapsulating memories into wearable fragrances. While recreating the memory verbatim might be easier, the idea of wearing all those scents together is far from appealing. 

Q: Your love of fragrance and the act of sniffing and decoding the notes in a perfume started at a young age. Fast-forward to adulthood now, when and why did you decide to start a fragrance brand?

At the core, there's simply a relentless drive to create. Early in my design career, during slower periods, I'd find myself conceiving new business ideas just to dive into crafting their brand identity and aesthetics. Nearly a decade ago, when I first ventured into perfume making under 'James & Co', the fragrances were bold and elaborate, with an emphasis on intricate bottle designs including hand-painting and wool weaved accents. Now, however, simplicity reigns supreme, with clean, minimalist bottle designs allowing the fragrance itself to take center stage. After all, while a fragrance lingers in memory, the bottle inevitably finds its way into the bin.

Q: Did you learn perfumery and create your blends or are you a Creative Director partnering with outside perfumers to take your vision and turn it into sprayable art?

I'm often met with raised eyebrows when I reveal that the only aspect of my fragrance business I outsource is the mass production of my bottles, sourced like the majority of the industry from a small village in China.

Everything else, from creation to bottling, labeling, and shipping, is meticulously handled in my lab/studio within my building. This space also serves as the backdrop for our discovery set artworks, adding a personal touch to the entire process.

Q: We are featuring Dreamscape in our April Collection. Tell us about your inspiration and process behind it?

The concept behind Dreamscape stemmed from a vivid dream snippet: lying underwater in a lagoon with an ethereal blue-green hue, a powdery white bed, and above, a rippling interpretation reminiscent of Monet's Waterlilies as the sky.

Dreamscape | House of James

The idea of a water-based fragrance served three purposes.

Firstly, with increasing awareness of what we put on our bodies, water-based fragrances are gaining traction as they are gentler on the skin compared to alcohol.

Secondly, fragrances dispersed in water bases maintain their true scent profile without the interference of alcohol vapors, resulting in a longer-lasting aroma.

Lastly, in Australia, where obtaining alcohol-based fragrances from overseas can be challenging, creating a water-based perfume allows for seamless shipping worldwide without restrictions.

Q: Your fragrances are alcohol-free. Can you share a little more about why that is and is that for all of your fragrances or just some? 

Dreamscape marks our debut into Water Based Parfum, with the version currently featured by Olfactif being our limited-edition Lait De Parfum rendition—a standout from the original Dreamscape line. We're now expanding the series with another four 'scapes,' all in production as L'eau Parfums, akin to our Lait De Parfums but slightly lighter in intensity. Crafting these L'eau Parfums involves a meticulous solubilizing process using distilled water in lieu of alcohol, tailored intricately to each fragrance. It's a labor-intensive process, but one that's immensely rewarding as it enables us to share our creations with the world at large.

Q: What future plans do you have for House of James?

As a small Australian fragrance house, expanding brand awareness beyond our borders has posed its challenges. However, our vision for the future remains steadfast: to continue crafting unique conceptual fragrances while diligently working to increase our presence on a global scale, despite our modest budget constraints.

We're committed to pushing boundaries in scent creation, drawing inspiration from diverse sources to deliver olfactory experiences that captivate and resonate with individuals worldwide. Our journey entails leveraging every opportunity to showcase our creativity and passion for perfumery, whether through collaborations, niche markets, or digital platforms.

Ultimately, our goal is to carve out a distinct niche in the international fragrance landscape and leave a lasting impression with each scent we introduce.


Q: As a new small business owner of a fragrance company, what challenges are you facing?

As a one-person operation, I find the biggest challenge in the fragrance industry is the customers' inability to smell our products before making a purchase. Without a presence in department stores and limited resources for sending out free samples worldwide, reaching potential customers becomes daunting. That's why platforms like Olfactif play a crucial role for niche perfume houses like ours.

They enable us to showcase our creations to a broader audience simultaneously, allowing people from all corners of the globe to experience our fragrances and connect with our brand on a deeper level.

Q: In the same regard, what do you find to be rewarding?

Receiving recognition in any form is undeniably the most rewarding aspect of being in the fragrance industry. Knowing that someone, somewhere is not only enjoying but truly understanding and appreciating your creation brings immense joy.

Recently, our fragrance, Audacity Edp, was honored with the Wild Card Award from the Asia Perfume Foundation. This recognition serves as the ultimate validation, adding a delightful cherry on top of a creation we are genuinely proud of. It fuels our passion to continue innovating and pushing boundaries in scent creation, knowing that our efforts are being acknowledged and celebrated by the fragrance community on a global scale.

Q: Outside of House of James and being a Graphic Designer, what other creative outlets do you have? 

It's quite ironic, really—I actually pursued qualifications as a Strategic Psychotherapist to counterbalance the creative demands of my right-brained endeavors. From graphic and web design to interior design and fragrance creation, I found myself heavily relying on that hemisphere. Now, with a small therapy suite, I engage the other half of my brain in problem-solving in a completely different realm. This shift provides a much-needed break from creativity and allows my right brain to recharge. It's a symbiotic relationship where each side complements the other, fostering balance and harmony in both my professional and personal pursuits. 




Q: Where do you consider your happy place?

Sleep, I live to dream.

Q: What is your favorite word?

‘The’. I don’t know why but I used to write it over and over

Q: What is your least favorite word?


Q: What turns you on?


Q: What turns you off?

Harsh Noise

Q: What’s your favorite note?


Q: What’s your least favorite note?

Aldehyde C3

Q: What are you smelling right now?

Audacity, its my scent of the day.

Q: If you could describe your brand in 3 words, what would they be?

Unique, Conceptual, Bold

Q: Is there anything else you want our readers to know?

Australia exists, directly beneath you, and we can create some amazing scents too! 

Want to smell Dreamscape? Find it featured in our April  2024 Collection | The Sun, The Moon & an Eclipse. 

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Follow House of James on  Instagram!

Photo credits: House of James,  Michael Heise 

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