March is Women’s History Month, a month where we celebrate the vital role of women in American history. The 21 st of March is also National Fragrance Day, a day where we celebrate all things fragrant. Blending these two together, it was kismet to curate a collection of all female perfumers that fearlessly charged into the often-secretive society of perfumery and made their mark. A gloriously fragrant mark that is!
For the 2022 March Collection, Gold Rush, we honor women in perfumery. Always inspiring, each one of these ladies rock the indie perfume world and it is our absolute honor to showcase them.
They’re gold. You’re gold.
Let's meet Sarah Baker of Sarah Baker Perfumes and enjoy the gold rush.
Perfumer: Sarah Baker
House: Sarah Baker Perfumes
Fragrance Selected for the March 2022 Box: G Clef
Q: Who is the most influential woman in your life, past or present?
One woman who has inspired me a lot is novelist Jackie Collins. She’s a figure that reappears in new ways in my work as an artist. I’m drawn to women who have a style of their own, are witty and who have created their own success. Jackie writes about women who do not give into sexist and prejudiced double standards. I also want to mention Donatella Versace. I had the opportunity to collaborate with her on a big project where I created a whole season’s campaign and art book for Versace. Donatella has such an amazing personality and drive that I really admire.
Q: What do you think helped you the most to make a career as a woman? What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful?
I really think it has a lot to do with breaking rules and making my own. As an artist, I have become accustomed to following my own path. I work in a lot of different media such as photography, film, performance or scent. So, I’ve constantly been learning new skills, gaining technical knowledge and learning to work with different disciplines to make my work; film crews, printers, fabricators, perfumers, etc.
I’ve always loved learning new things. But the other part of it, is because I’ve worked in all these media, it’s taught me not to be afraid of stepping outside of my comfort zone and pursuing new goals. I wasn’t afraid to start experimenting in perfumery because my work as an artist has taught me so many relevant transferable skills. For instance, the composition and balance of a perfume is fundamentally similar to composition of a photograph. And I have learned to trust my instinct, which is everything in scent-based practice.
Q: Did you always want to be a perfumer? If not, what did you want to be growing up and how did the transition to become a perfumer come about?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an artist. Glamor is a theme that occurs in my artwork and that is why I ended up becoming a perfumer. I was intrigued by the way perfume can really transport you into a different, perhaps more glamorous world, just like any other art form. The aspect of being able to spray a scent and suddenly you vividly imagine a coastal drive in a convertible car with the top down, really got me excited. When I spray G Clef, that is what I think of.
Q: When you did become a perfumer, were you self-taught or formally trained? Please expand on how that evolved, what was great about it, what was not great or things you wish were different.
In the very beginning, I wanted to make a true luxury perfume that was something Jackie Collins would wear, and I started working with the Institute for Art and Olfaction and with Ashley Eden Kessler who made Leopard , our first perfume.
From that moment, I started experimenting on my own and have regularly taken perfume classes ever since then. After training as a perfumer for about 5 years, I published my own fragrances for the house, namely G Clef and Flame & Fortune . Being an artist may have made me confident enough to launch the house, but it may also have been why it took so long for me personally to publish my work as a perfumer. The way artists are educated is very humbling and you think long and hard before you dare call yourself an artist and put your work out there. It took me a long time to allow myself the title of being a “perfumer” even though I have published two perfumes and I now have other houses requesting me to make perfumes for them.
Q: How have others embraced or judged your profession as a perfumer?
Overall, it was a great relief to finally publish. Both of the fragrances that I put out attracted their own following—they’re very different from each other. To have one of the first perfumes I put out there awarded a ÇaFleureBon Best of Scent Award 2020 was a surprise and definitely an honor.
With my fragrances as a nose, I’m deeply flattered that they have received praise from reviewers I really admire such as Nicola Thomis at Fragantica.
Q: Perfumers that have their own brands like you do, many times have to wear many hats. Is this the case for you? And if so, what hats do you wear the most? Which ones do you love, hate?
I love the creative side, but I also really love aspects of the business side or even the technical side. One of my favorite things to do is bottling! I find it very meditative and I love doing that work. Also, it helps that my husband invented a couple of machines that make that job easier. I just love diluting, filtering, and decanting the juice. Maybe because it smells SO GOOD!
What drives me crazy is having to understand all the bureaucratic details of compliance with shipping to particular markets or having to go through all customs regulations after Brexit. But, it has to be done. What is also a little different about our house, is that it’s not just me creating perfumes. We collaborate with a number of noses to create juices for us. And I really enjoy that dialogue. Over the years I have learned a lot from having many friends who are perfumers.
Q: What advice or words of wisdom would you give a young woman who wanted to be a perfumer or start her own perfume company?
I would say: start small, simple, and be flexible. Don’t commit to massive inventory of anything. If you are going to learn-on-the-job, like I did, I would say that being able to pivot suddenly is definitely a good thing. For instance, once the pandemic hit, we found ourselves with closed perfume retailers and people needed hand sanitizers, so we made Jazz Hands which was a big hit. We also donated a lot of our products and proceeds, which was very satisfying. That was something that was only possible because we were flexible and able to move quickly.
If you are going to launch your own perfume brand, there’s that side you can learn about online—websites, marketing, market intel etc.—and then there’s the stuff you won’t find online until you actually know what you need to look for. For example, there are strict restrictions on shipping perfume and equally strict regulations and compliance if you plan to sell in certain markets, all of which take time and money, which makes it far more complex than, say launching a t-shirt brand.
Q: G Clef was chosen for this month’s collection. Can you tell us more about this fragrance? The inspiration, the key notes, how it makes you feel when you wear it, why customer’s love it, etc.?
G Clef is very close to my heart because it’s one of the first fragrances that I felt happy with and I made it for my Dad. The original bottle was housed in a unique wooden rocking boat music box that my husband Andy made. The perfume was inspired by memories of California with him. He loved jazz—hence the name G Clef when we launched it—and I hoped to evoke all of the scent memories I have of those times; the saltiness on the evening air on the waterfront in San Francisco as we came out of a jazz bar; the smell of the air driving in his classic car along the coastal highway to an open air festival or to find some beach shack bar serving cocktails at sundown.
It has the sea, citrus, and that woody smell of coastal forests all wrapped in sunshine. It’s meant to be pure feel-good. Interestingly, one of the people I work with says that it reminds him very much of classic French fragrances from the 1920s and 1930s popular with the chic set hanging out in the resorts along the French Riviera. That wasn’t something I was thinking about when I made it but I guess that’s because it does have a complex fougére that is very much in the DNA of that style of European perfume.
Q: What in your life has brought or given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment? Looking back, what would you have done differently? What would you do again?
Oh, that’s so difficult to answer because I’ve been lucky enough to have been satisfied by so many things, but one highlight definitely was the project with Versace and being able to work directly with Donatella and her daughter Allegra. And given the opportunity, I would love to work with them again.
Q: What do you do for fun these days?
Actually, it’s mostly pretty low-key stuff. My husband and I put in long hours together working on running the fragrance house. So it’s really important to us that we spend good family time with our son. A lot of that is the kind of fun you have with a young boy, trips to the park, camping trips or baking cookies or doing craft activities together. Other than that I enjoy clearing my head looking through books or watching trashy TV shows; nothing too heavy after a hard day making perfume happen. I am a huge Murder Mystery fan.
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Photo credits: Sarah Baker Perfumes
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