product shots: Dave Uzzardi (@uzzardi)
Portrait by Sonny Vandevelde
Dear Shaded Viewers,
A chat with the creator behind IEROFANTE and Les Potions Fatales.
DP: Let’s start with a little background, when we met a few decades ago you were a DJ and you had the most exciting shop in New York called Seven. How did you go from retail to creating perfume?
JOSEPH: It all feels like a natural evolution from both spinning and years of fashion retail, if you consider DJ’ing music to be analogous to perfume design in that both are harmonies that stoke emotions while fashion retail concerns itself with perfection of presentation, something that has completely informed all my packaging design; marry the two and you’ve got a perfume company!
DP: When you still had Seven you created Six Scents with a group of independent designers that you also carried in the shop, how did that series of perfumes differ from your latest venture?
JOSEPH: The perfumes of Six Scents are collaborations I curate between artists and accomplished perfumers, hence our stylised ampersand ‘&’ logo. PARFUMS QUARTANA on the other hand are my own conceptual explorations. It’s others’ visions vs. my vision.
DP: You have won several awards with your perfumes, notably Perfume Extraordinaire of the Year via The Fragrance Foundation, tell me about the scents what are the notes base and high.
JOSEPH: My debut collection for PARFUMS QUARTANA, Les Potions Fatales, consists of nine perfumes inspired by infamous poisonous flora and the power, ritual and intrigue that surrounds the lore of each going back through classical times. We created these to be unapologetically dark and romantic as I felt there there were so few fragrant options to please high-drama goths like myself. In spite of each’s fragrant “thorniness” and moonlit theme, each perfume draws one to a place of salvation, this was very important to me, so in that sense they are psychedelic celebrations of alternative states of mind more than anything, as each poison in low dosage can be used for healing or finding internal inspiration.
One in particular, our smoky floral take on the opium den experience, Poppy Soma, won Perfume Extraordinaire of the Year, the only blindfold prize of the awards, having beat out a few hundred other contenders including work from all the major luxury and designer houses. To say I was surprised to win this would be the understatement of the year, and apparently, I was so shocked I literally died later that very evening.
DP: I was reading somewhere that you had near death experiences after winning Perfume Extraordinaire, what happened and how did passing through that tunnel of light which we associate with near death, change your approach to life in general and perfume specifically.
And the perfumes that you won the award for were based on death…Les Potions Fatales, inspired by deadly flowers.
JOSEPH: Yeah so I win the prize at Lincoln Center and go home but I was so wired from the shock and adrenaline I lay on my couch to watch TV to ease down…and suddenly my gall-bladder explodes at 3am!! I didn’t realize this of course, I was just suddenly in absolute AGONY, so much so that I woke up my wife and we taxi’d up to NYU Langone hospital where they did an immediate 4-hour surgery on me just to keep me alive (and down my throat no less!). I woke up around noon with tubes going into my face and in utter shock, it all felt like a surreal hallucination and I was unsure that I even won the prize. The doctor said it was my luckiest night not only for winning, but had I not come up when I did, my wife would have found me dead on the floor, trophy in hand, lol! So the night I basically won the biggest prize in perfumery for a collection based on death, I died and that should have been the end of my story. It still blows my mind and is hard for me to make sense of to this day. One can’t script this shit!!
DP: Can you talk about Quartana IEROFANTE, what is it like? What is the process working with the nose? Do you give him a story and ask him to propose scents that could embody the idea in your head?
JOSEPH: As my first perfume design after emerging from my deathbed in 2018, IEROFANTE was fundamentally based on getting back to that glimpse of heaven I saw while I was “under”…it’s like a fragrant breadcrumb trail of sorts back to that happy, enveloping internal place of a thousand pleasant dreams at once. The perfume follows the launch of a rocket from tarmac to the stars as a metaphor for internal ascension, beginning with a gasoline and suede accords suggesting rocket fuel and a supple white spacesuit, which “ignite” 5 minutes into the dry down via pyrogenated styrax, frankincense, and smoky leather for the lift-off aspect, and after a few hours we arrive in the Ancient Grecian idea paradise, Elysium, which sits at the edge of the Earth and where wholesome souls go after death to frolic for eternity with the likes of Plato and Socrates. The technical achievement on the part of perfumer Luca Maffei was getting the perfume to begin heavy and dank like gasoline and then get lighter and lighter via smoke and finally an amber finish to drive home the sensation of ascension via rocket.
DP: What are the top notes, middle notes and base notes? How is the perfume’s staying power?
IEROFANTE extrait de parfum lasts 8 hours+.
Take a rocket to the stars within.
ACT I. IGNITION: Suede, Gasoline Accord, Nutmeg
ACT II. LIFT-OFF: Styrax Pyrogene, Smoky Leather, Frankincense
ACT III: ARRIVAL: Cashmeran, Golden Amber, Vetiver, Myrrh
DP: You won another award just the other day I believe. Was that for IEROFANTE or yet another perfume?
JOSEPH: Indeed IEROFANTE just won its first perfume “oscar”, and the second blindfolded one for me and PARFUMS QUARTANA, the Art & Olfaction INDEPENDENT CATEGORY award. Once again I was absolutely shocked, though this time, quite fortunately, no vital organs exploded when I got home that evening!
DP: What is next on your dream agenda?
JOSEPH: To get my perfumes back into Europe; since the pandemic, we completely pulled out. To assist in this, we are reissuing each of Les Potions Fatales in completely and incredibly well-done “clean” reformulations and fresh, revitalized packaging beginning with Wolfsbane this Autumn.
DP: Do you still DJ sometime?
JOSEPH: I still DJ actually (35 years already!) and currently spin a monthly happy-hour Italodisco soiree at Home Sweet Home which I fill with DJ-fog tinged with the perfumes of PARFUMS QUARTANA, a combination of elements to inspire an easy, no-pressure transcendent experience via music, scent and rhythmic repetitive beats. Now that weed is legal, there is no anxiety surrounding a psychedelic dance floor experience (and the tantric ritual of it) as a means for achieving transcendence.
DP: Where can we find your perfumes?
JOSEPH: Perfumology, Fumerie, and La Jetee or our website www.six-scents.com (for reimbursable discovery sets) here in the USA and 7Scents in Budapest for Europe.
*2023 Fragrance Foundation Award Semi-Finalist: Best Indie
*2017 Fragrance Foundation Award Winner: Perfume Extraordinaire of the Year
*2010 Fragrance Foundation Award Nominee: Best Indie
*2009 Cannes Lion Award: Packaging Innovation