The Luxury Fragrance Brand Inspired By Travel

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In the saturated market of high-end beauty, luxury fragrance brands abound. Few, however, have a story that’s as compelling as MEMO Paris.

The Parisian fragrance house launched in 2007 by Clara Molloy and her husband John. Rather than a traditional, nice smelling perfume, the couple approach fragrance as a grand journey and create each scent in their line based on different destinations around the world.

Think Marfa, a heady combination of orange blossom, tuberose and white musk that’s homage to the Texas town or Corfu, with notes of sandalwood and amber, named after the island in Greece. Sicilian Leather, meanwhile, is lush with bitter orange, lime and coriander seeds- it unmistakably evokes this southern part of Italy.

As a writer who frequently covers travel and is always in the midst of planning her next trip, I may be biased, but there’s no question that MEMO Paris’ scents are beyond divine and each more inspired than the last.

The Parisian-Catalan poet Clara and the Irish globetrotter John craft each fragrance with raw, pure ingredients, and their dedication and talent shows- both to their many loyalists and to the admirers around these fans who have the pleasure of taking in the scents. I can tell you from my personal experience that I rotate between several MEMO fragrances daily and am showered with compliments from nearly everyone around me.

This September, MEMO Paris debuted Inverness, taken from the Scotland city at the mouth of River Ness that’s known for its water bodies, centuries-old castles and thick woodland. With it’s notes of sandalwood and cedar, it envelops you in with its warmth and coziness.

I spoke with both Clara and John recently and learned more of the backstory about this fragrance brand that I love. Our conversation follows.

How did you get the idea to start the brand? What was the inspiration?

CM: From our interest in the diversity of cultures, our curiosity for people, our appetite for emotions, rituals, and secret ways. Being born in Paris from Spanish parents, getting married to an Irish man, we got very early on the feeling that the richness of the world was something so precious that it must be celebrated somehow in a creation. That’s how MEMO began: eager to tell the beauty of the world, by using the magic of olfaction. Because scents have this power to connect everyone immediately to a souvenir, a person, or a place, it can transport you everywhere! This said, perfumes have been part of my imagination since childhood, always intriguing me, and I had the great opportunity meeting the talented French perfumer Alienor Massenet when making a book on the best olfactory experts (also called “noses”) around the world. Her vision of perfumery and her creations intrigued us and when we decided to start the brand, it was an obvious choice for us inviting her know-how and audacity. The first MEMO Paris perfume was born: Lalibela, a rose and myrrh attraction. It was sixteen years ago, and it feels like yesterday.

How do you choose the names of the scents?

JM: On the world map! It is a bit like when you are a kid, looking at the mesmerizing globe, spinning it and picking up a place. Joking aside, as every perfume is linked to a specific destination chosen thanks to its aura, it’s astonishing landscape, its captivating culture, its name is the real name of the place, as a tribute, and our work is to add a fragrant dream and desire to it.

How did you pick the specific destinations?

JM: By feel. It can start from anywhere, come from inspiration in everyday life – seeing a landscape painting in a museum, keeping the memory of a childhood place, reading a travelog and of course, after a journey with the scents traveling back with us, but we don’t look to the top ten favorite places in the world to define our collections; it is certainly not coming from a forecast touristic trend. It is also important to say, as the need to preserve our planet is more and more a concern, that we don’t spend our time between two planes, searching for the next destination. MEMO Paris suggests instead an imaginary travel, a slow journey, without any ticket required.

Why these places? Are they the ones you love?

CM: Of course, we love all of them, and each one for a reason. For instance, Irish Leather is dear to me, a bit like a declaration of love to my Irish husband! It is also the first perfume from our Cuirs Nomades collection, starring leather accords. I could also name Marfa, Texas. It was the destination of a family trip for us, and we were totally under the spell of this desertic site imbued with art. It was there as well that I saw the most beautiful night skies. And for the third one, Ithaque. I have a special thought for Greece which is – when speaking – suffering from fires and heatwaves this summer and we named three perfumes after the beauty of Greek islands (Ithaque, also Corfu).

Can you explain by using three scents as an example of how their notes are a nod to the destination?

CM: Keeping the ones, I have already mentioned, for Irish Leather, the windy freshness of juniper berries and the green side of Mate absolute evoke the invigorating land of Ireland, when the leather accord recalls the majesty of horses. For Marfa, we choose to magnify the tuberose, an intense flower which blossoms and reveals its beauty only at night, like a Marfa sky. And for Ithaque, the appeal of bergamot oil as a start is like the thrill of reaching this coveted island of the Ionian Sea when the enveloping cedarwood oil welcomes Ulysses, finally back home.

What destinations are you creating scents after next?

JM: We just launched Inverness (exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman until 9/1 and then will also be available online), named after the capital of the Highlands in Scotland. I was really touched by this place, quite unknown – compared to Loch Ness – but just as mysterious, where nature reigns free, unspoilt, and for this endless green empire we wanted to have a both delicate and powerful wood called Amyris, less known than sandalwood or cedarwood, yet eminently rich and sophisticated.

Can you describe the boxes the perfumes come in? They are design pieces in and of themselves!

JM: Thank you very much. It was part of a recent mission to repack in a responsible way and to feel, when opening the recyclable box, that you are already invited to travel. For that, we designed a special MEMO Paris’ map appearing as a pattern inside the box. It is like entering a legendary world, inspired by the French “Carte du Tendre”, the drawing of an imaginary country in the XVIIth century guiding you through love. I like this symbol for perfume.

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