An often underrated sense- scent. We talk to Annabella Fasano-Leslie, founder of Contradictions In ILK, who wants to inspire others to use their perfume to experience significant moments more deeply, to capture vivid emotions, and to help tell stories by engaging all the senses.
We are delighted to be partnering with ILK to offer one lucky winner a beautiful ILK fragrance: Infatuated, and a HANX hamper of goodies too.
Also, have you ever wondered what a HANX scent would smell like? Read on to find out. Annabella nails it 👃
HI, ANNABELLA! WHAT FIRST DREW YOU TO FRAGRANCE?
For as long as I remember, I have used perfume as a medium to experience significant moments more deeply, to capture vivid memories, and to help tell stories by engaging all the senses. There is something so inherently personal about how you experience a scent - yet the act of wearing it can equally be singularly about satisfying yourself, or communicating with others. I find that duality - that contradiction (!), fascinating. Can you see a theme emerging!
My obsession started from a young age like many do - from my equally fanatic mother - as passed on from her mother, probably because growing up in Rio de Janeiro in the 60’s and 70’s imported perfumes were like liquid gold! I picked up on the fact that my mother would frequently wear perfumes for different moods or occasions - citrus if she needed a moral boost, delicate white florals for bedtime, and her wedding perfume for romantic dinners with my father; so, I started to do the same. Then as a teenager studying psychology at school, and later at university, I was studying things such as the human memory, identity, and awareness - when it occurred to me that smell doesn’t simply have to be a happy incidental bookmark in a memory, it can be consciously harnessed to help you feel or even act a certain way. But there was no brand out there encouraging this, or developing a collection with this intention.
WE LOVE YOUR MISSION TO ELEVATE PERFUME AND MAKE IT MORE THAN ‘A FOOTNOTE IN YOUR BEAUTY REGIME’. WHAT ROLE DOES SELF-EXPRESSION PLAY IN THE ILK ORIGIN STORY?
It means everything. The scents we’ve created aren’t complete without the person wearing it, expressing it, making it part of their scent story. We unthinkingly express ourselves through a multitude of ways - why not with our olfactory tag?
It took a while for me to realise that all my friends weren’t also matching their perfume to their outfit (it’s intuitive, give it a go if you don’t already!) or specifically choosing their scent to encourage behaviours or emotions. There’s so much scope to build a fragrance wardrobe around more than a simple ‘day and night’ profile that many of us have been taught. For example, when I go to a job interview or in a situation where I need to be more composed, I wear perfumes with notes that make me feel grounded and confident such as vetiver (a deeply rooted grass) or sandalwood. Partly also to avoid wearing overtly gendered scents - top tip apparently there are studies to suggest that a woman’s ‘overt femininity’ can be used against them in an interview! Or if I feel a bit flat, I’ll douse myself in a sunny fresh scent normally reserved for summer, or the scents I’ve collected from my travels for this very reason; to jolt my mood to a higher place and trigger the associated mood and experience of that specific trip e.g., adventurous spirit, open-mindedness, relaxation, to achieve the mindset I want to harness for that day. We truly believe that there’s a power in perfume to alter or communicate someone’s mood, environment, their intended actions - but this all boils down to one thing, the individual.
The ‘human condition’ is a fascinating and endlessly inspiring reserve - but what is so beautiful and unique about it - is both the predictability and the individuality of it all. The one thing that i missed more than anything during the last years' numerous lockdowns was the opportunity to be in the presence of someone else's ‘art’, of their unconscious or conscious moments and expressions that signal to the world ‘this is me; this is how I feel, this is how I do’. This expression can be as accessible as people watching, decoding someone's style, body language, or listening to people talk in the queue or table next to you - their accent, timbre, and the words chosen. Or more purposeful interactions like going to a play, live music, or visiting an art gallery - it’s interesting when you consciously deconstruct and compare the experience, we’ve had without much of this external stimulus and living life largely from your own reference point.
It made me appreciate and consciously consider what I love about people expressing themselves - it’s a gift, it makes you feel more connected to others, and in doing so you grow more aware and comfortable in yourself, it colours your world. Of course, we’re so lucky to have been able to remain connected to others during the last year via digital means, and there’s an endless number of books, poems, tv shows, films - you name it, at our fingertips. But there’s something about the physical, coincidently the bridge that perfume provides between bodies and spaces, that I think we can all agree creates a deeper resonance for most things. It’s this powerful potential, to communicate something about yourself and shape your presence (both physically and mentally) - that I want people to enjoy exploring and using with their scent, the anti-footnote in your beauty regime approach!
FROM PODCASTS TO PLAYLISTS, WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED WHILE YOU’RE WORKING?
There are a few things that keep me focused and inspired - the first and most important foundation of it all - being the position of my desk. Never EVER have I had a successful day's work with a dense blank wall behind my screen. It’s as if it creates a black hole for my focus and ideas! When developing scents, creating content, marketing materials, and even the less ‘creative’ bits of my day like emails and business development - I find a view or window means that my mind is able to go elsewhere. A window is like a green screen for your imagination!
Other than this it has to be the environment in general. I need some fresh air, and a diffuser or some kind of room scent (unless I'm developing, in which case it’s wayyy to distracting!), art on the walls, books or papers literally spread all over my desk or close by, and an open pad for scribbling in, and ideally some greenery or flowers within sight. Gosh this is making me realise just how particular I am! I’m also a big fan of noise and movement - all the creative agencies I’ve worked in have been an absolute hive of pure chaos, people running around, loud music, laughing, meetings interrupting your flow every hour or more. So now I'm working from home and alone (although my business partner Holly is only a phone call away and boy does she know it!), sometimes I need to find a busy cafe to replicate this energy and spark new ideas or conversations. As our collection of fragrances is inspired by human nature - I feel very grateful that there’s a seemingly endless supply of inspo from people watching, talking with friends and strangers, reading and just living purposefully.
WHAT DO YOU THINK A HANX SIGNATURE SCENT WOULD CONSIST OF?
Excellent question - I love this so much. Well, we’d make sure that your signature scent, like all of ours, comes in two opposite and contradictory layerable scents - to capture the different frames of mind that people can typically approach or enjoy an intimate moment.
One scent would look to capture the blood rushing, tongue curling, hair-pulling experience of simply ‘NEEDING’ that other person - with dirty (in a good way!) animalic tones of musk or civet - rancid in smell if used straight, but surprisingly heavenly when used sensitively with florals. These animalic notes get to the core of our instinctive animal selves - our limbic system is afterall the hotbed for those sex and emotion hormones! We’d then add a good lick of velvety indolic Rose - which is conversely both a stimulant for men but also a natural relaxant to diminish those inhibitions. We’d then add a crush of pink peppercorns to keep things bitey, and a slick of ginger to ensure the smell is rounded out with those all-important curves and edges - there’s also scientific proof that this sturdy root has libido boosting qualities.
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