Friday, October 2, 2009

First Look Fridays: Perfumer Maria McElroy of aroma M Perfumes

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I've long been entranced with aroma M Perfumes. So when I started following the brand's creator, Maria McElroy, on Twitter, I was super excited. And lo and behold, it led to a chance to interview her for The Beauty of Life! Read on to discover how she got her start in the fragrance business, the scent she can't live without, her favorite place to spritz her fragrance and so much more.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I received an MFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute, continued my studies in Australia and became a Certified Aromatherapist with Queensland Institute of Natural Science. I lived seven years in Japan, studying Kodo, the ancient art of fragrance, Ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement Koto, Japanese harp, Shiatsu massage and Zen Buddhism which solidified my appreciation for Japanese culture and aesthetics.

aroma M Perfumes, Maria McElroy, fragrance, perfume, perfumer 
What can you tell me about aroma M Perfumes?
aroma M was among a handful of artisanal perfumers launched in 1995. We are collectively updating the fragrance industry, and are proud to be known as direction-setters. For example, we initiated the contemporary location-oriented approach to perfumery -- a concept we have romanced throughout our 14 years in business.

While steeped in the ways of ancient Eastern fragrancing traditions, aroma M is ultra-modern in our choice of unexpected ingredients and novel combinations of ingredients. aroma M’s perfume packaging of patterned Yuzen papers, handcrafted in Kyoto, is always fresh with new patterns. I personally choose each paper on our annual trips to Japan.

How did you first become interested in fragrance, and what led you to create this brand?
My studies of Kodo incense ceremony in Japan really sparked my interest in fragrance and in combination with my Aromatherapy degree set me on my course to create aroma M. It was a very organic start. When I returned to the US from Japan, I really had no idea what I would do, but simply started bottling some of my creations and the next thing I knew friends were asking for them and suddenly stores started contacting me with orders. It was all very exciting and now 14 years later when I look back I cannot believe all the wonderful people and opportunities I have had that lead to so many successes.

aroma M Perfumes, Maria McElroy, fragrance, perfume, perfumer 
What are some of the moments that have stood out as highlights in your career?
The magazines have been very supportive of aroma M throughout my career and I have had feature articles in InStyle, Vogue, Elle, WWD, O Magazine, several Japanese magazines and newspapers.

It was a great thrill to launch the Geisha collection at Bergdorf Goodman in NYC and to be asked to create three original fragrances for Sephora when they first opened in the US and Asia.

What are the products and brands you simply can't live without?
1) I am a huge fan of NARS. I love the lipsticks and glosses.

2) Shiseido Translucent Loose Powder is my favorite.

3) Also I have a lot of the Shu Uemura products the packaging is so simple and perfect.

What are your top 3 fragrance tips?
1) For me anyway I love putting fragrance oils in my hair. It is very sexy.

2) I also always wear fragrance to bed. It makes me feel very glamorous.

3) Last but not least I was told that Estee Lauder rubbed fragrance between her hands so that when she touched someone the fragrance would linger on after her.

aroma M Perfumes, Maria McElroy, fragrance, perfume, perfumer 
What is your favorite aroma M fragrance and why?
I have 14 aroma M fragrances now and like children I love them all! I do find that I wear certain fragrance more depending on the season. O-cha is my default summer pick and I am an Oriental fragrance person so I even wear Geisha Noire on a sultry night.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Knowing that I have brought some beauty and joy to the world. Fragrance is ethereal but still has an amazing power to affect. I love hearing from my customers. Many have been with me from the beginning and are still aroma M fans, there is something to be said about longevity.

Being a perfumer must be fun -- but what do you do for fun when you're not playing with fragrance?
I still paint when I have time and my husband is a chef so we love to eat. NYC is the perfect city for that! I also love riding on the back of his motorcycle -- it is an amazing way to see the city and very romantic.

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