January 07, 2019
For over 20 years, Demeter Fragrance Library have been crafting unique, single note fragrances that are quirky, unexpected and always delicious. The man responsible for the olfactory genius is CEO and head perfumer Mark Crames and here we chat to him about layering fragrance, creamed corn and why dirt smells so good.
Describe the Demeter brand in three words:
Freedom of expression
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in running the Demeter brand for 20 years?
Staying fresh. Demeter is all about thinking about fragrance in new and different ways. That’s a lot of pressure to constantly reinvent yourself!
Dirt, Grass and Tomato were the first scents that you launched. Are they still popular today?
Interestingly, all three still sell well after all these years, with Dirt being the most popular of the three. The original conception for Demeter Fragrance Library (which is named after the Greek Goddess of agriculture), was to capture the smells of the garden. So Dirt, Tomato and Grass were natural first expressions of that idea.
Demeter scents are all “single notes” - what does that mean?
It means the fragrance represents a single scent idea that expresses itself immediately and does not change over time. Single notes are actually the building blocks for more complex perfumes. So the Library allows you to create your own fragrance by blending notes together or layering right on the skin.
Do you have any rules for layering your own fragrance?
I do have a couple:
A) Only use the fragrances you love. The idea of layering is to create your own scent experience. That experience should only include scents you love.
B) Things that go together in life, usually go together in a fragrance blend. So pick some flowers, Dirt and Grass, or Sunshine mixed with New Leaf and Mountain Air. If things go together in the world, their smells will go together on your skin.
What’s one thing you didn’t know before you started the business?
Never, ever try to make the scent of creamed corn…
What is your best-selling product?
Baby Powder and Kitten Fur. Both are great fragrances, both are cool concepts, and the traditional associations with those smells are both comforting and uplifting. That is a strong combination of traits in a fragrance, and I think explains their success. Fragrance can change the way you feel - and kittens and babies are about the most positive associations you can find.
If you could only smell one scent for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That is a tough one, because I would have to choose between the spiciness and depth of Patchouli, and the warmth and sweetness of Vanilla.
What has been your proudest moment with the brand over the last two decades? There were two: the launch of Play Doh, which was the first time Demeter really penetrated broader popular culture, and moved past being a niche, underground brand; and the launch of Sex on the Beach at Sephora, which quickly became the #4 fragrance in store. Those things took place within six months of each other, and really changed the face and breadth of the company.
Are new scents conceived on gut instinct, pop culture, or customer feedback?
All of the above, but most are either suggestions from fans or something I picked up in my travels throughout the world. Did I tell you I have the best job in the world yet?
What’s one smell we’d never see in the Demeter Fragrance Library Collection?
Uh, Creamed Corn ☺. We are generally adverse to malodorous scents, although people do ask for them. But as a wearable fragrance company, I cannot see a reason to make a fragrance that is not even supposed to smell good.
What’s your best piece of advice for people who are new to the Demeter brand and don’t know where to start?
Demeter fragrances smell like the ideal versions of the objects and experiences they represent. So try the smells you love already and you cannot go wrong.
Fast Five… with Mark Crames
My brunch order is ....Black coffee and a whole grain bowl with roasted vegetables because I’m vegetarian.
On my bedside table right now is…
I’m a sucker for classic literature. I am currently reading War and Peace for the third time.
This might surprise you but... I spend at least an hour in the woods at least five days a week. I believe having a relationship with the natural world is an essential part of our being human, and nothing grounds, calms and focuses me like that hour.
The smell I wish I could bottle is... A toss up between Puppy’s Breath and Bacon. Yes, I know bacon is a strange target for a vegetarian, but A) I was not always a vegetarian, and B) great smells are great smells. Period.
My personal mantra is… Believe. Because if you believe it is possible, it is possible.