Interviews Interview with Ruta Degutyte, owner of Art de Parfum (Part II)

Interview with Ruta Degutyte, owner of Art de Parfum (Part II)

09/12/16 16:25:01 (One comment)

by: Raluca Kirschner

"I want my perfumes to convey an idea of beauty. But I also want my perfumes to unlock powerful emotions in those who wear them. Because, for me, nothing is more important than the art of translating scented memories into perfume." Ruta Degutyte.

In part I of my diptych on the British house Art de Parfum, I talked about my personal impressions of each fragrance from this new collection, but here in part II, we will find out more about this brand directly from the owner and we'll dig deeper into her sources of inspiration and her passion for beauty and well crafted things.

While on summer vacation in Nice, France, I had the chance to combine two big pleasures: doing nothing but relax, and discovering many new perfumes. I met there someone very special that highly values the art of scent and she kindly told me during a lovely evening we spent together about her passion. Dear readers, I present you Ruta Degutyte, the owner of the brand Art de Parfum.

Ruta Degutyte of Art de Parfum

RK: Hello, Ruta! It is a pleasure to meet you in person and have the chance to discover your collection of perfumes. Can you tell us please how you ended up founding this brand? What inspired you to start?

RD: The pleasure is all mine, Raluca. Art de Parfum is a result of me taking a chance on pursuing a passion rather than following the rather straight forward business consulting path I had been on before. I kind of threw caution to the wind!

But then, my family background was always going to make me into someone fearless and confident. My father, Algirdas Degutis, is a famous philosopher who has authored books such as “Language, Thought, and Reality” and “Individualism and Social Order,” and my stepmother, Grazina Miniotaite, was a famous political researcher. My mother sadly died when I was very young, but she too was an intellectual. So I come from a place where expressing oneself and one’s artistic point of view is encouraged.  

That’s why I felt completely confident in leaving my comfortable corporate job in 2010, flying to Australia for some inspiration and getting started on pursuing my dream of making perfumes. It took me three years to source my raw materials, find a young French perfumer who would work to my briefs, and set up production in the South of France.

The ultimate catalyst on my journey was spending time in Grasse, long the source for the best jasmine, lavender, roses, and other raw materials for perfumery. I visited as many factories as I could, met with young perfumers in training, and even some retired workers, to learn as much as I could about the business of making perfume.

I even got hold of a small bottle of a very old “fond” which is a pre-mixed base for a perfume, whose individual ingredients and recipe are now lost to the winds of time – it smelled nutty, rich, and vaguely of leather, anise, and aromatics. I knew then that I wanted to make perfumes that would act as a sort of scented letter from the South of France to the rest of the world.

I have a clear vision for the brand – both artistic and ethical. Keeping the packaging simple but chic, I have been able to invest everything else into the best raw materials on the market, and in a young but super-talented French perfumer. This has enabled me to offer my fragrances as little affordable luxuries, priced smartly at £88 per bottle.

You see, I feel strongly that I am not in the business of producing perfumes for the elite only. I make beautiful perfumes for people with a finely tuned sense of sophistication and art. It’s as simple as that. 

I believe that everyone has the right to a small, portable piece of beauty in their lives, be it a bottle of my perfume, the perfect silk scarf, or an exquisite painting. But I also believe in luxury at a smart price and I don’t believe that animal cruelty should be part of the price tag.

 

Sensual Oud by Art de Parfum 

RK: Did you always have an affinity for perfumes? 

RD: Oh yes! I always experimented with making fragrance, even as a young child. I remember making tinctures out of stone, rose petals, shoelaces, and grass when I was about eight years old – they weren’t very successful! But I became obsessed with the idea of capturing the essence of a raw material by soaking it in a liquid. Naturally, back then I didn’t understand about perfumer’s alcohol and ethanol – I thought you could tincture stuff just using water. No wonder my early creations smelled so odd! Or, should I say – awful!

As an adult, I began to be interested in the alchemy of food. Soaking saffron stamens in a small bowl of water before adding it to a seafood risotto, crushing juniper berries for a stew, even squeezing the lime for a Mojito…all of these common kitchen experiences awoke in me a fierce hunger not for the food itself but for the smells, the aromas…once again I found myself obsessing over how to translate these aromas into a fragrance.

So, yes, the hunger for smells ebbed and flowed all my life, culminating in one moment while on holiday in Grasse, when I realized that I too have something to say through the art of fragrance.

I want my perfumes to convey an idea of beauty. But I also want my perfumes to unlock powerful emotions in those who wear them. Because, for me, nothing is more important than the art of translating scented memories into perfume. For me personally, my most precious scented memories are attached to my mother. I lost her when I was very young, so remembering her smell and perfumes is very important to me.

Fragrances were as important to my mother as a good pair of shoes or the perfect suit – she was such a glamourous young woman! I am kind of like her in that I’d rather go without food in order to have something beautiful to wear. I vaguely remember the big fuss around the opening and unveiling of those precious little bottles of perfume. I can’t remember all the names, of course – they have long since disappeared into the mists of time. But I do remember the iconic bottles of Chanel No. 19, No. 22, and even Patou’s Joy. They must have been the pure parfum because I remember the bottles as being very small and precious-looking.  

RK: You are based in London, has this city influenced or formed somehow the creation and aesthetics of your line?

RD: That’s correct, and you know what, London is a great place to realize your dreams. It’s a very lively and vibrant city, but also kind of stressful! It urges you on to greater and greater things. You can’t rest there. Living in the city kind of makes me feel more anxious to achieve my goals. Which is a good thing, because I wouldn’t be able to focus in the South of France, where life is more relaxed.

I would say that the South of France is my spiritual home because I just relax completely and immerse myself into the culture, art, and spirit of the place. But the achiever in me needs the hustle and bustle of London. When I am surrounded by the electric energy of the city, I feel myself wired up and ready to go! London is a constant source of stimulation and creativity for me.

But I’m a globetrotter at heart, so my perfumes take a little bit of inspiration from each new place I live.

Living in France taught me about the beauty of simplicity. The French are never gaudy or flamboyant. In fact, their style relies on simplicity. Coco Chanel said that every woman must stand in front of the mirror and take one thing off. The idea is that only the essence of that woman’s style remains. And it is exactly this principle that my fragrances reflects.

Overall, the French aesthetic emphasizes quality over quantity. French people care about having only the very best – the perfect leather jacket, the chicest shade of red lipstick, and yes, the right scent. Each perfume in the Art de Parfum line fits perfectly with this idea of effortless French chic.

Living in England has given me a taste for this pared-down, minimalist aesthetic for the bottles and packaging – and of course, my Gin & Tonic Cologne is directly inspired by the English traditions surrounding Wimbledon.

Living in the South Pacific gave me a taste for the scent of washed-out seascapes, sand dunes, and generally, the smell of freedom! This is reflected in my perfume, Sea Foam, which smells like sun-baked stones and driftwood and the clean sea air.  


RKIs there a common thread that links the perfumes of your collection? Art, I hear you say? 

RD: Yes, art! The French think of perfumery as an art, and I wholeheartedly agree. After all, we are inspired to flights of the imagination by a beautiful painting, piece of music, a moving film – so why not a fragrance?

I’ve met you, Raluca, and it strikes me that you use your beauty as a physical canvas upon which to convey an artistic message – everything from the clothes you choose, to the shade of lipstick and the scent you wear are the artistic tools you use to do that. I truly believe in art also being found in the smaller details such as clothes and fragrance, yes.

Chandler Burr, the famous American critic, also recently named perfumery as the eighth art, placing it on the same level as paintings, sculptures, music, and poetry. And indeed, I see each of my perfumes as mini works of art that allow you to discover something new every time you re-visit them, like a favourite painting or a piece of classical music. Just one drop of scent can awaken a memory or association more powerfully than any other sense. I want my perfumes to make you feel completely immersed in a rich, aromatic aura of culture, style, history, and beauty – a very French way of experiencing things, in fact.

Our fragrances are little objects of beauty made to make our lives more beautiful. We want to make it possible for everyone to own a little piece of art.

RKAre there specific raw materials that you prefer over other? 

RD: Ah, that’s a difficult question. It’s kind of like picking a favourite child! Well, I am passionate about the smell of genuine Mysore sandalwood oil, but it’s nigh on impossible to obtain these days, unless you put your faith in the newer Santalum album plantations in Australia.

I also love real oud oil and tinctures made from white ambergris – but I’m not willing to use them in my perfumes unless I can guarantee that they were obtained in a legal, ethically-clean, and cruelty-free manner. And believe me, it’s a difficult task to give a 100% guarantee for something like that.

A good example is oud. Because of the ethical and technical difficulties of working with real oud oil in commercial perfumery, we chose instead to use a variety of other materials such as cypriol, an essential oil from a type of grass, to supply that sour, smoky animalic effect of real oud oil in Sensual Oud.

Don’t get me wrong, I love real oud oil. But procuring a stable supply of the real stuff for commercial perfumery is difficult, unless you settle for procuring it from a plantation, which is of course a possibility for the future. If we can find some way to secure a stable supply without harming the economic interest of local people or endangering the environment, then we will.

Honestly, though, I think the greater art in perfumery lies in the smoke and mirrors aspect of it. To me, a perfumer has been successful if he or she fools you into thinking you smell one raw material when in fact you are smelling different materials and compounds that reconstruct the myriad of facets contained in the original source material.

Everything in good perfumery is a mirage, if you think about it. Chanel’s Cuir de Russie smells like leather but does not contain actual leather – no leather perfume does – its wonderful aroma is conjured up through the magic of rectified birch tar. The same with amber. Amber resin itself is rarely if ever used for commercial perfumery, so instead perfumers concoct a fantasy accord of what people think it smells like using labdanum and vanilla.

For example, if you smell my perfume, Sensual Oud, you would think that there is both rose and oud in it. But there is not. It’s a clever illusion - one that took a long time to figure out. You can also use other materials to give a perfume a rosy tone without actually using rose otto or absolute. I am thinking here of geranium leaf, raspberry, and chemically isolated components of rose such as damascones. In more animalic rose oils, you can also see the relationship with honey, civet, and lemon (citronella oils). Vero Profumo’s Rozy is a rose fragrance constructed in such a way, using honey and spices to recreate the rose note – it is abstract and utterly fabulous, a rose refracted in the shards of a broken mirror.   

For Sensual Oud, I built the rose accord using geranium leaf, which gives off the intensely green, herbal, and lemony facets of the rose without the pinker, lusher, sweeter side. Geranium leaf gives the oud wood note that green, herbal rosy tint without weighing it down in sweetness. A rose by any other name…


 RKDo you intend for your perfumes to challenge your clients?

 RD: We are a small, independent niche fragrance company, and as you know, niche means being unafraid to take artistic risks or to diverge from mainstream tastes. But there is a fine line between making an artistic statement à la Secretions Magnifiques and wearability, isn’t there? It’s a line that we want to tread carefully.

What I understand is this: people want to smell amazing and (crucially) different from everyone else on the high street. But I also understand that wanting to smell highly individual and unique doesn’t mean that you want to smell bizarre. Personally, while I enjoy smelling perfumes that challenge me or expand my boundaries of what perfume means, what I want from a personal scent – one that I will actually wear on my skin – is completely different.

I have smelled perfumes that seek to mimic the smell of burning electrical sockets at concerts or the aroma of meat burning on a BBQ, and I love smelling weird stuff like that. But wear it as a personal scent? Not so much. I’m hoping that most of my customers are like me in wanting to smell different than other people on the street, but still beautiful and elegant.

So my final answer is this – we want to challenge, but within a certain normal range of boundaries. Our guiding aesthetic is definitely niche, in that we want to make artistically ambitious perfumes that will make you think and dream. We make perfumes the likes of which you will not be able to smell on the shelves of your local department store – they are much higher quality and convey an artistic idea beyond the business of simply smelling good. But smell good you most certainly will!


RK: At which locations is the line currently available?

RD: Currently, at the following locations and distributors:

Our online boutique (delivering worldwide), Bloom Perfumery, West End, London, Indigo, Cleveland, Ohio.

We are currently in discussions with several other large online and retail perfume stores in Germany and Paris. Expansion is happening quickly!


RKAre you involved in any upcoming perfume shows or events?


RD: Yes. We are exhibiting at TRANOI New York between 17-19th September.


RKIs there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?


RD: I am like a mad musician! I walk around mentally composing perfumes every moment of every day – now whether the notes make it to paper, let alone the lab, is a different story. Literally anything can inspire me. I live with my eyes open and nose “switched on”. I am currently thinking about some new compositions that are in my head, and wondering about writing down the notes. For now the only thing I know for sure is that I will tell you, Raluca, all about it when the moment comes!


Thank you very much, dear Ruta, for sharing with us the story of Art de Parfum!

 

 

Photo sources: personal archive of Ruta Degutyte; my own picture of Sensual Oud; press photo.

Raluca Kirschner
Editor, Writer & Translator

Raluca Kirschner studied Fine Arts and Art History. She has a wonderful little daughter and enjoys family life. Her devotion to the art of perfume led Raluca to the Fragrantica team. Raluca has breathed life into Fragrantica.ro — our source in Romanian. Aside from translating and maintaining the content she also writes her own articles.

 



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smellysmellerson
smellysmellerson

I hope I get a chance to sniff some of these. Her approach seems so intellectual and practical that I'm curious about how that comes across in the perfumes and her endeavour to be edgy, different, and within "normal boundaries".

Sep
12
2016

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