Mackenzie Reilly, Perfumer
Posted on 22 May 2020
Describe your role as a perfumer?
A perfumer is an artist or artisan who creates the fragrance for perfume, candles, beauty products, and even household product like laundry care. I am a fine-fragrance perfumer, which means I mostly work in perfume, and occasionally candles or beauty products. We create the liquid inside the bottle, or as it’s known in the industry, the “juice." I work with perfume and fashion brands to translate their aesthetic into a beautiful scent by designing a fragrance formula, much like a chef creates a recipe.
I also spend time studying natural plants and flowers and learning about the best ways to extract them. My studies and career have taken me all over the world, from observing the Narcissus harvest in the mountains in France, to visiting Patchouli fields in Indonesia while I was living in Singapore. It is truly a magical job, and a labor of love.
How would you describe your fragrance aesthetic?
Part of the responsibility of working with various brands, from niche luxury houses, to large international powerhouse labels, is being able to adapt your aesthetic to the brand you are working for. I always try to embody the image of my client and translate that into a scent that will communicate their message to their customers. My personal fragrance aesthetic varies depending on my mood! For daytime I love unisex, minimalist scents based in wood and amber, but for nighttime I often gravitate towards more sensual blends of orange blossom, musks, and spices.
What’s the most delightful scent combination you’ve encountered to date?
I love the scent of mineral notes combined with aromatic notes. It reminds me of the South of France, in the Alpes-Maritimes region. You have a lot of pine, cypress, and aromatic herbs like lavender and rosemary, mixed with the scent of the Mediterranean sea, driftwood, and wet stone. It’s just gorgeous.
I will also forever love the smell of Monoi, sun-tanning oil which is AOC (like wine) from Tahiti. They make it by macerating Tiare flowers (Tahitian Gardenia) in coconut oil. The resulting product is a delicious blend of exotic solar flowers with a faint touch of coconut and always transports me to my happiest summer memories.
Scents are often tied to memories. What scent do you equate to dressing up?
I’ll always equate Shalimar (Guerlain) to dressing up, because it’s what my mother wore when I was young and I fondly remember watching her get ready to go out. Sometimes she would let me wear a little, which always thrilled me J. I rarely wear it now, but will pull out a bottle if I have a very fancy party or a black tie event. Shalimar will always represent glamour and luxury to me.
For someone trying to find their “signature scent,” what is your advice?
I think it’s always good to start by educating yourself so you know what types of fragrances you are naturally attracted to. Do you like spices, flowers, or wood? Do you want something to make you feel fresh and invigorated, or more grounded or sensual? Ask yourself these questions, and take that information to a perfume shop and speak with the staff. They should be able to guide you towards some directions that you like. It’s also really important to wear a fragrance for a few days before fully investing in it. Websites like LuckyScent will allow you to purchase little samples of fragrances for around $5, and I will often order a bunch to test with little commitment. Another great way to educate yourself about the fragrance market is to read some of the blogs, which can be really informative. Bois de Jasmin and Ca Fleure Bon are both great places to start!
What scents have you created that are in the market and available to purchase? (Please provide links if you can!)
I have created the following fragrances:
You have great fashion sense. Where do you look for inspiration?
Thank you! Honestly, I’m of the less-is-more mentality. I’m a big fan of classic ‘minimalist’ luxury brands like Celine and Max Mara, and I’d always rather have fewer pieces of better quality, than to follow trends or fast fashion. For daytime, I’m often in jeans (Helmut Lang or J Brand) and I like to do a simple top with a great jacket & shoes (Hermes, Ancient Greek Sandals, Tod’s Driving Mocs – and of course Vans on the weekend). I think when you’re often casual, it’s even more fun dressing up! I always look to my friends in the fashion industry for their insight, and turn to Net-A-Porter or Moda Operandi when I need something quickly for an event. Also, I am always inspired by what I see on my travels and love to collect unique pieces from all over the world, like jewelry and tunics in India & Mexico, vintage treasures in Paris or my all-time favorite bathing suit, which I discovered in Corsica!
What draws you to the Mestiza brand?
I love Mestiza for their effortlessly glamorous dresses that are perfect for weddings, cocktail parties, and industry events where I know I have to look my best. These days cameras are everywhere! The cuts are always timeless and flattering, and fabrics luxurious. My favorite styles are the Georgiana Gown, which has this beautiful Oscar de la Renta/Carolina Herrera feeling, and the Stephanie Bow Dress, which is festive and classic but still fresh and modern. I always feel confident when I put on a Mestiza dress!
Follow Mackenzie’s fragrant journey around the world @nascentperfumer