Hello from across the pond! We love introducing new brands to our subscribers and ILK was no exception! Join us as we chat with Annabella Fasano-Leslie, co-founder, olfactive and creative director for ILK Perfume. Find out how an experience at La Bohème made Annabella change the course of her career path and how the contradictions in her line became the backbone of the brand’s ethos. Let’s dive in!
Q: You decided to launch a fragrance brand, awesome! Can you tell us a little more about how that came to be?
I have always 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.
For example, if I had an interview, I’d avoid overtly feminine scents, if I felt a bit flat I’d douse myself in a sunny fresh scent normally reserved for holidays; to jolt my mood to a higher place. I 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. It took a while for me to realize that all my friends weren’t also matching their perfume to their outfit (it’s a thing I swear!!) or specifically choosing their scent to encourage behaviors or emotions.
So, I wanted to achieve two things with a line of scents based on my own relationship with perfume.
Firstly, to harness the different facets of our multidimensional personalities and emotions, but ensure these scents could change with the same spontaneity as our moods and environments.
Secondly, the connection between the past and scent has a firm place in our hearts, although I felt that no one was talking about how perfume can be used to evoke something in the moment or indeed the future. Nor making the most of the opportunity to make this journey through scent adaptable or personal to the wearer’s experience.
So with all of that, we have the essence of what ILK is today: a collection of unisex and layerable paired contradictory scents, inspired by human nature and designed to invite the wearer to participate fully in their perfume experience and be the artist of their own scent story.
Q: How did you come up with the name, ILK? What does it stand for?
Ilk is an old Scottish word with varied interpretations over the centuries, my interpretation is that it means ‘the essence of who you are’. So our brand name: ILK, is referring to the contradictions in who we are; which is exactly what we wish to celebrate with our collection of layerable scents inspired by human nature.
Q: Very cool concept! Can you tell us more! What does that mean exactly? Are we layering, spraying both on at the same time, different locations…
Great question! The answer is: however you like- they come in suggested pairs, can be worn alone or you can make your own personal layering combinations, it’s your scent story after all! I wanted people to have the choice of being more intimately involved in the scent process, for the scents to capture the different facets of their personality and to be adaptable depending on one’s mood, environment or caprice!
The 8 unisex scents comprise of 4 layerable matching pairs with each pair featuring contradictory but uniquely harmonious perfumes inspired by an emotion or personality trait e.g. Devious & Sincere or Infatuated & Nonchalant. If you choose to layer you can achieve a third or even fourth scent depending on which way round you layer them. The two opposite scents have been specially crafted to enhance and subdue different facets of the other for a unique and rich experience, but they’re definitely equally wearable alone.
Q: How long have you been interested in scent and perfume? How did you start learning about it? What did you do prior to becoming a perfumer? Did you have any mentors along the way?
I have been interested in perfume for as long as I can remember, my mother was equally fanatic and had a big silver tray crammed with countless bottles and would frequently wear perfumes for different moods or occasions – citrus if she needed a moral boost, white florals to wear for bed, and her wedding perfume for romantic dinners with my father. You can see where the first grain of inspiration for ILK came from! As a teenager studying psychology at school and later at university, delving into things such as the human memory, identity and awareness, 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.
This was all parked when I got distracted climbing my way up the greasy and perilously vertical pole that is the advertising industry. It’s been a blast and I’ve worked with incredible global clients and fiercely talented creatives along the way, but I’ll always be grateful for the epiphany I had one rainy Tuesday evening sitting in the English National Opera House.
I realized that if my job was affecting me so badly that on my birthday I could sit through an entire performance of La Bohème whilst staring into space counting the spotlights without being moved or touched in any way ( for context I’ve been known to sob at a beautiful vista or seeing a smiling elderly person alone in a cafe ). I realized it was time to embrace my fear and channel my energy and enthusiasm into a dream of my own, and not someone else’s. Before the first act had even finished, I asked my husband to get into a cab ( for which he was grateful! ), and dashed home merrily Googling ‘how to find a job in perfumery’ all the way!
I did my research, went to enthusiast’s events, training weekends held by the British Society of Perfumery and the fabulous Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays, hung out in perfume departments – you name it. Then one day I sent a Linkedin message to my now business partner Holly, who had recently launched luxury niche perfume line Memoize London, keen to hear about her experience. Let’s just say that a couple of Aperol spritzes later, we knew that we were meant to make this happen together instead.
Q: What are you most proud of with your brand or your fragrance compositions?
I had such a wonderful time creating the individual perfume stories and corresponding scent notes; seeing them now live so beautifully in these scents is something I’m very proud of.
The perfumers we worked with were hugely talented and brought their considerable flair to the project but were still very faithful to the brief. I really feel like these perfumes live and breath as much as the human characteristics and characters that they were intended to celebrate.
Q: What’s your favorite scented memory from your childhood?
The smell of burning leaves billowing through the car window as my brother and I sat in the back seat proudly hugging the Christmas tree we’d expertly chosen. The smell of the freshly cut tree, the wind on our faces and bonfire, mingled with the anticipation of mince pies and decorating the tree – what could be cozier?
Q: Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
I have two webbed toes, one of my ancestors was a Pope, and although I’m dreadful at remembering names – I never forget a face.
Q: Outside of fragrance, what other creative outlets do you have?
I’m a bit of a bon vivant and love the arts in its many forms – theatre, music, cuisine, cinema, architecture, poetry – you name it. I get a lot of my creative energy and inspiration from enjoying and appreciating other people expressing themselves in all these forms.
So whilst I’ve tried my hand at many of these over the years (with variable success!) I’m learning more and more to truly appreciate the efforts of others who’ve mastered their art, and i’ll focus on doing mine.
Q: Where do you consider your happy place?
The Amalfi coast – revisiting stories from my Grandmother who lived there in the heyday, and it’s where my husband proposed to me. In Italy, but this area specifically, everything I love and appreciate is done very well. Great food, people watching, blue sea and sky.
Q: What is your favorite word?
Q: What is your least favorite word?
Q: What turns you on?
A happy collision of all my favorite things at once – people I love and fascinating strangers, delicious food and drinks, live music, sizzling conversation, a great sense of atmosphere and a crackle in the air from everyone feeling good about themselves and each other!
Q: What turns you off?
The cold, bad lighting, and awkward silences.
Q: What’s your favorite note?
Belladona or Heliotrope tends to be in all the scents that really grip me.
Q: What’s your least favorite note?
Those sweet nondescript candy pink smells!
Q: If you could describe your brand in 3 words, what would they be?
Brave, expressive, personal
Q: What’s next for you?
I’m staying right here – this is just the beginning and I’ve got big plans and reserves of enthusiasm and energy ready to go! (and we love that!)
Photo credits: ILK
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