The first time we experienced Liz Marley’s line of fragrances, Parfum Magnét, we were spellbound. Marley, who has taught perfume-making workshops at Cairo, launched the unisex collection at the Little Green House Popup last December. The directionally inspired perfumes are exotic but familiar, floral but musky, and simple but complex—with each formula having only three or four ingredients.
To help you get a scents (see what we did there?) of the line, we caught up with Marley in an interview about her inspiration, Western movies, and how she honed her nose.
How did you get into making fragrances?
Marley: I can't remember why I started buying all these essential oils and aromachemicals two years ago, but I always had the intent to make my own perfume line. I suppose I always had a thing for perfume. I asked my dad for Calvin Klein Obsession as a Christmas gift when I was in middle school. Pretty heavy juice for a kid. I became officially obsessed in college when I visited the Fragonard factory in Eze.
For the first few years, I just made fragrances for friends as a hobby. It helped me hone my nose and gave me time to learn the chemistry before I let my perfume loose on the world. Working a writer at Nordstrom, I didn't have a lot of extra time to put in. You can only work with raw materials for about two to three hours before your nose becomes overwhelmed, and after a day working in a dry office, I can't smell very well. So, I only worked on perfume on the weekends.That's maybe why this took me so long.
What is the concept behind the first Parfum Magnét line?
The four perfumes are based on cardinal directions and named after their corresponding degrees. The concept is pretty simple, and I wanted to keep it that way. Sometimes, I have trouble focusing my work. Finding a humble inspiration allowed me to finish this line.
Who are you thinking of when you make new scents?
All of the fragrances grew out of concepts that I originally created for my friends, though highly evolved from the originals. Focusing on a customer that intimate keeps me from being intimidated when I’m putting new stuff out there.
On the other hand, I think about characters. For example, with 270° I was inspired by Spaghetti Westerns. I have a B.A. in film production, and my husband is quite the cinephile, so movies are a big part of my life. There is a particular scene in Once Upon A Time in the West: Charles Bronson is sitting at the end of the whisky-soaked saloon in a weathered suede duster, chewing tobacco. It can get very visual when I’m working.
What is unique about your perfumes compared to all the other scents out there?
Parfum Magnét is far more intimate and personal. I blend and bottle every perfume by hand. In that stubborn ideal, I suppose, I’m content with most people not connecting with all of my perfumes. But when customers come back after taking a sample and tell me that they’re in love with one of them, it makes me almost giddy.
Also, every perfume I make is unisex. I don't consider gender at all when I'm making my formulas, but the industry standard is gendered fragrances. Frankly, it's absurd. Why limit your customer base right off the bat? If it smells good to you, wear it fearlessly.
Describe your personal signature scent in three words.
Ancient, metal, magic.