Daniel Patrick Giles is the Sofia Coppola of scent.
For the founder of soon-to-launch fragrance brand Perfumehead, a scent is an olfactive movie — and Giles tells a story in the same manner a director or screenwriter weaves characters, plot, and sound into a film.
“I start the process by building a personal smell museum,” he said. “Everything and anything can play into the process… movies, music, magazines, books and colors, people and places, pop culture, poetry, decor, and art. It all becomes a melting pot of ideas feeding into what emotion I want to evoke with the scent.”
After building this moodboard of sorts, Giles begins writing what he calls an “olfactory screenplay,” translating images and words into families and notes for perfumers (the “real geniuses behind the scents”).
While Perfumehead’s seven-scent lineup can be described in top, heart, and base notes, they’re better evoked by the cultural references they bottle. Take Reine des Anges — my personal favorite — as an example.
The heady fragrance began as a series of nighttime drives through Hollywood Hills. “I [stopped] along Mulholland Drive and [looked] at the city below, taking in what it smelt like, what it felt like,” Giles explained. “I would listen to Primal Scream and Kate Moss sing Some Velvet Morning… I was heavily influenced by the dreamlike fantasia of the movie Mulholland Drive as well as the brilliant noir thriller of Chinatown.”
Working with a team of perfumers, Giles translated his excursions into a sweet yet spicy rose, rich with saffron, patchouli and a hint of raspberry — notes that any fragrance expert can identify, but that the everyday consumer may not be able to conjure in their mind’s eye (nose’s eye?). It’s Giles’ references to Mulholland Drive and Primal Scream, Chinatown and Kate Moss that bring Reine des Anges to life for the layperson.
Other pop culture moments that Perfumehead bottles: Janelle Monae’s tuxedos (Moonflower), Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake (Canadian Tuxedo), Margot Robbie at Flamingo estate (Alone Together).
For Giles, fragrance is more than smell: it’s osmocosm.
“I first discovered the term osmocosm — osmo as in smell, cosmo as in universe — while reading Nose Dive by science writer Harold McGee,” Giles said. “McGee calls our sense of smell ‘the bridge between our experience of foods and our experience of the larger world.'”
Giles’ osmocosm, his world of smells, is the cinematic appeal of Los Angeles — a city canonized by many a director, from Coppola to David Lynch to Paul Thomas Anderson. And just like these cinematic greats (and film in general), scent pushes us to perceive reality through a new lens.
“[Scent] delivers us to the moment with renewed presence,” Giles concludes. “I believe [Perfumehead] is a call to center yourself in scent. To bring pleasure to every breath. To feel alive again.”