Photo by Isauro Cairo.
Olfactive portrait of New York by Rodrigo Flores-Roux.
Rodrigo Flores-Roux is a renowned master perfumer. He has been responsible for iconic bestsellers like Happy by Clinique as well as for all scents by John Varvatos and the Velvet Collection by Dolce & Gabbana. He is also the nose behind many creations from Arquiste, Six Scents Perfumes and other indie labels. If you ask him what he does for a living he’ll tell you: “I make scents! And as a Mexican, I like infusing them with the love of my country. I also find inspiration in art and art history, and am proud to say that perfume is the love of my life.”
What is your personal secret “olfactive spot” in New York?
New York is a city of extremes, and as such, offers an enormous display of interesting scents … But not all of them are good. Very frequently, the pungent encounters the delicate, and the ugly can battle the beautiful. However, I always enjoy April in the West Village, when the linden trees are in full bloom. Their refreshing, green floral notes, laced with honey and cantaloupe melons, are just amazing. I also enjoy the masculine, woody and leathery scent that you encounter upon entering E. Vogel, a traditional boot maker who has been based in the city for over a century. They continue to make cobbler bench made shoes and riding boots, and the scented atmosphere of their store down in Howard Street is absolutely delightful. You just dive into a mixture of different leather scents, wooden wall panels and a hint of metal, maybe because of the nails and hammers …
What would be the main ingredient for an iconic “Eau de New York”?
Wet concrete, the uplifting scent in the air after a lightning storm, linden blossoms, leather and a touch of a very dry gin martini …
Why are you in New York?
Yes, perfume making brought me here. I started working as a junior perfumer at IFF in my home town of Mexico City. After five years, I was given the opportunity to come to the American headquarters of IFF, still located on West 57th street. Just two days ago, I celebrated my 18th anniversary of moving to Manhattan. Even since the first time I visited New York as a tourist, I somehow knew this was the place that I was going to live in … The city I call home.
Your perfume advice to New Yorkers?
Manhattanites are savvy, sophisticated people, and they know their way around perfume quite well. But here are some modest words of wisdom: First of all, please wear MORE!!! I miss smelling fragrances in the street …
Also: Do not spray the air to form “a cloud” to walk into. It is a waste of money. Spray directly on you.
And thirdly … One of my pet peeves: the presence of coffee bean jars in perfume stores. Smelling them “to clear your nose” is a misconception and they don’t really help. Coffee beans smell much stronger than any perfume out there! I’ve been known to throw the coffee beans away, when I see them in stores …
What is your favorite place in New York to discover and shop fragrance?
I have to say Aedes de Venustas. The taste level is incredible, it’s a store just filled with beautiful things. These guys know what they are doing. And also, they are good friends!
Please share with us your best New York perfume anecdote!
I have many to share, but here’s one: I have always lived in a prewar building on West 54 street. Originally, I rented an apartment on the 4th floor. Right at the street level, living in a small apartment, there was a young guy who clearly enjoyed going to the gym as he was in great shape and had huge arms. He also loved loved loved a men’s cologne which will remained unnamed … He literally showered in it everyday. He worked in a HR company, and he would leave the building exactly at 8:30 am, like a clock. I was able to tell if I was early or late for work just by peeking out of my apartment door and sniffing the air — in the 4th floor hallways! If the scent was strong, I was on time. If it was lighter, I was late! Again, I could smell it from the 4th floor.
I befriended him as a good New York neighbor. Some time after, he got engaged, got married and left the apartment building. But destiny has it that many years later, I saw him again. He had changed jobs, and had become a qualified trainer at my gym. He was clearly putting to work all of his knowledge in gym training and fitness. And he is my trainer now! (He also knows about me using his cologne as a clock.!)
This perfume story was brought to you in collaboration with Elements Showcase New York, 2014.