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Memo Launches Sesame-Inspired Scent

The boutique French perfumers looked to an ancient Buddhist temple and its rituals for inspiration.

LONDON — Boutique Parisian perfumer Memo has launched a new fragrance that harnesses the scent of sesame, the first in a new collection called “Graines Vagabondes”, which will be inspired by seeds and their life-enhancing power.

The fragrance, named Kedu, was inspired by a plain of the same name in Java, Indonesia. The fertile plain nestles between the Merapi Volcano and the ancient Buddhist temple Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world that was rediscovered in the 19th Century, buried under ash and vegetation.

“According to the practices of Buddhism, you are purified from your passions by burning sesame seeds in a temple,” explained Clara Molloy, Memo founder, at the scent’s launch in London. “Buddhists, being meticulous, count over 1,000 different passions. I was attracted to this gesture of sesame offered to the fire and I was very interested to see how Aliénor [Massenet, the International Flavors & Fragrances perfumer behind the scent] would render it.”

Massenet took the new sesame absolute captive created by IFF, teamed it with white musk and moss at Kedu’s base; blended it with citrus top notes of grapefruit, neroli and mandarin; and a floral heart of fresia and peony accords, and maté absolute. “It’s like a game with us; because I don’t set her any limits, she always chooses the most expensive ingredients,” joked Molloy.

“To make a warm and fresh scent is not so easy. Because of it’s associations to food, it could have been not very elegant,” said Massenet. “We had to dominate the sesame. We didn’t want to get too intellectual and dark, we do want the fragrance to be worn.”

From June, Kedu will be sold in 100 doors worldwide, including Harvey Nichols and specialist perfumeries, for 168 pounds, or about $283 at current exchange. The 75-ml. glass bottle is a long, rectangular shape, with a gold cap, and is covered in black and gold squares, inspired by traditional Indonesian fabrics. There are no ancillary products.

Memo declined to discuss figures, but industry sources expect it to generate sales of 500,000 pounds, or about $843,260, at wholesale in the first year.

Memo, which was launched in December 2007 by Molloy and her husband John, works on the basis of creating fragrance “collections,” based around a particular theme. In this instance, it is seeds, but existing collections have been called Les Échappés (The Escapes), Escales Extraordinaires (Extraordinary Stops) and Cuir Nomades (Nomadic Leather), and have also included home-fragrance items. There are now 17 fragrances in Memo’s niche portfolio.

The brand is not currently available in the U.S., but Molloy said that they have plans to expand into the market as early as this year. But she notes, “we are never in a rush.”