PARIS — Clara Molloy wants finding Memo to be a voyage of discovery.
The 35-year-old book publisher opened a boutique by that name, which carries a collection of scents inspired by her travels, in the tony Saint Germain des Prés neighbourhood here during the fall.
Also dubbed Memo (which is short for memoire, the French word for memory), her fragrances are meant to be reminiscent of Molloy's visits to destinations as far afield as Burma's Lake Inlé and glitzy Saint-Tropez.
"I had three tons of material — travel diaries, history books, metro tickets," explained Molloy, who then identified particular sensations experienced in those places, like warmth or nightfall in the desert, and sought to re-create them in scent.
Located on the Rue des Saint Pères, Memo's 160-square-foot store was designed to suggest travel. A light-infused wall depicts Lake Inlé, while a star is carved into the ceiling. And a gold-painted toy locomotive hums around the brand's bright white-and-gold products.
"The train evokes traveling and childhood memories," said Molloy.
Memo's lineup includes Les Echappées, four scents by International Flavors & Fragrances perfumer Aliénor Massenet, including Inlé, evoking misty Lake Inlé with notes of bergamot, osmanthus and iris. Lalibela, a chypre blended to convey the mystery of the Ethiopian city of that name, includes notes of coconut, orchid and patchouli.
Siwa, a vanilla-based fragrance concocted to recall an oasis in the Egyptian desert, has notes of cinnamon, narcissus and absolute whiskey. Meantime, Sundance, a fragrant ode to Utah's annual film festival, contains notes of tuberose, pear, bergamot, lemon and sandalwood. Each 50-ml. eau de parfum spray retails at 80 euros, or $118 at current exchange.
Other locales inspired a 30-unit collection of home fragrances, bath items, scent sachets and candles, including the champagne-infused Sexy Saint-Tropez candle.
At Le Bon Marché here, where Memo unveiled a corner in November, its sales have been among the highest of all fragrance brands, not only niche, according to the department store's beauty buyer Marie Lassagne. "Passing customers stop even if they weren't looking for a fragrance," she said. Memo's typical customer is a young, fashionable woman looking for a new fragrance brand, Lassagne added.Among the four scents, the bestsellers at both Le Bon Marché and at London's Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge store, where Memo bowed a 325-square-foot shop-in-shop plus a corner on the ground floor in November, are Inlé and Lalibela. "Exclusive niche fragrances are doing very well within our fragrance offering," said Daniela Rinaldi, head of perfumery and concessions at Harvey Nichols, adding that Memo's typical customers are in their mid-20s and above. "Their drive is to find something first, something that reflects their fashion edge, and mirrors that they are savvy with regards to what is hot and new."
Memo rolled out to Harvey Nichols' regional doors in Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham, and bowed its e-commerce site, mymemo.com, last November. Industry sources estimate the Memo brand will generate first-year wholesale sales of $300,000.
While Molloy may have turned her nose to fragrance manufacturing, she hasn't turned her back on books altogether. Her first work, cowritten with Carine Soyer, "22 Perfumers, a Creative Process," explores perfumery through interviews with noses such as Jacques Cavallier, Jean-Paul Guerlain and Jacques Polge. It was published in December 2007.
Molloy hopes to explore new geographic territories with Memo — including the U.S., where she plans to introduce the brand this year.
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