NEW YORK — Twin sisters Dawn and Samantha Goldworm are building a new kind of branding agency — one that uses scent to refine a company’s voice — with clients that range from Cadillac to Valentino.
“We’re not an ambient scenting company. We don’t do nice scents to just fill spaces. We translate the brand into a smell that should and does communicate the voice of the brand,” Dawn Goldworm told WWD during an interview last month. The firm she founded with Samantha, 12.29, is headquartered in the Flatiron District here with labs on the Upper East Side and in Paris.
She explained that what she and Samantha do has nothing to do with perfuming a space. This is a branding tool — the same as shooting an advertising campaign — and the services the two provide fall under “brand communication.”
To date, the Goldworms have worked with fragrance giant Firmenich to scent brands, fashion shows, hotels and car companies that include Rodarte, Jason Wu, Zac Posen, Thakoon, Prabal Gurung, Opening Ceremony, Thompson Hotels, Viceroy Hotels and Resorts and Cadillac.
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But 12.29’s most high-profile fashion client to date is Valentino, which has spent the past year-and-a-half rolling out a brand scent. Created by 12.29, the Italian fashion house’s scent launched at its couture show in January of last year and has rolled out to all its runway shows, showrooms and flagship boutiques in Rome, Milan, Paris and New York.
Dawn Goldworm said she flew to Rome to meet with Valentino’s creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli in February of 2014 to walk them through her creative process — which has nothing to do with smell.
She said she uses a few techniques to translate a brand into a scent, which includes research done on olfactive preference per region and culture as well as the process of synesthesia, a neurological condition where one uses one scent to understand another.
“When I smell, I automatically see colors, shapes and textures. I also [do the same] when I hear music — I see color shapes and textures. It happens automatically and you can’t cultivate it; I found out in perfumery school,” Goldworm said. “When a brand tells me they’re represented by the color red, I already know what they will smell like. Although you don’t think you smell by color you do.”
She presented four scent options to Chiuri and Piccioli three months after meeting them, and they both picked the same one: a fragrance based on the Valentino red color and a very modern rose. Natural rose, Goldworm said, was coupled with geranium to bring “a bit of modernity to what can be seen as a classic rose note” and bottom notes contained a “creamy, balsamic accord.” She compared it to a couture Valentino dress.
“Scent and emotion live in the same part of the brain. If you create a scent and link an emotion to it, you can change how people experience events, products [and more],” Goldworm said of how she and Samantha are using scent to help brands communicate in a more “multisensorial” way.
Goldworm, who spent eight years at Coty Inc. as an in-house nose and worked at Avon’s global headquarters before that, got her start in olfactory branding when she created a scent for friend Gabriele Corto Moltedo’s store in the fall of 2008. She left her post at Coty in 2012 to work full time at 12.29, which she founded with Samantha in 2009.
“He [Corto Moltedo] asked if I could scent his store, which is what I thought it was at the beginning. I had this idea that we can create a brand scent based on the DNA of brand you’re building — on colors, textures and the target market,” Goldworm said of her first project.
She explained that this scent would envelop the “overall feeling” of what the brand is trying to elicit on a variety of touch points, including touch, taste and sound.
In February of 2014, for instance, the Goldworms were responsible for showgoers at the Opening Ceremony show “running to the wall and licking the chocolate, thinking the chocolate was making the smell,” according to Goldworm (it was really a perfume grade oil emanating the scent). In September of 2009, Dawn created a scent for the spring 2010 Rodarte show, which was the first custom scent to be diffused with technology during a show.
But these brand scents won’t come cheap.
Those who wish to work with 12.29 can expect to pay a sizable fee for their sensorial expertise. The sisters likened the expense to designing a store’s interior, and said prices can range from tens of thousands of dollars (for a fashion show) to several hundred thousands of dollars to creating a brand scent that touches multiple global touch points.