Despite the literal translation of its name, new fragrance brand Gamine isn’t aimed at young women.
“Gamine in French means girl, but it’s like a rebellious, young girl, her state of mind — she’s very free and open, travels, is extremely creative, so I wanted to tap into that spirit for Gamine and kind of escalate it into a sophisticated, older line,” said Gamine co-founder Melanie Dir. “It’s not young, and its non gender specific, and it’s really more than fragrance — it’s a whole lifestyle of following what your mood is and your ambience and your day-to-day fashion.”
The collection is made up of four scents — one signature, $220, composed of blue hemp with Cote D’Azur Cypress, Vetiver Root, Chocolat Noir and wild Indonesian Patchouli — and three olfactive layerables, $160: Cement Rose, made with Turkish rose, spicy cardamom, pink peppercorn, blonde suede, honey nectar and black ebony wood; Taba Choko, composed of sacred Indian oud, Persian saffron, sandalwood, blackened vanilla absolute, smoked with aged desert mesquite wood; and Oceanic Encre, with sun drenched Mediterranean sea moss, salted amber, Saint-Tropez sand honeysuckle, aquatic neroli and lait de coco.
While some fragrances are meant to be layered on top of one another, the Gamine layering technique is more of a spot treatment approach — something Dir has been doing for years. Taba Choko, on a man, is good for the torso, or on a woman either in the hair or lower back, Dir said. Cement rose is meant more for the cracks of the body, Dir said — on a man, the back of the forearm, or on a woman, near the calf.
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“The concept here is that the rose in the fragrance industry is like the most luxe flower, it’s just so pure and beautiful, Dir said. “So I just wanted to take the rose and make it a little gritty, make it a little dirtier.”
Ocean Encre is good for inner thighs, she said. “When you smell it, imagine yourself under water in the ocean, and the crackle of the salt like lingers through the layers of the fragrance,” Dir said.
“I never want to have one uniform scent for my body — it was like wearing clothes. Maybe beat up, dirty kind of jeans and a clean white tee shirt, they’re two different textures — I just started doing it that way,” Dir said. “Just applying different fragrances to different areas and contrasting scents. Whenever my friends would come over and whenever I would have parties they would say, ‘I came [with] clean skin, layer me up.’ And depending on what their vibe was and the ambience I would just start doing concoctions on them.”
Dir started Gamine with boyfriend and cofounder Frenel Morris, who handled branding for the business. Claude Dir, Dir’s father, crafted the fragrances. He’s also worked on scents for Tom Ford, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger, Bond No. 9, Elizabeth Taylor, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Pitbull and Kim Kardashian.
Dir, born in France, was moved to America when she was five weeks old. “For the first three years of my life I was in my dad’s lab,” she said. “He came to a company called Mane which still exists today and my mom was the secretary; they had nobody, we didn’t have any family from France, so he built a crib in the lab. The first three years I grew up in this kind of scented environment, and from that point on I was always smelling.”
“I saw these niche fragrance brands and said, ‘I want to do something, but I want to do something on my own terms, something that’s really conceptual and artistic,’ and with niche now, there’s almost like a next direction with the niche which is almost like museum kind of style, very avant garde, and I wanted to do that and I thought about how could it be different, and then I came up with all the olfactive layerables and applying of textures, which I think is a different way to talk about fragrance,” Dir said. “Any of the notes I talk about, there’s nothing about top, mid, base, it’s strictly cinematic, the way I describe it, [and then when you] smell it and then you read the notes and it takes you there, it taps directly into the memory.”
“This was a different challenge because Melanie wanted something different from the usual type of fragrance, the way we build the fragrance, top, mid, dry [down] — this is more idea of places — it’s more also the way you apply the fragrance, how you mix the fragrance,” said Claude Dir.
For now, the product is sold exclusively at Manon on Division Street in the Lower East Side in New York, and will also be sold online at gaminenyc.com soon. Dir’s strategy for the brand is to avoid mainstream retailers.
“Because I did a very limited production – the signature I only did 420 pieces, and the layerables I did about 120 of each – I want to keep it in one store right now,” Dir said. “Also, because there’s a story that needs to be had and I don’t want to put it in another retailer…to be put on another shelf beside other niche fragrance brands.…I want to have it in a store that I’m part of and that when people come in I can have the face-to-face conversation with them.”