Countless men and women consider cologne or perfume an integral, if invisible, part of their personal style. But until recently, the $9 billion fragrance industry has mostly focused on scenting individual people, not brands or events. The world’s first olfactive branding company, 12.29, is changing that, at least in high fashion. The company brought the oft-overlooked sense of smell to the foreground with their custom scenting of the New York shows last week by Tocca, Calla, and Prabal Gurung–and hope to waft runways around the world.
Identical twins Dawn and Samantha Goldworm are the virtuosic noses behind 12.29. The duo has synesthesia, a neurological condition that causes senses to meld together. In their case, they see smells as colors and textures and vice versa. If a company identifies with the color blue and the texture of silk, for example, the Goldworms can translate that identity into a matching fragrance.
Co.Design spoke with Dawn Goldworm about scenting Fashion Week: “There is a creative process I bring the designers that dissects their inspiration for the season. We look at the collection’s color palette, textiles, muse, and overall vision. We spend about 90 minutes together talking about all of these elements, as well as the other sensory details of the show, including the music, set, and audience,” she says. “Approximately one month later, I present a few directions for the designer to choose the one he/she feels best fits the now evolved collection. We then scent the show and continue to scent the designer’s showroom when the buyers and press return.”
As each designer and collection has a distinct visual style, so each has its own scent identity. The recent Tocca collection was ballet-themed, with white tights and gauze galore, referencing a fully made-up dancer with her rehearsal clothes underneath. “Tocca’s scent was inspired by rosin, a resin dancers use on their shoes so they don’t slip on the floor,” said Goldworm.
Prabal Gurung declared before his show this season that “the elegant woman is becoming an endangered species.” Building on this threat of extinction–along with Marilyn Monroe as muse–his show featured pastels with plastic harnesses. To Goldworm, this translated to a scent “created around a rose with biting elements of animal notes and woody amber.”
The 12.29 scent for Calla is one they designed years ago and apply to all of her presentations. “This brand scent is instead created for the overall Calla identity, which is consistent season to season,” says Goldworm. “It is a dewy, petally, bouqueted floral with a soft powderiness and sweet pea touch for the sweet, downtown, stylish Calla girl.”
So how does olfactive branding effect the experience of fashion week? “Scenting helps promote the designer’s vision for the season and collection by tapping into the most emotional and acute part of the brain, the smell memory,” says Goldworm. “It also differentiates the show from the myriad of other shows and collections during Fashion Week.”