Ally Capellino x Aram + Maya Njie
ARAM + ALLY CAPELLINO with MAYA NJIE
A shoot in Devon threw Ally and Grace, creative manager of Aram, together into the same train carriage. The idea developed to make a comparison between the qualities and value of classic modern furniture, and a good bag.
A year later we have asked a set of four creatives to tell us their thoughts on classic design. The photos are taken at Aram on Drury Lane by Sarah Bates.
This week we spoke to Maya Njie. Ally has been splashing her Nordic Cedar scent around for the last 4 years. Maya founded her eponymous label in 2016. The scents are deeply rooted in her Gambian and Swedish heritage, although she has lived in London since her teens. Reaching back into her past, she's created a range of beautifully balanced perfumes which are vegan and mixed in small batches.
Q: What does the word ‘classic’ mean to you within your world as a perfumer?
A: Not having had traditional training in perfumery and being self-taught, I guess I’m learning more about the classics now than I did before. I haven’t come the traditional route and therefore I’m not doing it in the traditional way - but I would say that it’s definitely really inspiring to see how the structures have been laid down and how you can put your own contemporary spin on those.
Q: What are your ultimate ‘classic’ scents - not necessarily in a historical sense but rather a personal one?
A: In terms of traditional scents, one that I had the opportunity to smell and that really struck a chord with me was the original Eau Sauvage. It’s changed a lot over the years, but the original formula from 1966 by Edmond Roudnitska just reminds me of so many people from my past - not one particular person but more so an era of people. I wasn’t prepared for that and it caught me off guard. I think that’s the beautiful power of perfumery. Then, for me, I tend to work a lot with Virginian cedarwood. I find it really comforting, it reminds me of home. I think that’s a direct link but I also think it’s a really lovely, beautiful material that’s versatile and gender neutral and timeless.
Q: Scent and nostalgia are so closely linked. Can you share a personal memory associated with a ‘classic’ scent?
A: The one that comes to mind is definitely Tobak. It’s really connected to the interiors of my grandfather’s apartment. I would often go there when I was little - he passed away when I was five, so they’re really early, really positive memories when I think about it. The scent is all about his home, the furniture that he had, him smoking a pipe and having the rolling tobacco mixed in with leather polish, teak furniture and Tonka (represented in the toffees that he would have in a bowl).
Q: The scent of leather is firmly associated with furniture and, obviously, leather goods - how do you go about using this ‘classic’ scent in your perfumes?
A: Leather, for me, is a really versatile ingredient - and when I say ingredient, I guess I mean a leather accord, because you can’t extract a leather scent as it were. You have perfumers making their own versions of what that could be, so it’s really up for interpretation in so far as how people use it. I find that it works really well across the board. I tend to pair it with florals, with woods, with citruses. Again, it’s a really comforting smell that I guess would be leaning traditionally masculine, but that’s not how I think of perfumes.
Q: When do you find value in having a strong background knowledge of the ‘classics’ and when is it more important to be able to use your imagination when pushing the boundaries of perfumery?
A: When I formulate, the way that I look at it is a bit like getting dressed in the morning. You look at different ingredients, you look at what would pair well, and you look at classic combinations - but also how you could put two things together that might not be expected. A lot of times, that can lead to a really pleasant surprise for people. I think if you have traditional training, you might be - I don’t know, because I don’t have it - but you might be confined by certain rules and regulations. When you don’t have that, the benefit of is that sometimes you might think out of the box. I guess maybe you learn the hard way sometimes; it’s been a positive thing for me.
Q: What are your current research and referencing methods?
A: The way I tend to research spans across different areas. So, I like to keep an eye on what’s going on in the perfume industry and then something that I have started doing as well is a retrospective - looking at the perfumes I used to wear in my twenties and thirties to see what the pattern is there, what I’ve gone for, and maybe why I’ve gone for it and whether there’s a connection to how I blend today. I also love reading up about different formulas and methods and I get inspiration and knowledge from all different places.
Q: Lastly, how do Ally Capellino and Aram tie in with your personal concept of ‘classic’?
A: I would say, for me, Ally Capellino is an examplar of how I work in a way. It’s definitely traditional with real contemporary inputs and I feel that it speaks to different generations and genders; it’s not boxed in and it feels quite free. I would say the same about Aram and its history. I feel a connection to Aram - certainly - with my Swedish and Scandinavian heritage and feel like my home has parallels with the furniture that’s sold here.