Vancouver perfumer, Ayala Moriel, talks about the amazing culture of perfume.
By Jenica Chuahiock
When Ayala Moriel formulates her perfumes, she doesn’t imagine an elaborate spray bottle nestled on a shelf. She envisions a ritual of story telling. It begins with a search from far and wide, almost like a treasure hunt, to acquire the most potent of ingredients. Every perfume must be perfect, even though it requires extracts from the best vanilla of Madagascar, the sweetest roses from Japan, or the soothing lemongrass from Israel. From those ingredients comes an orchestra of scents, layers upon layers of notes carefully intertwining with each other. Finally, the last ingredient: human skin, the catalyst of perfumes. A careful dab in pulse points ensures proper diffusion, the scents gradually morphing as it floats from our bodily warmth to the air.
“Perfumes take time to unfold on the skin,” explains Moriel, a local perfumer and founder of Ayala Moriel Parfums. “You would dab it on, and it smells like something first, and then it changes and morphs. My perfumes embrace that, they would start as something and end up as something else.”
Moriel is an uncompromising artisan when it comes to the art of perfumery, using only the best of natural processes and ingredients to handcraft her products. This olfactory sensation moves like a song, from base notes, to heart notes and to top notes, before gradually fading in to the skin. That is the way of natural perfumery, an art that revels in its own metamorphosis and transience. The commercial popularity of fragrances has skyrocketed in the past few years. However, despite the growing number of perfume consumers, the traditional appeal of perfumery is waning. Synthetic fragrances have become the standard, while quick spray bottles and roll-ons have removed the careful ritual of application. Today, there are only a few artisan perfumers practicing the art of natural perfumery; and Moriel is adamant in upholding that tradition.
“[Commercial perfumes] are designed now to smell the same from start to finish. So to me, this is losing the art,” says Moriel, who has kept touch with many artisan perfumers like herself, though they are affected by the manufacturing of perfumes. “A lot of older perfumes are being reformulated, just to be adapted to the modern day pace, lifestyle and taste of a new generation. They’re just not the same as they used to be. We’re losing the sense of taking the time to actually smell the perfume and see how it evolves from start to finish.”
For Moriel, the artful application of perfume is all about taking in the moment, to actually take the time engage our senses. But with the modern lifestyle of being constantly rushed, it is difficult remembering to stop and smell the roses, or perfume, so to speak. The increasing scarcity of organic resources is also taking its toll on artisans, adding more pressure to switch to synthetics and cheaper alternatives. Regardless, Ayala Moriel Parfums insists on maintaining the natural standard. She is quite proud of her artisan philosophy, which she describes as both strength and hindrance to her brand. Mass production could have easily spurned more profit; and yet, it’s just not an option for her.
“[Companies] want to make perfumes fast and cheap,” says Moriel. “My perfumes are more like a story. You wear it on your skin, and it tells story. That is the art of it.”
With such a passion for perfumes, it is no surprise how Moriel’s life has revolved around natural wonders. She has spent most of her youth in Israel, growing up in a humble village reputed for its organic produce. She vividly describes her childhood home found off the grid, 20 minutes from the sea. The village had no electricity, but had the luxury of running water. Herbalism and wild crafting was the lifestyle, as villagers grew their own medicinal plants and tobacco. They were wary of frequent bush fires, a fear agitated with the availability of only one telephone booth in the whole community (“Back then it was a real survival decision,” she remarks). To this day, Moriel frequently returns to the village for family visits, and to acquire some exclusive ingredients. So much has changed since then, but it is still the land of her inspiration.
“I was growing pretty much in the wild. I was free to just roam around and pick wild flowers, herbs and everything just on the hill sides. The scent culture there is everywhere.” says Moriel, as she fondly recalls her growth and exposure to natural scents. “The orchards would be in bloom, or the orange blossoms every spring around March and April, just makes me happy to smell. Then there’s all kinds of wildflowers growing all Spring… So I grew around a lot of smells that are actual raw materials for perfumery, like jasmine, roses, rockroses, orange blossoms, sage and all other herbs.”
From the wondrous Mediterranean herbs to the Arabic science of perfumery, exposure to scent cultures has affirmed to Moriel the power of scents. It is a sensation that thrives on its subtlety. Scents have been proven to be strongly linked to our emotions and memories. She is a firm believer of using perfumes as a way of self-expression, though with a more cognitive effect. Scents being processed in the brain activates recollections of color and sentiments, impulses of fight or flight, and even arousal. With such a cerebral response, it’s no wonder people find it difficult to articulate smells. Yet somehow, scents work more intimately with our minds than any article of fashion.
“I don’t think there is any medium more powerful than that to really connect us to the most basic level of our existence.” says Moriel. “So when you pick a perfume, you don’t really know why you’re picking it. But, you pick that perfume because it makes you feel great.. or makes you feel connected to something, you might not even be able to say what it is. Unknowingly, you are really telling the world who you are.”
If you’re interested in trying out some of Moriel’s amazing line, come visit her at the upcoming Portobello West Holiday Market.
Photos are courtesy of Ayala Moriel Parfums