Last year, I thought I was really onto something when I purchased a bottle of Eau Illuminée by San Francisco-based Parfums DelRae. I became an overnight evangelist, only to discover that, well, all my friends (Julie included) already owned a bottle. It was what I dub a TMM (a Ted Muehling moment, the time I discovered that all my friends wore the same earrings)—and was I to throw myself off a cliff for my lack of originality or congratulate myself on my friends' good taste?
Then I decided that Eau Illuminée is the new modern classic, the inheritor to the Chanel No. 5 throne, an elegant, subtle, grown-up perfume evocative of a classic French scent. What's extraordinary is the story of DelRae Roth, who with no experience created a line of perfumes. Read on to learn more:
Remodelista: How did this begin?
DelRae Roth: I had worked as art director at Esprit, and was surrounded by some of the best people around. I knew how to see a project through from beginning to end and how to work with creatives. I really wanted to have my own business, and I had always loved perfume.
Above: DelRae Roth of Parfums DelRae; photo by Mark Seelen via the Style Saloniste.
RM: How did you go from concept to creation?
DR: It was a huge risk. In 2000, I ordered some of the best oils from France and started experimenting. I wanted to work with the very best, so I started cold calling the prestigious French perfumer families. Being American, and female, I was (and am) a wild card in the industry. The Roudnitskas were first on my list; Edmond Roudnitska had passed away but is known as the father of modern perfumery. His wife, Thérèse, and son Michel took me on, and in 2002 Michel and I launched with a trio of fragrances: Eau Illuminée, Amoureuse, and Bois de Paradis.
RM: How do you come up with a scent?
DR: I always have a name when I first conceptualize a perfume. Amoureuse was inspired by the blooming trees and Victoria's box that line the streets of San Francisco mixed with the feeling of sunshine and the marine air. The names are really important to me and I want them to describe the personality of the perfumes.
Above: A bottle of Emotionelle; $135 from Parfums DelRae, inspired by a transformative stay in Paris. The starting point was a journal from that time. It is Roudnitska's favorite perfume from the line. Roth describes it as "very unusual, unlike anything else. It covers a lot of distance and is a big story that it tells. It's for someone who is confident and who knows themselves; someone who has good taste and wants something avant-garde."
RM: How should you wear perfume?
DR: It's a different way of wearing perfume in Europe than in America. In Paris you note the perfume on people as you walk down the street. Americans are much more restrained but they are getting better. Wear it on your body, of course, but also spray it in your hair and on your clothes. Perfume has the ability to be so personal—it becomes part of your personal story, that's why people become so attached to their perfume.
RM: Suggestions on how to choose a perfume?
DR: You should always have an open mind when you shop for perfume; disarm yourself of preconceived notions. I have Coup de Foudre, which is a beautiful perfume made with high quality rose oil. You might not think you like roses, but since the perfume is made up of so many different materials you might be surprised by how good it is. It's like cooking, saffron by itself might nor be good but in a recipe it can take a dish to a new height. Always narrow your choice down to two perfumes before you compare, as the nose can get overloaded really quickly. And be adventurous.
Above: Rose petals. According to Roth, the best rose oil is found in the fields outside Grasse in Provence, where perfume started. For a long time, it was the center of glove making, and scent was added to the leather gloves to make them smell better which is how the industry really began.
RM: How to store perfume?
DR: Perfume should never be stored where there are temperature changes, so not in bathroom. Store on a dresser but out of direct sunlight. Think of perfume like storing wine, the same principles apply. Perfume is at its optimum when you first buy it, so it's best worn within a year of purchase.
RM: Why wear perfume?
DR: Perfume is an art form; it should be worn for pleasure. It's romantic, sensual, and sexy and should be enjoyed like fine food and good wine. It is an enhancement that can make people feel beautiful. The world can be abrasive and sad and I think we need this kind of thing in life.
RM: A perfume you like other than your own?
DR: Chanel No. 5, I wish I had made that. It's a really old perfume that is timeless. It's the perfect little black dress.
Above: Hotel de l'Abbaye located in the 6th arrondissement.
RM: You refer to Paris as your second home. What are some of your favorite places there?
DR: My love for Paris continues undiminished and informs my life and work in a daily way that I cannot imagine living without. There are so many beautiful things to do there. I usually stay in the 6th at Hotel de l'Abbaye. It's a very traditional small hotel with rooms overlooking a garden and at night you can hear the sound of owls. I like Cafe Rostand in the Luxembourg gardens where I have a kir royal and watch people coming and going. I love the museums and the Palais Royale and the Tuileries. I like to drink wine at Les Deux Magots and I'll often have dinner at a window seat at Brasserie Lipp, typically a steak tartare. I eat a lot of them when I'm in Paris.
For more on the best places to visit in Paris, take a look at our 43 recommendations in our Paris City Guide.