Beauty » Clara Molloy on The Secret Lives of Perfumers
Clara Molloy. Photo courtesy Memo Paris.

Clara Molloy on The Secret Lives of Perfumers

The Memo Paris co-founder and and renowned perfumer tries to capture the essence of real and imaginary places with her fragrances.

For Clara Molloy, co-founder and creative director of the fragrance company Memo Paris, travel and scent go hand in hand. After editing a book on the creative process of perfumers, she and her husband launched Memo in 2007, in hopes of capturing the essence of a place—both real, and imaginary. Moon Fever, for example, is the supposed smell of the lunar surface, while Ilha do Mel was inspired by an island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Here, Molloy shares her five-minute beauty routine, her first olfactive memory, and her favorite scent right now.

How did you first become interested in fragrance?
When I was very young, I saw an ad for a woman’s perfume, Fidji by Guy Laroche, and asked my mother for a bottle. I was so impressed by the image and ultimately persuasive in my desire for it that she kindly gifted it to me, but she was clever enough not to let me wear it just yet. For me, wearing perfume became a symbol of my femininity, something a bit (but not too) forbidden.

Fidji was inspired by the Pacific Islands, right? Has scent always been emblematic of a place for you?
Yes, my first memories are olfactive. One of my most distinct childhood memories is when I traveled to Spain and suddenly caught the smell of the air full of pine and sea. Since then, scent has always represented memory for me.

You just opened your first store in Paris, congrats! How would you describe 24 Rue Cambon if it were a fragrance?
Elegant, sophisticated and unpredictable like Memo Paris’ French Leather.

Are there any discontinued scents that you mourn?
Almost all of the classics! Particularly some gorgeous vintage Guerlain scents. Sadly, their formulas have changed over the years.

How do you find that fragrance designers and perfumers usually wear scents?
Perfumers are often the worst people to wear fragrance! You can’t wear one as you create a new scent because you won’t be able to smell all the individual notes.

And when you do, which fragrance from your own line do you usually reach for?
I enjoy the freedom of changing from one perfume to the other within Memo’s collection. Sometimes, I wear the same scent for a long time, and sometimes I change it up frequently. That all said, for the past month I’ve fallen in love with Marfa, our newest scent from our Land Art Collection.

What’s your five-minutes-or-less beauty routine?
One kiss, one prayer, one splash of perfume, one swipe of mascara. I adore Lancôme Hypnose mascara – it creates so much volume that it’s as if I have 1,000 lashes!

And if you had ten more minutes, what would you do?
I would take the opportunity to just relax while pampering myself with a luxurious face mask. I love to use the Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask, it is such an indulgence and instantly makes my skin feel beautiful. Or, I would read a poem, call my mother to catch up, or just cuddle with our cat!

Are there any ideas that you disagree with beauty-wise?
When people believe that there is only one kind of beauty, or that beauty is what would make someone love you.

What are your current obsessions?
Learning how to do a flip underwater when swimming, poetry by the Polish Nobel Prize winner Wislawa Szymborska, making blue cookies with my children.

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