Dawn and Samantha Goldworm (above inset, from left), owners of the olfactive branding firm 12.29, have scented the runways of Rodarte and Jason Wu, the interiors of Corto Moltedo and Poltrona Frau boutiques, and events like Design Miami and Lady Gaga’s perfume launch at the Guggenheim Museum. For around $5,000, they can also scent your home—but for those on a tighter budget, the 34-year-old twins will be launching a collection of candles this spring.
How do you scent a fashion show? Dawn Goldworm: Rodarte’s spring 2010 was the first one we ever did. The theme was California Condors—the ugly side of nature. Everything was dark and minimal, and the Rodarte sisters wanted the space to smell like a campfire, so we used a lot of smoky woods, animal notes, and warm spices. Samantha Goldworm: We had 10 diffusers that we placed strategically under some of the seats, and the fragrance spread out diagonally. It was like a geometry puzzle.
From top: The Poltrona Frau boutique in New York and Corto Moltedo in Paris, both scented by the Goldworms.
For Lady Gaga’s Fame launch, you pared down her fragrance. D.G.: Just spraying the original scent into the room would have made you feel like you were eating the perfume, which is disgusting and overwhelming. When you create a scent for a space, you have to take the very long list of ingredients from the wearable fragrance and shorten it into something that’s like a caricature of the perfume. We focused on the juicy berry notes as well as the spicy saffron, dark leather, liquid honey, and soft Oriental components. It’s almost like looking at a painting, then taking out all the pigments and just using the primary colors.
And now you’re offering blends for the home. S.G.: Three, actually. One is jasmine with creamy balsam and an oud base; another is leather with tobacco and lots of spices, including clove, cinnamon, and cardamom; and the third is woods, citrus, and amber.
Is there an ingredient you personally favor? S.G.: We scent all of our homes with amber. Our brother does too, and he’s a guy’s guy. D.G.: Amber smells a little bit like crayon, so it reminds me of childhood. Everything we do, not only in perfumery but in life, somehow brings us back to that comfortable place when we were kids.
Do twins have the same sense of smell? S.G.: We do, but we will smell the same thing and describe it differently. D.G.: That’s because the part of your brain that processes language is not connected to the part of your brain that processes smells. Your olfactory nerves stimulate the brain’s emotional cortex: You recall the memory and how you feel about it, but you have difficulty talking about it. Perfumery language is a language borrowed from the other senses, because your sense of smell is fully developed before you’re even born. So when other senses are developing, your sense of smell is already there.
Illustration by Stina Persson; Portrait: David Rubin; Poltrona Frau: courtesy of Poltrona Frau; Corto Moltedo: Federico Nero