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Meet Clara Molloy, co-founder and Director of the globe-trotting perfume house MEMO. In so many words, Clara loves travel and perfume, which just so happens to be her key to success. Though many perfumes have been inspired by travelling to far off places, it is safe to say that MEMO is a modern take on an age-old theme. If you’re lucky enough to be familiar with MEMO perfumes, then you’ll know what I mean. One sniff of Shams Oud had me hooked, and my later loves for Lalibela and Sundance have only added to my great perfume wish-list. If you take out an atlas and pin down the MEMO collection to their prospective locations, you’ll see they resemble a beautiful scented constellation- connecting the earth and everyone beneath the sky.

Set up by Clara and her husband John Molloy, MEMO was a venture that started in 2007. With years of hard work, MEMO has somewhat come into its element in the last couple of years opening all across the world. Together with perfumer Alienor Massenet, the trio have tailored a truly beautiful collection- something reminiscent of a time when passports were cluttered with stamps, suitcases had no wheels and stardust was sprinkled across the horizon in front of you.  In truth, I’ve been so much in love with MEMO perfumes that I felt an interview with the founders would be right at the top of my list for Scentspy. Luckily, I was able to secure an interview with Clara Molloy via email. So, line up your MEMO samples, and world map (to trace the locations of the perfumes), and take a step into the world of MEMO with Clara.

 

SCENTSPY Clara Molloy interview atlas

Interview by Q&A- or rather – H & C (Huda & Clara)

 

H: Before starting MEMO, how long had you been working in the perfume industry?

C: Zero

 

HDid you always want to work in perfume?

C: I have always loved perfumes but I could not imagine creating a brand, it seemed too big…

 

H:Was starting a perfume company a natural progression of both yourself and your husband’s careers, or a leap into the unknown?

C: It was an adventure. Being an entrepreneur whatever you do is always a challenge. But my father was an entrepreneur and I could not see myself working for someone else for a long period.

 

H:  What was your strategy when you first launched MEMO to the public? Has it changed over the years?

C:  No we keep it very simple. We try to make the best perfume we can imagine and wear. We serve the brand, and use ingredients with the highest quality. And all that I am writing is not just marketing…

 

H: In two years’ time it will be the 10th anniversary of MEMO; looking back over the years, has MEMO become the company you envisaged, or has it changed?

C: I have no plan for the company. What I am looking for is beauty, it is a quest.

 

H: What do you feel has been the greatest achievement of the company to date?

C: Making no compromise on quality.

 

H: Creating perfumes based on travel is not a novel idea, and yet MEMO excels in the field- what do you think the secret to your success has been?

C: A Little bit of luck…

 

H: Which market around the world does MEMO succeed at the most? Where would you like to target?

C: I never ever target, that would he very boring and I am sure inefficient. We try to work on intimacy, we try to find the DNA of the brand we are creating this cannot be found in an Excell file.

 

H: From the different stages of creating and releasing a perfume to the public, what is your favourite part?

C: Wearing it during the création process and after. Smelling it on someone by surprise.

 

H: What makes a good MEMO perfume?

C: The mix with the person that will wear it.

 

H:Your favourite notes/ingredients in a perfume? Favourite genre?

C: I love chypre, maybe this is why we Begon with Lalibela our black rose. But with Alienor we also both love Myrrh, it is a spiritual ingredients, an ingredient that tells you that fragrance has a strong link with your soul.

 

Clara Molloy Instagram Lalibela

LALIBELA- MEMO: (Left) book by MEMO, (centre) perfume bottles, and flower illustration by Flora Forager for MEMO- inspired by Lalibela (right). see: https://instagram.com/flora.forager/

 

H: How did the collaboration between Alienor Massenet AND MEMO begin?

C: It began when I smelled her other créations and decided to interview her for the book 22 perfumers a créative process.

 

H: Would you consider training as a perfumer?

C: No I feel very lucky to have found Alienor.

 

H: From your own experience, how should perfume make you feel?

C:It is a land of freedom. More alive, in peace, different, really yourself… It dépends what you are looking for and every tesson is a good one. The skin does not lie.

 

H:  Of all the perfumes you have produced, which has been the most personal to you?

C: Maybe the first one Lalibela, bécause it was the first one…

 

H: Given that you have traveled extensively around the world, which culture has been the most inspirational to you by way of appreciation or use of perfume?

C: I was born in France, my parents from Spain, my husband is from Ireland, my son was born in Russia ( and I have always loved Russian literature) and my daughter was born in Switzerland… But in the end I AM a Parisian.

 

H:  Has there been an approach to perfume or business that you picked up from travelling that you have applied to your work?

C: I love poetry and its rhythm has an influence on my work I believe. I try to find and read poets from the countries I visit.

 

H: From the collection, are these perfumes based on memories of past trips you’ve taken, or are they a mix between past, recent, and current travels?

C:  It is a mix, it can be imaginary, real: there is no plan or obligation…

 

H:  Is there a checklist of places/memories that you would like to translate into perfume?

C: I let them come to me.

 

INSTAGRAM: @claramemoparis You can follow Clara and her MEMO adventures on Instagram. These photographs are taken from trips to Marfa (Texas) & Utah

INSTAGRAM: @claramemoparis
You can follow Clara and her MEMO adventures on Instagram. These photographs are taken from trips to Marfa (Texas) & Utah

 

H: From my understanding, MEMO produces perfumes that capture the essence of a location, and transports the wearer. As the person behind the brand, do you find that your memories behind the perfumes are changed as a result of the perfume itself?

C:  Perfume is always a part of something : someone, the landscape, a time of the year… And then it changes with every person that will wear it. It is alive and free and this is what I love about it. I love the movement in a perfume, the ability of turning a perfume into a journey.

 

H: My favourite MEMO perfume is Shams Oud. Where did the inspiration for it come from, and why type of Oud is used?

C:  It is an oud accord not a “réal” oud. Sometimes art can beat nature…

 

H:  Are you planning on releasing a new Oud perfume? As a fan I am hoping it will be an Arabic Leather Oud- something animalic,that resembles winter skies and the quiet rumble of oud.

C: This sounds amazing… We have two ouds with Shams and Luxor but you can find an oud accord in African leather, our new perfume. I Hope it will meet your expectations!

 

H:  Of all the fragrances MEMO that have been created, which are your favourites?

C: I am always in love with the latest one, it works a bit like children, you spend more time with the new borned.

 

H: From the collections: Cuir Nomades, the Oud fragrances and the travel series, which has had the most impact/ best received, to those working in the perfume industry and why?

C: Siwa from Les Échappées is special for a lot of nozes. It does not have a strong sillage, it is a very sophisticated vanilla, not sugary… People from the industry see its hidden and subtle beauty. Then we won a Fify award for Shams, our oud, in the “most extraordinary perfume” section.

 

H:Was the Cuir Nomdes collection an obvious collection to create given leather’s history with the perfume industry, or have you always had an affinity with the smell?

C:  It was obvious for the brand, bécause of the connexions with travel and with perfume, but with Alienor it was also a smell that we loved. She actually told me it was courageous when we started working on the project… Leather fragrances were not at all in fashion. Now it seems all the brands are doing one…

 

H: This year saw the launch of ‘AFRICAN LEATHER’. What was the inspiration behind it, and how long did it take?

C:  African leather will soon be the new addition to our leather collection. It is a very deap and powerful leather , quite original with géranium leaves. We were lucky with this development it came quite quickly in six months.

MEMO ANIMALS

 

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H: In 2007 you released 22 Perfumes, and have since published two more books: Janat & Laibela. Is publishing an area you are very passionate about? Are you planning any more releases?

C: I love books, they help me to understand the world better. With our Christmas éditions we present books most of the time. It is something I have always loved, with drawings.

 

H: Each MEMO bottle is unique and tells a story of the journey that the perfume will take us on, before we even smell them.  Furthermore the colour pallet, material choice and weight of the bottles also play a large role in the charm of the fragrances. Can you tell us about the design process and aesthetic that has given MEMO its signature look?

C:   It is a very natural process: I take a lot of photographs when I travel, I read book a also that give me ideas and this makes a special mix in my head. You give it enough time (unpredictable) and an idea might come out.

 

H:  What market do you hope to target in the future? And in what capacity?

C: I totally do not care about markets. I try to meet people, countries, places…

 

H: If you had to pick a trail to follow from some of the world’s most famous travels, which would it be?

C:  Camino de Santiago of course, we are supposed to do it bit by bit each year but recently we have been very bad at it…

 

 

…. Final Questions: Industry Review….

How do you see MEMO developing in the next thirty years?

C: Development it is a funny word, it does not always mean improvement. I do not see things this way, some paths are as slow as interesting.

Where do you see the perfume industry going in the next thirty years?

C: Big

Where would you like to see the perfume industry going in the next thirty years?

C: Clever

 

 

 

I would like to say a special thanks to Clara Molloy for taking part in Scentspy’s Interview Series.

There were a lot of questions, and thank you for taking part!

– Huda

 

For more on MEMO, please visit: http://www.memofragrances.com/

Or follow Clara on Instagram at @claramemoparis ( https://instagram.com/claramemoparis/)