Today I have for you Clayton Ilolahia, a man with a very successful blog (whatmenshouldsmelllike.com), who writes for the The Perfume Magazine and has been giving talks about perfume around the traps. He is also an Australiasian, YAY! and general good guy. I have cajoled Clayton into answering some questions for us. He has been crazy busy so took the time to do it while flying to Bangkok! So read on and find out about this fascinating man who knows What Men Should Smell Like….
Tell us about young Clayton please, where you came from, family, siblings, poignant or helped create who you are moments?
I was raised in New Zealand and was bought up on a farm. I have a large extended family, somewhat expected if you have a Maori/Polynesian background, but my immediate family is quite small with just my sister and I. My upbringing was pretty standard for rural New Zealand. One of my first scented memories is the jonquils and jasmine that grew wild on the farm.
How did you become interested in fragrance?
I want to say I have always been interested in fragrance, but then haven’t we all? It’s true, I only became conscious of this interest in the past 10 years, but I think if we all look back, we have memories of scent that trigger emotion. For me, the picture became clearer after I left New Zealand and moved to Melbourne, Australia in 2004. I had retail management experience and was offered a job managing a small perfumery opened by the Polakis brothers of Harrolds, luxury designer mens stores in Sydney and Melbourne, who’d noticed niche perfumeries opening in France and Italy so they wanted to replicate the idea in Melbourne. At that stage I had no interest in working in the perfume industry. In my spare time I was always mixing fragrant oils and reading about perfume, which lead to blogging.
Who were and are your mentors and inspirations?
I have always had a soft spot for perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena, I really admire his work. I also think Jean-Paul Guerlain is one of the most extraordinary perfumers of his age. I would love to interview him.
In terms of writing about fragrance, I love the sharp wit of Luca Turin and Chandler Burr is also one of the best fragrance writers, a wonderful storyteller and his statements are always backed up by fact.
Do you still wear mass-market fragrances, if yes which and why?
Absolutely! I love the mass market. Sometimes the most luxurious brand that promises creativity and quality can disappoint me. And a small budget, mass-market perfume, made by a perfumer working with a cost-considered palette of materials is able to express the most memorable idea. Some of my recent under $100 buys are Narciso Rodriguez Essence Eau de Musc, Chanel Bleu and Marc Jacobs Bang.
Who is your favourite independant perfumer and why?
Serge Lutens (or Christpher Sheldrake if you are talking about the ‘Nose’). It is a range that stands on its own. If anything, Lutens references himself instead of others.
Synthetic, natural or mixture, why?
All my favourite perfumes combine both. Naturals are so complex and filled with personality; I love the tension they add to a composition. Synthetics are much more singular in their message and they can alter or colour a perfume story in ways naturals cannot. Synthetics and naturals work beautifully hand in hand.
How has your whatmenshouldsmelllike.com developed?
Great. Originally it was just a sounding board for me to write about my perfume collection. I wanted to dedicate more of my time to learning about perfume. Blogging became my way of keeping myself on track, so I was regularly thinking about perfume. I am fortunate to travel regularly for work. When I can, I like to write about my experiences in other cities whether it is a shopping guide or some personal experiences.
What qualifications do you have to write about perfume?
Lol- absolutely none. I think that is the clear distinction between bloggers and journalists- we are not professionals and I am very aware not to cross that line. As much as possible I ensure what I write is accurate as there is a lot of misinformation online. I try to read and research as much as possible before I commit to a post. In terms of working with raw materials I had my breakthrough moment when I did a course with Perfumers World, a training organisation in Bangkok, Thailand. Their programs are great for perfume enthusiasts that want an introduction to basic professional knowledge. In September I am doing a short course in Grasse.
Tell us about how you came to be working for The Perfume Magazine, and a bit about them for our readers who may not have come across it yet?
The Perfume Magazine was a serendipitous occurrence. Their Editor in Chief contacted me after she stumbled across my blog and asked if I would be interested in contributing. I submitted something for their summer edition and they asked me to join them permanently as their mens contributor. They are a lovely team to work with.
What are the 5 most important things you have learned so far that could help budding perfumistas/bloggers?
1: Create an environment others want to be part of. Write about the things you love, forget the things you dislike and have no control over.
2: If you are expecting to be paid for your blog, don’t quit your day job.
3: Spend some time with a fragrance before writing about it. Get to know the fragrance intimately- the quality of your writing will be much better. Readers want to know your opinion and not just information that can be found on a press release. Make each post personal.
4: I never throw out a perfume brochure, I tear out magazine articles and I pdf any online perfume articles that interest me. They are a valuable resource for information, which often disappear over time.
5: Don’t be shy and approach others to get stories. Most people I have spoken with are really encouraging of bloggers, at the worst; you will only get a ‘no’.
WOW!! I hope you found that as interesting as I did. Thank you Clayton for taking the time out of your busy schedule to let us get inside your head, just a little bit.