Interview with Belle Fleur; Meredith Waga and Tony Perez 
By Raphaella Barkley
September 10, 2011

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Belle Fleur has some of the most beautiful perfumed products on the planet. You can expect full reviews coming up soon and we are definitely excited about their new perfumes launching next year-Join us next month for reviews of Belle Fleur scented products in our new "Perfumed Products Column" where they will be the first to debut. In this interview, they discuss their new scents and their new scrumtious Rose Candles. For now, it is a great honor  to introduce to you; Meredith Waga and Tony Perez of Belle Fleur.

Meredith and Tony, how exactly do you use your passion in travels and collective experience as inspiration to create olfactive narratives?

M: I’m an overt Francophile, but my passion for flowers is at the heart of everything I do. It’s not only about their breathtaking beauty, but of the emotions they are capable of eliciting, the way they transform space, mood, atmosphere…being a messenger of emotions, that’s where the story lies and that’s what I find incredibly inspiring.

T : I grew up in Europe and in South America and I remember how distinct the smell of each place I visited was, like an olfactory GPS that registers your place in the world, with complete precision. What makes life interesting are the stories that we string together to define our lives and for me fragrance has the ability to capture part of the story. It has the ability to tell the entire story or just a vignette, a moment in time. Bringing that narrative to life through fragrance is inspiring to me.

How did the two of you come together as partners to create Belle Fleur?

M:  I have a very well established floral design boutique in NYC, 16 years now, and about 4 years ago I was trying to think of a more significant way to capture the beauty of flowers. The only sad thing about flowers is their perishability. That something so beautiful can live such a short amount of time after being hand-picked, was heartbreaking. I had to find a way to change that... and it was literally a no brainer – it had to be through fragrance. At that time Tony was an architect and he’d worked on a project that involved ambient scent…

T : Yes, a client wanted to utilize scent as part of  his brand and it was at that moment that I realized the importance of fragrance and how it can transform space. The similarities between creating a building and a fragrance became so evident. It was enlightening! I was amazed that what it takes to create a timeless work of architecture is exactly what it takes to create a classic fragrance…a solid foundation, a strong core and the envelope that gives it its form and character. We knew we had to create fragrance.

Tell us about your strong desire to promote the beauty of fragrance and how this vision came about in relation to your products.

M: My early career in fashion design and my current love affair with all things floral really set the tone for me. Fashion is still a big part of who we are. The presentation, the paper, fabric, ribbon, it’s an integral part of our process. These design disciplines,   like fashion, architecture, fragrance, they’re all interrelated in process…don’t get me wrong, the final result is paramount, but it’s the process that really counts. It’s what allows us to create coherent, beautiful things. Fragrance is as beautiful an artform as a couture dress or an abstract sculpture, it’s just that most of us don’t know how to interpret that art. We wanted to explore that and promote it.

One can see the integrity in all that you do, you must be proud of that. 

T : Thank you! Very much so, though it’s no surprise to us with our design backgrounds. I studied architecture and Meredith studied fashion design, so design is the language we use to communicate, it’s the soul of our enterprise…

M: Yes, and our brand means everything to us. The integrity of our products, their quality, is the single most important component of who we are as a brand.. For a boutique brand, it’s difficult to have an omnipresent voice so the quality and integrity of what we make has to speak for us.

Tell me about your exciting new venture; Parfums Belle Fleur.  Will this be your new fragrance line?

T : Well, so much for that secret! Yes, we are currently working on developing personal fragrance and we are working with some very talented perfumers. We are very excited about this next chapter at BF, though I will say that we never release anything into the market until it’s ready, so it may be a while…but I can assure you that it will be exquisite.

It does appear to be perfect outlet for you… the moment I used your Mayan Tuberose Room Spray, the first thing I thought was, “I must spray this on my neck, and how can I wear this?” Of course I did not but I had an insatiable desire to do so.  Do you get this reaction from others?

T : It’s funny that you should mention this because, yes, we get that all the time. In fact, we do have some people that love the scents so much, that they wear them. They are essentially EDT so they are completely safe, but it is interesting.  First and foremost for us is The Juice, so no matter what the medium, we aim to create beautiful fragrances, be it home or otherwise. Our view on this is…our living spaces are as important as our bodies so it must be treated with the same quality.

The creation of your fragrances at Parfums Belle Fleur and Belle Fleur Home has a deep connection to flowers.  Tell us about the language of flowers in relation to your scents.  It is a subject I am very keen on. 

M: There is no question that my love for flowers and what they symbolize has a great affect on the direction of our fragrances. The flowers I choose, the way I put them together, clustered, tight, flirtatious colors…is very much in keeping to the approach I have in creating our products.  Each bouquet and each fragrance alike has a unique combination of floral and other materials - a layering effect of many ingredients...much like fashion, it’s in how one combines the elements that really creates something stylish and unique…sometimes it's the rare ingredient or the unexpected combination that make things even more alluring.

Your fragrances for your products are so decadently delicious, how do you come up with a formula that is the basis of your products?

T : It all has to start from what you love. I’ve learned so much from Meredith on this one…the girl knows what she loves and we take it from there…fine-tuning until it’s perfect. We really don’t subscribe to trends or “scents du jour,” we stick to classics, to things we find compelling and we refine the ideas until we both love it. It’s funny because oftentimes we start at opposite ends of the aesthetic spectrum and we battle it out. The result, I find, is always a richer, more thoughtful product when it goes through this distillation process. Ultimately what’s important always ends up staying. 

M: We also insist on pushing the limits of fragrance allowance in our products, especially the candles. We make them full-bodied and luscious. We have some consumers that tell us they don’t even need to burn the candles, they just leave the box top off and it scents the room…of course, we like to encourage them to light the candles for maximum effect! That our scents have  great “throw” is very important to us and it’s part of our signature. 

Do you each work as a team or do you each rely on your different strengths?

T : I’d say we do a lot of both. Well, by default we have to work as a team…we’re married. We’ve know each other since college so I’d say that we nearly have each other figured out…although she still quite often surprises me and I love it! But yes, we are always a team. We do have different skills but we rely on each other’s strengths. And…I have tremendous admiration and respect for her.

M: Awww….see what a great team we make! Tony and I have a great relationship. We’ve know each other for over two decades so we trust each other’s instincts. Part of the success comes from our different styles; he’s a quintessential modernist and I have more of a modern classic flair. We felt we could combine our attributes in a very creative way.

I really find it fascinating that you actually list the notes for your products; almost as if it were a perfume. Tell us about that. 

T : They ARE perfumes… perfumes for your home. But from our point of view, our homes are an important part of how we define ourselves as individuals. We make sure we elevate our fragrances for the home to the same level as personal fragrances, both in quality and as a philosophy.

Tell us about your new soap line that will debut this fall.

M: This is really exciting for us, it’s a new way for us to lavish our consumers with new scented product, and what better way than to do it in the bath? We’re taking the Classic Floral Collection and making delicately scented, French-milled bath soap. They are exquisitely crafted with shea butter, almond oil and vitamin E and they will be 3 to a set in our iconic aqua box with satin ribbon. They were incredibly well received at the Elements Showcase and we are very much looking forward to October, when they will be available.

You create your fragrances with idea of “emotional connectivity”. Tell us about that.

M: It’s difficult for most of us to find the words to describe what we are smelling, but it’s easy to understand how a fragrance makes us feel or how it reconnects us to people, places and objects in our past.

T : And that’s exactly our creative approach. While it’s still very personal to us, the creators, we know that there are elements within these tapestries that we weave that many will connect to. What’s beautiful about it is that we don’t all see things the same way but we use certain commonalities to shape our perceptions or tap into our memory bank, and these are the things that create the emotional connections between all of us, as unique and different as we all may be.

Tell us about your philosophy to connecting to your ingredients that are used in Belle Fleur products.

M: Our philosophy is steadfast and focused on having the best natural and raw materials at our disposal. We have never and will never compromise on the quality of our ingredients.  We have a lot of integrity and stay true to who we are and we partner with like-minded suppliers.  

T :  It’s important, since we are to a great extent taking from nature, to be focused on giving back. That could be in the use of sustainable material, supporting small growers and their communities or going green where possible. One of our partners, Robertet, has a very unique accountability process in place through their “Seed to Scent” program. Those are the things we must do as responsible business owners and we like to work with equally responsible partners. In addition, our products are manufactured in the United States because we realize the need to support our local economies as well.

Tell us about what types of fragrances will be in the line-something along the line of the currents scents?
T : We are still in the evaluation phase, but what I can say is that our brief was somewhat broad. As designers ourselves, we understand that placing too many restrictions tends to limit creativity. So, with the tremendously talented perfumers we’ve selected, you can expect what you would normally expect from us – quality, refined modern elegance…but, also be prepared to expect a little bit of the unexpected.

The Rose candles, you know I adore roses, tell us about your new candles.

M: We wanted to challenge our creative spirit by taking the grande dame of the floral world, and making her modern, sexy, distinguished and maybe a little youthful and sassy. The rose is one of those polarizing florals that you either love it or hate it. I love roses, but what many don’t know is that in the floral world, there are so many different and unique rose varieties, not just your standard Black Beauty red roses. We wanted to take that notion of uniqueness and create a series of contrasting works. We can’t wait to add this to our collections-it should be ready by early 2012.

T : We created 4 distinct scents, each with its own unique narrative: There is Rose Immortelle, where we imagined a big, bold, juicy rose just yanked from the ground. The earth, the stem, the leaves all in concert with the rose…a fresh, earthy sensibilty.

There is Petales d’Amour where we imagined a rose garden within the Garden of Eden, with the smell of apple, pomegranate, berries and fig, a fruity , sinful rose. There is also my favorite, Velvet Santal which is fully blossomed rose but softened and made velvety with the addition of sandalwood and agarwood (oud). It has a deliberate smoothness to it that definitely amps up the bliss factor. And lastly, Imperial Oudh pushes rose to an extreme. We wanted to see what a totally masculine environment –imagine a grand chambre or stately library with wood paneling, books, leather chairs, burning fireplace…and  what that room would smell like, if in its total virility, we found a luscious bouquet of roses there. Imagine that dark, handsome room contrasting with the brightness of the bouquet of roses. I love this one too, it’s such a juxtaposition and of two vastly different olfactive elements, yet they work so beautifully together.

Belle Fleur New York

Join us next month for reviews of Belle Fleur scented products in our new Perfumed Products Column.