The Making of goop Fragrance
edition 01 — winter 2016
Much of the allure of any great perfume lies in its mystery, and there’s no doubt that goop’s first, edition 01 — winter 2016, is deeply mysterious. At the same time, though, it’s transparent in a fundamental and unique way—one that goes against all convention in the fragrance industry: Every one of its precious, evocative ingredients is right there on the label.
What’s more, points out GP, who collaborated with perfumer Douglas Little to create the scent, those ingredients go beyond non-toxic to deliver benefits to the wearer. “Each element within the perfume, from the frankincense to the cypress root, works its own alchemy. That alchemy is the magic—and the sophistication of the scent. We’ve made something that’s alive and real, as opposed to something that ‘smells like’ something alive and real.”
Described alternately as the spirit of a crackling fire in winter, and as a mix of cypress, the air in an ancient European church, smoke, and a sexy sort of quiet, goop 01 — winter 2016 defies expectations: It’s nothing like the fruity-flowery, focus-grouped scents we’ve come to associate with “celebrity” fragrances, nor is it what anyone expects from a natural, non-toxic fragrance with homeopathic, Ayurvedic, and even mystical properties. It’s also probably not what you imagine when you first hear the word “winter.”
“I wanted to evoke coziness, that warming quality in winter of being beside a crackling fire,” says GP. “In winter, there’s this feeling that’s sort of quiet, but alive and sexy at the same time, and then I had this sort of romantic idea of being in, say, a library, and you sense a little bit of leather, a little bit of smoke.” Elements like the cypress root and frankincense combine with rock-rose-shrub resin, clove leaf oil, and helichrysum flower in a way that’s strikingly original and incredibly wearable.
“Described alternately as the spirit of a crackling fire in winter, and as a mix of cypress, the air in an ancient European church, smoke, and a sexy sort of quiet, goop 01 — winter 2016 defies expectations.”
Little took advantage of the scent’s straight-from-nature components in unexpected ways: “My interest in natural perfumery comes from a deep love of nature—but not the placid, benevolent nature most people envision,” he says. “I like that nature’s terrifying and mysterious and wildly sexual and seductive and spiritual. This perfume, for me, is feral and raw and wild.”
“That rawness is what’s beautiful to me,” he continues. That he and GP were precisely on the same page allowed this new concept of what a non-toxic perfume might be, to bloom. “It takes a shared energy and headspace around any project, which we really had—but even so, what we managed to get done done turned out to be magical.”
Indeed, how GP, a “perfume person” with upwards of 100 scents amassed in various closet cabinets, managed to balance her desire for a sophisticated, deeply unique scent with a defining passion for making the beauty world (and the world in general) safe and non-toxic is a story of both hard work and kismet.
Little likens the process to a spark lighting a bonfire: “From our first meeting, where we ended up sitting on the floor, eating chocolate, and geeking out about fragrance, we worked in a totally nontraditional way,” says Little, who began working with naturals years ago after a career in the conventional beauty industry. “GP is such a sunny California girl, so I expected her to ask for, you know, grapefruit and vanilla and flowers, but instead she came in talking about the smell of ancient floorboards in European churches, a forest in Yugoslavia—her ideas were like verbal dynamite for me as a perfumer.”
“This gorgeous, lovely word, ‘fragrance’ has become this bucket for the beauty industry, where beauty companies can hide pretty much any ingredient—including phthalates, parabens, known endocrine disruptors, anything toxic they don’t want to list on the label. What started as perfumers wanting to preserve their secret formulas has become this chemical dumping ground.”
“I’ve always really loved perfume,” GP says. “I have such intense scent memories: My mom wearing her now-discontinued perfume from Balenciaga, Quadrille; my first scent, which every girl at my school wore, Calyx, which had this great sweetness. I find fragrance so alluring—I love it when it’s sophisticated and sensual, I love it when it goes masculine, I love it when it’s girly.”
She says she was shocked to discover just how potentially toxic this thing she’d always loved was. “It was in the process of creating goop’s Clean Beauty Shop with Blair Lawson, our head merchant at goop, who’s an incredible expert in clean, non-toxic beauty, that I began to understand the magnitude of the problem,” she says. “It was Blair who really educated me. I’d be in love with something and I’d say, ‘Isn’t it clean?’ And she’d say, ‘No, it’s got fragrance in it.’ This gorgeous, lovely word, ‘fragrance’ has become this bucket for the beauty industry, where beauty companies can hide pretty much any ingredient—including phthalates, parabens, known endocrine disruptors, anything toxic they don’t want to list on the label. What started as perfumers wanting to preserve their secret formulas has become this chemical dumping ground.”
“I was horrified to find we’d all been spraying endocrine disruptors all over our bodies, often on spots where our skin is thinnest and most vulnerable. I love fragrances, so I’ve sprayed on a lot of them.” At the same time, she says, substituting essential oils from the health food store didn’t leave her feeling the way conventional fine fragrances had. “I love something chic, complex, exquisite, layered, unexpected, sensual…” she says.
The experience of searching for the gorgeous, luxurious, safe scent that didn’t exist eventually spurred her to action. “This just isn’t right—we deserve more,” she says.” We shouldn’t have to risk our health because we want to feel beautiful, or glamorous, or sophisticated.”
“GP is such a sunny California girl, so I expected her to ask for, you know, grapefruit and vanilla and flowers, but instead she came in talking about the smell of ancient floorboards in European churches, a forest in Yugoslavia—her ideas were like verbal dynamite for me as a perfumer.”
Little agrees: “I don’t like the choice of something having to smell like dirt, or like a head shop—or it has to be full of chemicals. I want whatever I do within this industry to be none of those things! I want to work with natural essences and oils in a different, elevated, new way.”
That the way forward involves more dimensions than than simply non-toxic, or even a gorgeous scent is (deeply gratifying) icing on the cake, the two agree: “There are all these homeopathic and Ayurvedic benefits to every essence and oil in the fragrance, and all of those effects are impossible with conventional synthetic fragrances,” says Little.
“It’s beyond transparency,” says GP. “Our thought was every essence, every herb in this thing has properties that affect people in such amazing ways—let’s explore them, and call them out. It’s this sexy sort of magic.”
The magic is continuing, she reports: “I often find myself switching my perfume, just like I adapt my style, in response to the seasons—so the concept of doing four editions a year felt right. Douglas and I are hard at work on the next ones—I just love the process. Blending your own perfume is kind of every girl’s dream, on some level, isn’t it?”
edition 02 will emerge this spring on goop, and it too, GP promises, will defy expectations. “What we make here at goop is personal—whether it’s the clothes, or the skincare line, or the the perfume,” she says. “If it resonates with people, it resonates with people. Either way, it resonates with us—we’ve made something we love.”