The Genteel
September 30, 2020

Best Kept Secrets

The Brooklyn boutique offers a niche shopping experience. "Source:"

Like any art form, creating a scent requires intense dedication. The work of independent olfactive artists and perfume masters has often been overshadowed by illustrious fashion labels and strategic celebrity licensing deals.

However, not everyone is willing to lose their craft to the big-box retail chains. Eric Weiser and Stamatis Birsimijoglou believe in embracing scents in a more intimate setting.

As co-founders of Twisted Lily, a new niche fragrance boutique located in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill neighbourhood, the two have made it their mission to shine a light on locally crafted fragrances, indie perfumes, and rare, high-end international brands. When taking a private tour, Weiser and Birsimijoglou explain their delicate approach to curating scents to The Genteel and discuss why individual consultations with customers should never be left up in the air.

Twisted Lily Store Front

Twisted Lily's store front.

Semmi W: What fascinates you the most about fragrance?

Stamatis: I love the connection between memory and scent… you can be walking down the street and get a whiff of something and it can take you back to some lost love, or an amazing vacation… it can take you to a time or place that you fondly remember… or not so fondly.

Eric: It's fascinating from the biological perspective… smell is subjective… when you take perfume notes [and put them] together they form a chord… just like music. You might get something different than what I get.

Semmi W: How long should a product last?

Eric: I will tell you this… it will be different on everyone… it should not smell the same. We all have different chemical nuances in our skin. It depends on what we eat, it depends on our hydration or dehydration… a good perfume should last 8-9 hours. There are some fragrances where you wake up [the next day] and you'll still smell it.

Semmi W: Collectively, you have both had over 30 years of experience in the fragrance industry Now that you have your own boutique, what's it like to interact with customers?

Eric: It's an interesting question because I've been in the perfume business for 30 years… but it's always been on the other end, it's always been on the phone… so many people are intimidated to find a new perfume. So many people have been wearing the same perfume for years… smell is such an important aspect of our sensory system. We don't realise it because we take it for granted on a daily basis. But when I can make somebody's day, by hooking them into a signature scent, it makes me feel like I am doing something good. It makes me feel like I am selling more than just perfume. It is a very intimate relationship that you create with your customers.

Semmi W: Why do you think there is not much information available for customers making decisions about which fragrance to purchase - especially when compared to other beauty products such as lipsticks or foundations?

Eric: Well colour is visual… if you're talking about makeup, you know the difference between a 'darker' or 'lighter' tint… we know those words… we do not know the language of scent [in the same way]… we know a few things - we know if something smells sour or rancid… but when it comes to perfumes, we don't have the vocabulary… we don't know how to make the [same] associations with what we are smelling. And it's interesting because smell is so primal.

There is a certain passion with niche perfumes...they really want it to be spot on.

Semmi W: Would it help if the ingredients or scent profile were listed on bottles when marketed?

Eric: Yeah, getting to know the story behind the bottle... you could list the notes, but that still doesn't help the consumer when they walk into a perfume shop… if you don't understand how a fragrance is made, [then] you won't really understand what [it] will dry down to.

Stamatis: All ingredients interact differently on different people... the stuff that we have here is geared towards maintaining quality ingredients and getting to know the artist behind each scent.

Semmi W: What is your favourite brand featured in the boutique?

Eric: Maison Francis Kurkdjian. The more I learn about him, the more I am impressed by his process, his art. He is so meticulous with his line; you can notice these are all spray bottles… look at the packaging… you don't even see the sprayers… he had them laser cut. He wanted very clean lines… it's a testament to his precision as an artist… his ingredients are the absolute best in the industry. I was told the bergamot he uses in many of his citrus blends comes from his own farm in Calabria… the best you could get… I also learned recently that he was commissioned to scent the fountains of Versailles… he, to me, is like the rock star of the perfumers' world.

Stamatis: I actually don't have one specific scent. There are so many… it's always changing. But one I really love is called Noir Tropical, by Maria Candida Gentile. We actually had her [in] here the other day. She is an Italian [master] perfumer. And it [Noir Tropical] has a vanilla incense scent… and her ingredients she uses [are] 85-90 percent natural.

Semmi W: What about Brooklyn-based products?

Eric: We have 3 lines by Brooklyn perfumers… this particular line D.S. & Durga, it's the crème de la crème of Brooklyn perfumes… it embodies the urban jungle that we live in, but it can take you so far away because of the ingredients David [Moltz - the founder] uses when he creates. There are such beautiful notes and the way he proportions his formulations is really exquisite… he's not formally trained. Some people can just do it.

Stamatis Birsimijoglou Eric Weiser Twisted Lily

Birsimijoglou and Weiser in their boutique.

Semmi W: How much work goes into crafting a scent, on average?

Eric: To answer that fairly I would have to say… it takes years.

Stamatis: Even going back to Maria… her new releases took her [about] two years… there is a certain passion with niche perfumes… I feel like the perfumer takes longer to release it because they really want it to be spot on, amazing.

Related: Celestine Eleven: It's Here Now (Are You)?

Semmi W: Why do you think there are so many Brooklyn-based producers [compared to other boroughs]?

Eric: I think Brooklyn attracts an artistic community. And I think that the more people get involved in perfume making… and the more people hear [about it]… it's an art form… so other people want to give it a shot and learn more about it. It's just an extension of the community.

Semmi W: How do you approach the holiday shopping season as niche boutique?

Stamatis: I think it's actually difficult to buy a fragrance for someone else. How we get ready is by bringing in our sample deluxe or gift sets… we offer custom sample gift packages, so let's say you have a friend, and you know they like floral [scents]... we can arrange a sample set so that they can experience different floral scents.

Eric: You won't get this at department stores… they are working on commission. They have a certain volume they need to hit each day. It's not personalised.

Related: The Scent of One Woman

Related: A Milliner in Brooklyn 



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