Q&A with Miss Layla


When did you fall down the rabbit hole of perfumery?

My journey creating authentic perfume started in 2013. Before that, I used to go to Venice Beach head shops and blend my own fragrance oils. I was a teenager then, so oils called Nag Champa mixed with Black Coconut, Myrrh, Sandalwood and Amber were my jam. Who knows what was in those fragrance oils. I know now, that accords can be very complex with sometimes hundreds of molecules in them. Regardless, it was super cheap at the time and I thought I smelled awesome. No one else smelled like me, which rocked my world. I look back on that now and don’t consider that “real” perfumery. Oh the lengths I have come since then… haha!

What was the lightbulb moment in your life when you felt you had your first hit?

Everything clicked for me when I learned Perfumery was art, taste, smell, science, nature and language all rolled into one. Perfume takes everything I am passionate about and puts it into a medium I can interpret, recreate and make my own. 


What are you most proud of in your fragrance career? 

What am I most proud of? Wow, that’s hard… I am most proud of being self-taught and being a huge chemistry and aroma material geek. In teaching myself the art of Perfumery, I have found that perfume is incredibly scientific. For example, smelling a rose and translating that smell in perfumery is a language all its own. Not to mention, the interpretation is completely unique to the Perfumer as an Artist. The extraction process in order to obtain rose oil, doesn’t actually yield the true smell of the rose. Some of the aromatic molecules of rose are lost in the extraction method. The most well known components of rose are: Citronellol, Geraniol, different Damascones and phenyl ethyl alcohol (generally < 5%). Did you know there is only a small quantity of phenyl ethyl alcohol because it is soluble in water? That means, during the distillation, we lose this molecule along with Linalool, Rose oxide, Eugenol, and Farnesol. Ever wonder where the peppery, spicy, fruity or watery aspects of rose go? If a certain rose oil smells like it’s missing something, it’s likely due to the extraction method. I have trained myself to smell a variety of roses, their subtle nuances, and then add the missing molecules back into a formula to achieve the spirit of the rose in an accord. 


At Scent Trunk, one of our mantras is “Travel through the senses.” Is there a destination that feels like a perfumers’ paradise to you whether you’ve been there before or not?

I believe, if you are fully present, anywhere you are is a Perfumer’s paradise. With that being said, I wouldn’t mind going to Madagascar and to the isles of Comoros. I have never been there. I am a sucker for tropical aromas- sea, salt, fruit, flowers, leaves, soil… I have sourced materials from Madagascar and the surrounding islands and all I can say is that I feel like I have traveled there vicariously through those smells. Armchair travel… smelling something like that takes you right to the place, even if it’s in your mind’s eye. It’s the best thing ever. It’s one of the innumerable reasons why perfume, aroma and smell are so integral to my being.

Our other theme is “choose your own scent adventure.” How do you encourage your customers to explore outside of their olfactive comfort zone?

I love to celebrate the fundamental feeling of human curiosity. If you present anything properly, it will trigger curiosity. The fascinating thing is that the language of scent and taste is universal, it’s inherently understood, so it doesn’t take long before a person’s palette is broadened. I enjoy immersing anyone I meet into a sensory experience- usually beginning with food. 


What would you say is your X factor that is recognizable to others as your brand signature?

My X factor is without a doubt my enthusiasm and passion for my work and my ability to not only follow down the rabbit hole, but to also carve out new tunnels that lead me to even more mystery and life’s awe. I try to convey that in my work. I live a life through the nose and I believe it shows. 

What was the most intriguing aspect of the collaboration with Scent Trunk and the Original Edition fragrance you created for us?

I was shocked how little truffle was needed in order to completely throw off the presentation of the perfume. I did a bunch of mods and so many of them smelled like something I was going to cook, not wear. Truffle accords take a tiny amount of garlic oil and buttery aromas to properly achieve the impression of true truffle. Even the most miniscule amounts of garlic oil in a truffle accord makes it smell as if you are sporting garlic breath after a scrumptious meal. In the end, I omitted the garlic and went for something more modern. If you understood just how much I love garlic you would find my change of heart in omitting it as intriguing as I do. Haha!

Have you worked with the focus ingredient you were assigned to in one of your commercially released fragrances?

Yes and no… In addition to FŪM, am an Independent Perfumer for hire. I did a mushroom perfume for a company but it didn’t get released. I had been experimenting with mushroom accords for months when Scent Trunk approached me to do a Truffle perfume. I was working with a mushroom enthusiast/grower/chef by the name of Dirk Hermann, owner and founder of LA FungHi. He and I met at the Studio City Farmer’s Market years ago and we built up a partnership- mostly me loving and buying his mushrooms. He wanted me to create a sole mushroom fragrance for his company. For reasons unknown, the project never fully took off. By the time I was approached for truffle, I had managed to create morel, lobster, porcini and candy cap mushroom accords. As Travis likes to put it, I was, “primed” for the job.



Is there an ingredient or provenance that might be under the radar that you’d like Scent Trunk to know about or amplify?

No second guesses here- My favorite and most misunderstood, underappreciated material: Patchouli. I don’t care which region it is specific to- it’s all beautiful and unique whether it is from Madagascar, India, Malaysia, Guatemala, Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi or Rwanda. If Scent Trunk highlights this material I must do it. It is my favorite material in perfumery!



Are there any scents you feel you might resonate with from your Native American heritage?

White sage is one of them but we burned tobacco, sweet grass and Yerba Santa in my house. We grew sage because it is native to California. We also grew lavender and what was readily available near where we lived. The burning of pine sap and copal was popular in our house too- which we harvested from trees on hikes and around our mountain homes. We burned pine cones and fallen cedar wood. It’s all about what we can harvest, (not buy on Etsy) which makes it special and unique to where we are. Nature is outside our doorstep- we have to get up and find it. Growing your own and harvesting what is near you is the best practice. In growing something, you are inherently connected to it’s life force. I believe that that’s the exchange of the relationship, where the true spiritual aspects are meaningful. 

How do you decide if a formula will stay in the vault or become part of the permanent collection? 

Good question! I think this is purely done by spur of the moment passion and creative impulse… I can’t throw out mods and formulation attempts if they’re good. It’s a mood thing and the importance/connection I have to a single material. For example, Nerola went through many trials and many names. It was going to be called Showcase Neroli before it was called Nerola. I grew up in California off and on and the aroma of blossoming orange trees is the quintessential smell of Southern California, at least to me. I searched everywhere for the perfect neroli perfumes and nothing came close to how orange trees in bloom actually smelled, so I created it. It is my ode to the orange tree, my chance to “Showcase” neroli and all her majesty. 

I purchased a Picasso sketch that was considered a throwaway. I love it so much. How do you think your customers feel about buying some of your creations from the vault? It’s an usual way of connecting with people - very intimate and part of your process.

I am thrilled you feel this way about my olfactive sketches! They are important and people love to see and smell how my brain works- what a thing to believe! Sometimes (okay, most times) I overthink my work and what I produce. The Vault is full of fantastical experiments and hog-wild play things that capture moments in time. I have sold several bottles of my vaulted perfumes. Customers love them. One is called, “Mantis Is Hiding”. It’s an exceptionally green fragrance, a sketch I did as I imagined a-day-in-a-life of a Praying Mantis. Sometimes my fragrances are vaulted because of financial costs or safety compliance. Meaning, I’ll use a material- let’s just say ylang ylang which is highly restricted by IFRA. I won’t allow myself to sell it due to safety restrictions and failed IFRA levels. Or I’ll use White Ambergris in a formula but then can’t afford to actually scale it to any large size because I am afraid people won’t spend the money it costs to make it. Some people do, which are the people who appreciate The Vault and what it offers. I will happily make anyone a full bottle of a vaulted fragrance. I’m thrilled to be asked about The Vault, they are little memories in a bottle. It’s the equivalent of someone saying to you, “tell me a story about yourself”. 

I read that you are synesthetic. Do you find that smelling shapes is only one aspect of how you perceive scents? Or are there other textures?

I can taste shapes. I don’t know how to properly describe what my brain does or why it works this way. It is completely involuntary and insurpressable. It just happens to me and I can’t conjure it up or explain it at will. The shapes are not distinct from the tasting- they are part of what tasting is. I know that my synesthesia is memorable and I use that to my advantage when creating perfume. I know from research that there is a strong link between synesthesia and eidetic memory and hypermnesis. I have been told that I likely use my synesthesia as a mnemonic aid- even unconsciously. The relationship with my synesthesia allows me to memorize certain aspects of a sensation but I just don’t know how to describe it any further. As a child, I was told I had dyslexia and that I had, “learning disabilities.” I was given number and pattern tests. I did not do well in the practical aspects of academics or testing- I still don’t. If you put the numbers “6” and “9” on a repeating sequence, I don’t see numbers. I see waves and water. I know that doesn’t make any sense but it’s how my brain works. 


Which JRR Tolkien character do you most identify with? 

Without a doubt: Samwise Gamgee.


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