For the next 18 months Tomi and Leo travelled to Paris and the world’s perfume capital, Grasse, knocking on the doors of some of the worlds most prestigious perfume houses. They didn’t want to know anything about IIUVO or a pair of 23-year-old Londoners that didn’t know much about the fine art of perfumerie. After months and months of trying and learning, the eager pair finally convinced a perfume house to give them a go: experts of fragrance composition, Robertet, whose motto, ‘Natural, always natural’, just rang true for Tomi and Leo.
Coming up with a big idea for their fragrance was easy. Having always been inspired by Japanese minimalism, Scandinavian materials and the history of the French perfume industry, Tomi and Leo knew they wanted to strip everything back to its bare and beautiful essentials.
Fragrance is an exercise in memory, and IIUVO is no exception. IIUVO’s first range of scents were all developed around the memories from Leo’s childhood. The pair spent months selecting music, imagery, texts, anything that they could draw inspiration on for each scent.
Leo’s first scent was developed around the childhood memory of his Mother’s first floristy workshop, which he spent many hours exploring. The workshop, rustic and modest in it’s appearance, was filled to the rafters with roses of every size and colour. The scent’s bottom note of rose essence echoes the overwhelming fragrance that filled the workshop. The top notes of orange blossom and jasmine, inspired by the star jasmine that rambled across the back wall, combine with the tiare blossom core to round off the fresh, floral harmony. On one of the many trips to France, the pair came across a typical Parisienne florist that exemplified this new scent they were developing. Much like Leo’s Mother’s workshop, it was overflowing with roses and freshly cut flowers. The hand-painted sign above the door had faded and decayed so the only letters they could make out were a-j-o-n. They decided this would be the perfect name for IIUVO’s first scent.
The second scent became a tribute to Leo’s grandmother Emmie, and her classic Irish garden. Emmie’s garden was her pride and joy, kept immaculate with regular love and attention. Leo remembers long summer days spent helping his grandmother and playing in the garden. The top notes of myrrh and galbanum form a slightly bitter, woody fragrance, with a likeness to pruned hedges. This harmonises with the smell of freshly cut grass of her perfectly kept lawn, reflected in the core of cedar, vetyver and patchouli. The earthiness of a damp and rain-soaked Irish garden is replicated with bottom notes of moss and lichen. Hints of cucumber and grapefruit round off this truly refreshing fragrance.
The final scent took longest to create, as it was not from a specific memory of Leo’s, but instead from his imagination. Music has always played a large part in Leo’s life, especially deep southern hip hop. One lyric that he remembers being repeated over and over again was ‘woodgrain’, and although he never knew what it was, it somehow became a symbol of success. After researching into woodgrain, the pair discovered the artists in question were boasting about the woodgrain that could be found on the interior of their vintage Cadillac’s. Leo wanted to create a fragrance that replicated the inside of a Cadillac and it’s opulent woodgrain. The combination of cardamom and nutmeg are mixed with myrrh to form a dark, spicy top note. Patchouli and cedar make up the woody core, while the bottom notes of amber, tonka bean and fir balsam complete Woodgrain’s sweet, rich aroma.
Ajon, Emmie and Woodgrain – three’s perfect company for now. We want to take our time. We’re a slow-burner, so to speak, like the perfume houses of the nineteenth century, who would release one, very rarely two, perfumes a year. That’s nothing like today’s noisy world of perfume, which is nothing like us. We want to take our time to make distinct, harmonious fragrances that can be instantly recognised.
Within six months of launching in February 2015, we were in five countries and had made it to the shelves of top shops like Colette, Liberty and Harrods. This is the preface to our story. We’re going to take our time to slowly tell the whole story; we look forward to sharing it with you as we develop, refine and redefine our creative output. Patience, like the best perfume, always rewards.