Thursday, December 10, 2009

Della Chuang, Kyoto and fragrances - Interview

The best was saved for last!
Best interview of the year:
Della Chuang - designer, artist, writer, blogger, traveller, friend...
Della Chuang
photo credit: Della Chuang

Della Chuang is the expression of the contemporary artist. If I would describe her in a few words I could say she is a designer in essence, a traveler in spirit and warm and kindness in soul. Spliting her time between NYC and Europe, Della (although young), has already accumulated experiences to fill big suitcases. She worked as art director for Ralph Lauren fragrances and freelancer design consultant for Tom Ford Beauty, wrote two successful books about design, and has recently launched successfully, a new book and fragrance called KyotoEau – Bottled Memories. When she is not struggling to choose between taking Teddy or Mac along with her on her trips, she is looking for inspirations (she is tuned in all art events of NYC and overseas) or writing in her artistic blog Nomadic Design (click here to enter to her fantastic world of design).

Della Chuang has found complexity in simplicity, beauty in Nature and art and love in fragrances. She managed to explore all senses and integrate them with modesty, honesty and style. She is my last guest here in the year of 2009, and probably the one who has touched me and my life more than all the others.

Simplicity seems natural, almost obvious, in its final form, but getting there takes experience, talent, and patience. Design for simplicity cannot be successful unless it is supported by perfect execution. Simplicity isn’t simple.” (Insight of Della Chuang extracted from her blog Nomadic Design article of Aug 7, 2009).

Illustration by Della

image credit: Della Chuang

+ Q Perfume Blog: How simple is your style Della? Or how you apply simplicity in your life and in your design?

Della Chuang: I never consciously decided that my life and my design would be integrally connected through an idea about simplicity. If I am not working or traveling, I prefer to remain at home most of the time, either concentrating on reading or writing, or just taking a long walk on the streets in lower Manhattan or in the Finnish woods. Perhaps my simple lifestyle would mean boredom. But I think it is as much a retreat into my own imagination, my own world. I feel that in order to keep a fresh creative mind, I have to keep a healthy distance from much of what is going on, not just in New York, but in the world.

Nature, which appears simple yet is complex, profoundly influences my approach to design. In the design of a perfume bottle, I want to showcase simplicity not as a rigid minimalist ideal, in which a formula toward sparseness is almost religiously pursued, but as a composition of forms, materials, and textures that is fundamentally “pure”.

Perfume bottles - sketches by Della Chuang

image credit: Della Chuang

+ Q perfume Blog: In design is simplicity acquired with experience or learned in books?

Della Chuang: Through my design education at Pratt Institute, an art school in New York, design became an everyday and familiar element in my life. Though I had become more aware of the concept of “simplicity” from each assigned design project at school, I think that the professional works I have done for Ralph Lauren Fragrances, and Tom Ford Beauty, most influenced my body of work. I enjoy reading very much. But I’m aware that no matter how many books I have read, without hands-on experience, I would never accurately understand simplicity.

+ Q Perfume: How did you start to create for the perfume industry? I saw in your site that it was a consolidation of a passion. Can you tell us a little bit about it? How and since when you developed a passion for fragrances? And how did you start to work for Ralph Lauren?

Della Chuang: On the day when I took the liberty of secretly spraying my mom’s precious Shisedo perfume on my way out to school, I discovered the pleasure of perfume. I was very pleased as soon as I entered the door of the classroom: everyone crowded around me to smell the fragrance. At the age of eleven, I found perfume blissful because it allowed me to create an instant miracle that made my classmates appreciate me. But if there was a passion for perfume bottle design lurking inside me, I was not yet aware of it by the time I started art school in New York City.

At Pratt Institute, I was drawn to arts have a tactile quality: sculpture, metalsmithing, anything allowing viewers the chance to come to their own conclusions. However, at the point, nothing was learned about perfume packaging design and its three-dimensional aspects, so for most assignments we were given were focused on two-dimensional design such as typography and graphic work.

My liking of drawing shapes and making forms gave me a sense of what I was searching for in my design career: to be a packaging designer. One day I saw a notice posted at the school announcing an open position for a designer at Ralph Lauren Fragrances. I applied for it. And this is when, my adventurous journey as a perfume-packaging designer began.

+ Q Perfume: Which of the projects that you developed for the brand was the most challenging for you? I see that you have a very luxurious flacon for Ralph Lauren Turquoise and a plastic spritzer for Ralph Lauren Ralph!

Della Chuang: Each of my designs originates from a simple desire to make people appreciate a perfume bottle not only as a container for fragrance, but as an experience of art. I do not think I can find a reason to make a comparison between Ralph and Pure Turquoise. Though the marketing approaches are quite different: girl vs. woman; mass vs. luxury; fun vs. elegance, the development of each design and its realization is an equal long, drawn-out process that requires the same amount of deliberation, thoughtfulness, and tender care.

+ Q Perfume: Your worked also with Tom Ford. Their styles are very different. From the traditional classic American icon of fashion that Ralph Lauren represents, to Tom Ford’s luxury with lust is quite a journey huh?

Della Chuang: I’m blessed to have the chance to work for two internationally respected, admired fashion brands! The experience of designing for the Ralph Lauren brand allowed me to appreciate the need for a careful balance between a good design, purposeful marketing and artistic license.

As for the experience with Tom Ford, I learned that although a single theme like the plot in a novel can be found running through the design, I must also pay close attention to the numerous aesthetic decisions that will comprise the entire fragrance brand. These decisions must be resolved and elaborated on­ each having individual integrity, but working together to support the whole. Just like a novel has its theme, but chapters, sentences, even individual words must come together to form the whole.

I have found that the creative process at Ralph Lauren Fragrances and Tom Ford Beauty is different, and the difference between these two brands can be linked to the differences between poem and novel. They are all beautiful and exciting experiences in my journey of design.

+ Q Perfume: White Patchouli bottle design is my favorite of all your creations. Can you tell me details of the process of this creation?

Della Chuang: Oh, I hope your favorite would be my first independent perfume project KyotEau, which is going to be launched in 2010 instead (laugh).

In the design of White Patchouli, the integration of this project into the existing Tom Ford fragrance line was difficult. The challenge, for me, was not technical but emotional: the attempt to capture the essence of the original cross-brand idea and then to transform it into a fresh character or feeling.

Creating White Patchouli was never simply a process of replicating the original design elements such as the corrugated lines, the gold ribbon, and the square gold plaque. My creative process started with an analytic study, based on input from the creative director Lara Modjeski at Estee Lauder, and, after a long time of thinking, I shut that part of my brain down and allowed the nonverbal side to react. No matter how many interactions research, sketches, and models, I tried to stay close to the core message of Tom Ford brand-luxury. I do not think that I can completely explain how I draw a specific line or circle on the sketchbook ­ at some point I just have to trust my eye, my intuition. Design is a process of percolation, with the form eventually finding its way to the surface. At the end, Mr. Ford picked my very first sketch as the final design of White Patchouli.

+ Q Perfume: Gee Dell, my comment was just concerning the flacon. I have to confess I haven’t tried your fragrance yet, so I cannot give an opinion about it. KyotoEau bottle is very special. I love the combination of glass and wood. I also love the lines, the simplicity and the colors. The symmetry is amazing! Tom Ford’s White Patchouli is totally different, I think I can’t really compare because we are talking about a brand and yours is a life project. What I meant to say, and I am not excusing myself here, but what I meant was among all the bottles for commercial fragrances (even thou TF is not that commercial), this particular one is really special. It is very clean, cool, white, baby bottle shaped (at least to me), very unusual. Although KyotoEau also reminds me of a toddler game my son had when he was little (with shapes in wood that he had to match with the shape on the board), the bottle and package all together gives me a sense of warming up. The orange is intense, the wood is rich, the dark glass is thick. So it is cool against heat! And of course having a fragrance to experience Kyoto as you know and feel it is one of a kind experience!

+ Q Perfume: You have 3 books published in many countries. Two about design and one about Kyoto, design and scents. Tell me a little bit about each book.

Della Chuang: In spring 2005, a publishing company in Taiwan offered me to write a book about design. I was tempted because writing is the best way to convey what I experience with the design works, I decided to take the chance even though I did not have any specific idea yet of what I would write about. After weeks of struggling, I decided to put this project on hold for a while, until one afternoon I happened to visit Café Gittane on Mott Street for a coffee. While sipping coffee, I noticed that a twenty-something guy, wearing a classic black pinstriped blazer paired with ripped camouflage cargo pants, swooshing a colorful skateboard outside the Café. The rider’s carefree yet creative wardrobe caught my eye, and suddenly I had my idea: New York Downtown style it is! Anything can happen in New York. Having lived here for more than a decade, I realize that there are so many creative people who are taking chances and explore what the city has to offer, exploring its possibilities and its potential… And this creative power is most pronounced in downtown Manhattan! My intent in writing a series of New York downtown style design stories is not primarily commercial, but deliveries messages about “ideas about things” in the fashion and product designs My first book New York Downtown Style (2006) introduces fourteen fashion designers that have the most evanescent creative forces. By writing this book, I hope that the reader gets inspired by their work, and intrigued by their spirit of dedication in this very competitive industry. New York Downtown Style: Witty Design Objects (2007), a sequel to New York Downtown Style, collects eleven product designs which not only exude a very playful and unique downtown accent, but also share different design concepts and startle us a surprise of recognition, an immediate closeness. They intersect all individual and national boundaries to speak a universally personal language. To my delight, these two books were well received. From the lectures I gave and the letters I received, my readers encouraged me to write a book about perfume packaging. Therefore, in 2006 summer, before I even finished my second book, I began my research on a book about perfume design based on my own design experience. KyotEau: Bottled Memories (2009), describes my insights and experiences in Kyoto, and maps an epiphany as a journey between design and scent. KyotEau (Eau de Kyoto), the result of an intense collaboration with the perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, is a scent based on my sensory adventures in Kyoto. The development of this book and its realization was a long, exhausting process, but as a result of it became my favorite writing project. I see it as an extension of my design - a verbal sketchbook, where image can be seen as text and text is sometimes used as image. After writing three books, I have come to realize that I rely on writing to help me clarify and visualize my design language it allows me to convey my thoughts and intentions as directly as possible to the reader, therefore no need exists for a translation. As a designer, I’m truly blessed to be a writer too!

+ Q Perfume: Why Kyoto? Do you have a special bond with this place? In terms of olfactive experiences, is this city more fragrant than others?

Della Chuang: It never occurred to me that my friends, including my Japanese friends, thought I was being eccentric when I travel alone and lodge in temples in Kyoto. Growing up, I was surrounded by Japanese objects, from the Japanese dinnerware we ate from, to the tatami (straw matt in Japanese) we slept on, to the Japanese folk music that both of my parents listened to. So my strong affinity for Japanese culture is no surprise, nor how comfortable I am whenever I visit Japan, especially the heart of Japanese tradition Kyoto. Kyoto, to me, is not only a city graced by the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, as well as traditional culture and rituals, but the secret garden that has a healing power to the mind. Whenever I’m sad and tired in New York, I often take refuge in Kyoto’s consoling fresh air, moonlight, and landscape. Therefore, the idea of using Kyoto as a design case study in my book KyotEau: Bottled Memories was very natural.

KyotoEau Bottled Memories by Della Chuang

Photo credit: Manfred Koh

+ Q Perfume; The book Kyoteau Bottled Memories comes with a fragrance, created by perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. He also created the fragrance Polo Blue for Men (Ralph Lauren) while you were the art director for fragrances of the brand. How was your relationship with him under the brand’s name, and how is your relationship with him now he is creating for you?

Della Chuang: Christophe and I never met before I invited him to work on the KyotEau project. I discovered Polo Blue, allegedly the largest and most successful launch of men’s fragrance in the history of perfumery, is one of his creations. In the corporate world, the marketing department plays a key role of communication between the creative department and the perfume house. Therefore, a packaging designer and a perfumer are not required to meet during the working process. Imagine how strange it is to create perfume, by following a textural description to its completion, and only discovering the bottle for the first time right before or on the date of the launch! I have often said that the relationship between perfume bottle and perfume can be likened to the relationship between a book cover and its contents, and this analogy reflects not just the end result but the creative process one goes through in the making of the work: bottle and perfume must work together at the same time to form the whole! I therefore longed for a true collaboration with a perfumer who could share ideas spontaneously and intuitively with me. I wrote if, a poem based on my personal sensory experience in my beloved city Kyoto, and used it as a test to find my ideal collaborator. After months of search, I chose Christophe Laudamiel for his artistic interpretation and sincere professionalism. It was a truly inspirational experience to work with Christophe, who opened my eye to the world of perfume making. In the making of KyotEau, our communication consisted of countless e-mails, photo sharing, and ideas. One of the best advice I was given during the design process was from Christophe, who insisted I should investigate the ergonomics of the squatted bottle that I showed him. Likewise, he was impressed that I was able to identify some ingredients from his creation by smelling. He is a man with a great adventurous spirit. After leaving IFF where he had created KyotEau among other perfumes, he co-founded a start-up company called Aerosphere and became independent.

+ Q Perfume Blog: I guess when we are speaking about niche brands we can bring the perfumers and designers in a much closer relationship!

Della Chuang: Yes. My attempt of this project also involved the reader in a direct and intimate dialogue with design and perfume.

KyotoEau - the perfume

the fragrance by Christophe Laudamiel & bottle design by Della Chuang

photo credit: Arthur Wesphal

+Q Perfume Blog: Can you tell us what you have been doing lately? New projects coming along? KyotoEau development?

Della Chuang: The onerous tasks ahead bring KyotEau perfume to live and organize a touring exhibition based on my latest book KyotEau: Bottled Memories. I have been encouraged by several fragrance and design experts to try to exhibit at a museum or gallery to showcase the creative process in perfumery. And I hope to officially introduce KyotEau perfume to the public in the exhibits in 2010.

On staying creative I am working on my fourth book, besides tackling design projects at any given time.

+Q Perfume Blog: Della, I want to thank you so much for being able to talk to you here, get to know more about your work, and share it with my readers and friends. I was really special to me!!! That is why I wanted to save for last! I hope 2010 will be a great year for you, and I am really happy to have been given the opportunity this year to share with you ideas, insights, and all we do off-blog!!! Happy New Year sweety!

Concerning the photos, illustration and image: All of them were a courtesy of the interview guest, Della Chuang. If you wish to use them, please contact her for previous consent.

8 comments: said...

Nice interview with a terrific artist. It's great to see Ms. Chuang get some attention for her body of work.

+ Q Perfume Blog said...

My hopes are that she will get a lot of attention. her skills are really to be noticed!

M said...

Simone, just wanted to say again how much I LOVE your blog. And thanks so much for your comment the other day on my "Duro" feature; thanks for those "sex-in-a-bottle" tips. I'll have to try them out. Here's another one I really like a lot: Pierre Montale's "Greyland". The name is so unfitting for this extremely sexy scent; there's that sweat-and-testosterone element there that I also get with Gucci's "Pour Homme", but "Greyland" is less sweet. It actually smells like parts of the body I probably shouldn't be commenting on here. But if you want to know more, just let me know. :-)
Again, love your articles and will be stopping by frequently.
Have a great weekend,

Tara C said...

Great interview! Can't wait to get a bottle of her perfume in 2010.

Chag channukah sameach to you Simone!

+ Q Perfume Blog said...

Dear Michael,
and I am pretty much in love with your writing too!!
Yesterday I read many articles and this weekend I want to try to catch up and read the rest.
I loved the pictures and I hope next year we will be able to make a project together!!
Have a great weekend too
Kisses Simone

+ Q Perfume Blog said...

Dear Tara,
I wish you a great hag too, with smells of honey, hot-from-the-oven baked cinammon rolls, wine, spices and all you deserve.
A huge kiss to you and thank you again for being here this year.
I love your comments.
Have a great year!!!

Perfume Bottles said...

Nice post, finding a good perfume is not a difficult job, but finding a perfume in antique bottle is quite difficult.

Maison said...

This is a very long fragrance article. But I like it thank you for sharing..

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