A surfer turned sculptor turned fragrance house founder pushes the bounds of niche scents
“There are two things that I don’t like about today’s mass fragrance market,” says Nobi Shioya on his site Made by Blog (https://wwd.is/), “the insane number of new launches, and too many celebrity scents.”
Shioya is the founder of Brooklyn, New York’s Shaping Room, “the world’s smallest fragrance house.” Named for a studio in which surfboards are crafted, this sculptor has taken his novel outlook on scent into compelling directions by bringing his collaborating perfumers to the fore and providing them wide berth in interpreting his basic ideas, taking them out of the formalized corporate atmosphere in which they normally operate and into a more one-on-one, personal environment.
“They [perfumers] are genuine creators,” Shioya says on his blog, “but with an ironic mission. The perfumers have to make sure the designer, celebrity or the brand will stand out, not them.” At the Shaping Room, noses are the stars.
100% Love by Sophia Grojsman contains notes of rose petals, incense and black chocolate, while Christophe Laudamiel’s S-ex includes notes of malt, strawberry, black and white leather, willow, and camellia. Reinterpreting (or “remixing”) Alberto Morillas’ Jet-Scent, Laudamiel employed notes of vanilla bourbon, musks, salt and sandalwood to create S-Perfume.
“The way I approach each project is not that different from the way I sculpt,” says Shioya. “Creating art always has the aspect of reconstructing something that exists. For instance, if I’m going to sculpt a figure, I will take the model apart in my head and in preparatory drawings and then, once that process is done, I will reconstruct that figure the way I want to see it.”
When Shioya began to develop his fragrance house in 2000, there weren’t many US niche brands. He recalls Demeter as a pioneering brand and has always admired Frédéric Malle. Developing his first commercial fragrance—Jet-Scent—with Morillas, Shioya was already thinking about how to reengineer the model of a fragrance house to his liking.
“I didn’t want to sell via cosmetic stores,” he says. “I wanted to deconstruct and reconstruct—I had to do something very different. Jet-Scent was very much about my memory about surfing. The scent itself is very much reminiscent of surfing—it reminds me of the smell of a wet suit and the ocean and [Zog’s] Sex Wax, which [surfers] use for traction on the board.”
Shioya limited sales of Jet-Scent through the Shaping Room site and surf shops. But then, as he puts it, “I started to grow up a little bit. I wanted to do something a little bit more artistic and creative.”
S-ex and Beyond
Around the time Jet-Scent was wrapping up, Shioya began hearing about a then little-known perfumer who wore a red Mohawk and was apparently doing some very interesting fragrance work. The sculptor was intrigued and so sought out this interesting nose.
This was Laudamiel.
“I smelled a few [of his scents],” Shioya recalls, “and they weren’t particularly my taste, but I thought they were original and also quite edgy. I picked up one leather note that was quite interesting.” Shioya developed the loose concept of his next scent, S-ex, around this leather note. “I told [Christophe] I was looking for something related to sex, and that’s about it.” To this leather core, Laudamiel added elements of malt, strawberry, willow and camellia, fashioning the idea of sex.
“Christophe always has very radical ideas,” says Shioya. “More and more perfumers need to make some kind of statement.”