9 posts tagged "Alexandra Balahoutis"
We’re not ashamed to admit that we have a little bit of an addiction to astrologist Susan Miller’s daily column. Her detailed horoscopes, with their shockingly accurate guidance in matters of the heart and the wallet, have turned us into a cosmic believer. So when we heard that Alexandra Balahoutis, the perfumer and founder of Strange Invisible Perfumes, would be using the zodiac as a guide for her latest collection, we were intrigued. Her limited-edition Astrological Collection will comprise 12 botanical scents—one for each astrological sign—fashioned by Balahoutis with the help of aromatherapist and author Mindy Green. The perfumes are being released in sets of two, pairing opposing signs on the astrological wheel together, and will be released over the next six months. The first to hit shelves are Pisces, and its opposite, Virgo (Balahoutis’s own sign). Emotional and compassionate Pisces is a heady blend of frankincense, ylang ylang, black pepper, cedarwood, and jasmine, while analytical and focused Virgo includes notes of neroli, sandalwood, sambac, rose, and temple mandarin. We’re particularly excited about next month’s release of our own cosmic guide, Libra, but we plan to follow Balahoutis’ advice and think outside the confines of our sign and experiment with others as well.
Strange Invisible Perfumes Astrological Fragrances, $275, available at the Strange Invisible Perfumes boutique, 1138 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, Calif., (310) 314-1505.
Alexandra Balahoutis has been obsessed with fragrance since she was a child growing up in the verdant Hollywood Hills. In 2000, she channeled that fascination into Strange Invisible, her line of entirely natural perfumes. One of the pioneers of the green fragrance movement, Balahoutis has succeeded in proving that haute perfumery need not be synthetically-based to be compelling—one whiff of her aptly named Epic Gardenia or the ridiculously sensual Musc Botanique and you too will be convinced. The company is also completely (and admirably) devoted to sustainability, from the packaging to the formulas to the process of distillation. Here, the botanical fragrance guru divulges some of her West Coast beauty favorites.
The Pro: Alexandra Balahoutis
The Facialist: Myra Matas at The Face Place
“I have been getting facials by Myra Matas at The Face Place in West Hollywood since I was 15—nearly 21 years! I get them twice a month, so a lot of people think I’m a big facial enthusiast. The irony is that I’m not; I’m a Myra enthusiast. The Face Place gives the only treatment I’ll bother with; Myra is definitely the face whisperer.”
The Face Place, 8701 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 855-1150.
The Eyebrow Groomer: Daniel McFadden at Privé Salon
“Daniel is like Leonardo da Vinci for eyebrows. His ability to customize a shape for each person is so impressive. He really listens to his clients and has an unbelievable eye for precision and proportions. I’ve sent many to him and they are all thoroughly addicted.”
Privé Salon, 7373 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 931-5559.
The Nails: Mazia Viera
“Proceed with caution as a manicure/pedicure from Mazia destroys the curve. This is like photo retouching for cuticles. Mazia was trained in Brazil and is amazingly gentle, precise, and thorough, and the results last. She uses organic flower balms by In Fiore, pure organic shea butter, and a variety of other organic products, and best of all, she travels to your house.”
Call (310) 804-2383.
The Acupuncturist: Adam Griffin at Acutonix
“I can’t say enough good things about facial rejuvenation, an acupuncture procedure to combat aging of the complexion. It really works and the results can endure for months.”
Acutonix, 1615 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, Calif., (310) 399-7199.
The Massage Therapist: Yuka Okajima
“If you aren’t in love, expecting a baby, or a raw foodist, the next best way to achieve an inner/outer glow is with a therapeutic massage by Yuka. Her skills defy description. She really is a healer.”
Call (310) 779-0442 or e-mail email@example.com
Alexandra Balahoutis was dreaming of sunlit island leisure when she concocted her latest scents for Strange Invisible Perfumes. So it figures she was on vacation when we called her to discuss them, but the Venice Beach, CA-based perfumer was happy to take a time out to share a few details. The new limited-edition duo includes Tahitian Honey, a sweet and dewy blend of honey, fresh ginger, temple mandarin (a rare citrus essence that must be custom-distilled), and plumeria blossoms, all inspired by a summer holiday in Tahiti. Vacances combines Caribbean island earthy notes like cedar, black copal, and black currant with a bit of jasmine and the aforementioned temple mandarin and honey. Fans of SIP know that Balahoutis only works with pure, all-natural botanicals and weaves them together to produce “narrative journeys” in which the wearer’s own chemistry determines the direction of the overall scent. Layering her new creations is possible (the compositions are complementary), but it’s not advised, since each is pretty concentrated on its own. Better to choose to avoid perfume overload…and financial peril. At $370 and $385 respectively, Tahitian Honey and Vacances are the olfactory equivalent of a deluxe suite with a view.
Strange Invisible Perfumes Limited-Edition Tahitian Honey and Vacances Pure Perfumes, available in-store only at 1138 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA, (310) 314-1505, www.siperfumes.com
With her famed atelier in Venice, California, and a borderline obsession with seeking out pure botanical ingredients for her formulations, perfumer Alexandra Balahoutis is becoming a household name in the bespoke fragrance world. Her line, Strange Invisible Perfumes, has, in turn, helped pave the way for the idea of “narrative perfumery,” in which the journey of individual ingredients intermingles with the wearer’s own personal story and sensory preferences. Because she uses only organic, wild-crafted, or biodynamic essences set in a base of 100 percent organic grape alcohol, Balahoutis’ custom fragrance-making process is utterly unique. And the artistry and attention to detail she puts into every scent is astounding—her latest olfactory achievement, Musc Botanique, contains carnal aromas from the essence of a plant known for emitting molecules that closely resemble those found in deer musk (yes, deer musk). Style.com caught up with Balahoutis to talk about chance encounters with avocado trees, her one-on-one consultation process, and why for her, perfume is indelibly tied up with the cosmos.
The name of your company seems to speak volumes about the, well, strange and invisible fragrance compositions you are known for. It’s a line from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, right?
Yes, I love literature and rich narratives. I also write poetry and stories. Words are a little bit like essences to me. I love linking them together so that they communicate something in a distinctive, resonant way.
So if you weren’t making fragrances, could you see yourself taking up the pen?
My fantasy job, rather than just another career I might have chosen or still might add to the list, is a little odd. I fantasize about being a typography designer. It would be so specialized and so focused. No multitasking. No entrepreneurial facets. I could just obsess happily, having thrown myself into a world of magnificent details.
You exist in a world of “magnificent details” now, though, or so it seems. What sparked the initial impulse to get into the minutiae of fragrances?
There were many instances but a few stand out. When I was little, I became happy simply thinking about perfume. My mind would light up with intrigue and happiness when I heard the word perfume even more than it would by Christmas morning or a trip to Disneyland. I have always been in love with scent. I’ve used it to delight and influence my mind as long as I can recall. I’ve looked to scent to change my mood and mark the subtle beginnings of new eras.
And now you bring that experience to other people—like a fragrance shaman. Can you talk a little bit about the process of guiding someone on their own custom fragrance journey?
We talk about everything. The client tells me how they like their tea, what time of day they love, what they read, and why they live at all. The conversation always varies and never stays light. The custom blend is not about pinpointing a market list of essences my client likes so that I can throw them into a bottle. I want to internalize a sense of that person’s essence. Then I go to my palette and feel out which essential oils and extracts are relevant to my muse. I want to translate an elusive impression of who they are into the equally elusive medium of scent. Everything and everyone is essentially a recipe.
Speaking of which, your entire focus on rare and often hard-to-come-by organic essences must make for some excellent dinner-table conversation. Any sourcing adventures you can share here?
I once went to Hawaii to meet the one tree that my avocado leaf essence came from. This was the only one I could find as this specific avocado tree has been forgotten by perfumery and produces no avocados. The essence was so gorgeous and I knew it well. To see the one lone tree that made it for me and no one else was an interesting thing. It changed my point of view. I felt like the tree was an employee or something. It really felt like a person that worked for me.
You have referred to yourself as a “botanical perfumer and exacting Virgo,” which leads me to believe that astrology must play an important role in your work. Would you agree?
It does in a way. Astrology accounts for many of the ingredients that make up the recipe of who I am. My perfumes and my company are derived from that formula. It’s hard for me to separate the cosmos from existence itself, let alone from the work that I do.
Photo: Courtesy of Strange Invisible Perfumes