L'Officiel Hommes USA
THE CULT OF CULTUS ARTEM
Holly Tupper’s new high-end fragrance collection brings old world elegance to the modern perfume lover.
You’re an artist, designer and now a perfumer.
All that I approach in the design process is seen through the prism of colour, form, texture and shape. When I am composing fragrance, I am allowing the olfactory ingredients the same prominence in the creative process as I do gemstones when I am designing a piece of jewelry. In fragrance composition I start with the base materials and essentially allow the elements to construct themselves through the massaging or alignment of their core elements – their shape, color, texture and form. It might seem odd as clearly perfumery materials aren’t as easy to hold in one’s hand as a stalactite rhodochrosite from Uruguay or a sawn diamond crystal, but for me fragrance materials have shape and form and in composition magic occurs as the ingredients start to blend and the maceration process begins.
Cultus Artem is an all-natural, clean fragrance.
I have been blending fragrance materials for myself for as long as I can remember. I have been fascinated with fragrance since I was very young. Why I decided to make a clean fragrance really ended up being a by-product of wanting to create a natural fragrance collection.
Frequently, notions of ‘clean’ or ‘transparent’, ‘sustainable’ or ‘natural’ are thrown around to incite anxiety instead of educating. Aside from preferring to put my petroleum products in my car instead of on my skin, the single most defining reason I embarked on creating a natural fragrance collection was my disappointment with how the loveliest fragrance experiences had been so diminished by the rush to reformulation with synthetic molecules.
The magic in natural perfumery ingredients is their nuance and soul being made up of multiple molecules created in nature, grown in the earth, defined by wind, rain, terroir- instead of single molecules created in a chemist’s laboratory.
Safety is paramount and to that end we have a full-time Chemist on our staff and additionally pass all of our individual ingredients as well as the final formulations of our fragrances to an independent toxicologist for review and approval.
There are 8 fragrances in your collection.
The Lucky 8! I lived in Southeast Asia in Singapore for almost 20 years. The word for eight in Mandarin sounds similar to the word ”Fa” the word for Prosperity thus the number has positive connotations.
The process of creating and launching a fragrance collection when someone like me drills down into every single aspect of not only the fragrance itself but all of the aspects which create the entirety of the Cultus Artem experience… including packaging and marketing and all the storytelling to share the fragrance takes forever! The synergies between the fragrances, our name Cultus Artem (which is Latin and essentially means the Art of Adornment), packaging created to enhance the experience of the fragrance- golden tassels at the cap hand made by a village cooperative in Northern India, handmade textured paper on the box, poems crafted by a renowned American poet Barbara Ras meant to invite a personal relationship with each fragrance instead of a torrid marketing script dictating ones supposed relationship to the scent. Thankfully, our partners at Bergdorf Goodman have a deep appreciation and recognized the magic and took us on as a global exclusive.
You have a fabulous workspace in San Antonio, Texas.
You mean atelier paradiso! We are so lucky to be based in San Antonio. As a native New Yorker who has lived and worked on three continents returning to the US after almost thirty years, San Antonio affords a lifestyle and calm really conducive to creative endeavour. Housed in a former South West Bell Telephone exchange building, not too far from my own home, we have a marvellous building for all of the aspects of our business. It’s a really big red brick building with concrete floors, 18 ft ceilings and nice, dry and cool basement. Inside our atelier we have our laboratory, cool room for storing fragrance materials, rooms for chilling, filtering and bottling fragrance (which allows us to manage all of our production in house), our creative offices, a salon for private appointments, conference room, roof deck and garden, additionally my jewellery making studio.
What is your first memory of a perfume?
My mother was a rose. Thorn-less. Throughout her life she wore various rose fragrances which on her were magic. She was a highly regarded floral designer in New York City and when not in town was an avid gardener and a good one. All of my other fragrance memories are of places. Rhode Island and briny ponds of snails and seaweed in buckets, the moss on the old American Indian trail we used to camp on summer nights, the floor polish of the boarding school I attended in England, dye at the batik factory in the village close to Chennai in Tamil Nadu, detritus from wet markets in Singapore in the 1980’s, whitebrush in bloom on our ranch when the drought breaks with just a little rain… these are my fragrance memories.