Thursday, July 25, 2013

Snapshot #9, Julia Zangrilli, NOVA


I met Julia Zangrilli in her intimate studio just a few weeks ago, and one thing that resonates is her knack for making sophisticated custom fragrances that are perfectly tailored for her clientele. Together we smelled not only her first retail release, Chakra, (read my review on CaFleureBon-tomorrow) but we also smelled a few of her customs, and as we did this she effortlessly described  what held her interest about each person and formula. She has carved out a solid brand that speaks fluently to the personal and now with Chakra, she will speak to a broader public. Enjoy, and thanks Julia. VV

VV
Where did you grow-up? Is there an olfactive memory from that time and place that you can share with us?

JZ
I grew up in State College, PA. If I had to pick a childhood smell it would be the smell of the soda gun in my dad's restaurant The Deli. I used to hang out there every day after school. Syrupy, a little metallic, with those wafts of alcohol that emanate from wooden bars.

VV
Can you share any daily rituals?

JZ
Everyday I drink a kombucha - it's cleansing and energizing. I have a miniature Australian Shepherd named Osa, who jumps on my bed to cuddle every morning. I have a chill dinner with my fiance most nights - it's my favorite way to unwind and shake off the day.

VV

How did you come to perfumery?

JZ
I guess I was looking for a creative outlet. I'd recently taken my friend to this voo-doo store in the east village to peruse oils for fun - and she noticed that I had a strong ability to talk about what we were smelling. We weren't smelling "fine" materials, but she saw a penchant that I'd never noticed or thought about. At any rate, a few weeks later she forwarded me a 101 raw materials class she'd seen in NYMag, taught by Anne McClaine. I took the course and instantly became obsessed with the world of perfumery.

VV
It was great to spend time in your studio, it's intimate and perfect for the custom fragrance experience. What is the concept behind NOVA, and is there a person or an idea that has been an influence?

JZ
NOVA was influenced by many things. Mainly I found the astronomical definition to be a perfectly subtle and poetic way of describing fragrance. From a type perspective, the word itself is beautiful - the way the N, V and A sit together creates a symmetrical effect. Through the manufacturing process, the Do family at Delbia Do Manufacturers has been hugely helpful. Specifically Darryl Do - number one mentor.

VV
I am so fond of the chair you were sitting on in your studio, you mentioned it was your mother's. I love how family objects can be grounding, and add wabi sabi to our home/work space. Can you speak to us about your Chinese/Italian heritage, I believe you are first generation Chinese/Italian American, has this significantly shaped your world, if so how?

JZ
My mother was born 1945 in Shanghai, a toddler around the start of the Communist Revolution. It's a long story but her parents and sister went to the U.S. and left my mom behind with the intention of having her naturalized immediately. The naturalization process ended up taking eight years, so she was raised by her grandparents.  When she finally arrived she was "Americanized" and in a few years and became fluent in English and a star student across the board. To this day she's a renaissance woman who never stops learning/doing. My father was born 1941 in Altoona, Pennsylvania - one of the youngest in a 12-person family who had recently immigrated from Pontecorvo, Italy. His family was too impoverished to provide for everyone, so he was taken in by a neighboring Italian family who was less poor and with only 1 daughter. Shortly after, both of his parents died and he/his siblings were officially orphaned and separated. He started working when he was a kid, first doing paper routes, then flipping pizzas at 13- which began his currently 50-year career as a restauranteur. He and my mom built a restaurant empire, which at its peak consisted of 18 establishments - restaurants, bars and music venues. And raised 4 kids. Total rugged individualist American dream. That heritage makes me exceedingly proud and lucky. Their entrepreneurial spirit, curiosity and lightness of heart have hugely influenced me. (a picture from their early marriage is below).



VV
Are there raw materials that you are drawn to more than others, can you name them here?

JZ
It really depends on my mood, though I have a special place in my heart for strange and abstract synthetic oils.

VV
Chakra, NOVA's first signature scent recently launched, how does creating a signature scent differ from creating a custom fragrance for a single client? Do you have a preference?

JZ
I take price-point into account much more when working on a formula for retail. With custom fragrances, I can create with higher amounts of precious ingredients. With custom work I'm creating for a specific person's skin, and tweak to their specifications. In developing a retail scent, I still test on a number of people but it's less pointed. The pressures to please are different, there are always more customers with retail, but with a custom formula there's nowhere to run! Both processes are rewarding in different ways, I don't have a preference.

VV
Do you pack fragrances when you travel, if so, which ones?

JZ
I save testers, and pick a few at random. I always have a roll-on of a light/therapeutic fragrance oil that I've made - recently I've been loving just french neroli diluted with jojoba and coconut oil.  

VV
What is your  favorite flower? 

JZ
I don't have one. I've been making a marked effort to buy flowers for my apartment every week...I like to mix it up! I never make the same arrangements.

VV
Do you have a favorite cocktail, can you share the recipe?

JZ:
Summers, it's Campari and orange juice with an orange slice. 1 part campari, 2 or 3 parts orange juice depending on how you like it, ice.

2 comments:

  1. What a fun interview to read, Valerie! Julia's story is fascinating. I'm here because I stumbled across her perfume Chakra in a quirky store in West London. I sprayed it on, and started getting compliments as I strolled down Portobello Road. Thank you for highlighting this interesting perfumer.

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  2. Thank you Katie! Julia is the perfect combination of lovely and determined, I find that mix interesting. She also has a knack for bespoke, quite an impressive knack. Soon after this interview I wrote specifically about Chakra on CaFleureBon. I migrated over to soliflorenotes.com; please pay a visit when you can. I thought you might want to know that when I met Hilde Soliani a few years back, she spoke so very highly of you and your work. I really enjoy it too.


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