Olfactory senses are strongly linked to memory recall and because of this, perfumers regularly speak of the vivid, often nostalgic experiences they seek to capture in their scents. Sometimes, these fragrant universes are informed by memories of childhood gardens or blossoming romances. For Parisian perfume polymath Rami Mekdachi of fragrance and candle line Lola James Harper, the experiences reverberating through his concoctions are those he’s collected over 15 years of globe-trotting as a punk musician and photographer.
Take, for example, the TV Basement of Jonet—the first of Mekdachi’s new 18 candle collection, available in Canada at Vancouver’s Litchfield and Toronto’s Lac + Co. A sweetly dusty accord of patchouli and sandalwood, the scent was inspired by the late nights Mekdachi spent combating jet lag in his friend’s Seattle basement circa 1996. “When I was 27, I went to record music and lived in Jonet’s house for a while,” Mekdachi explains, “and at night I’d go alone to her basement, which had big, old couches, and watch action movies in the smell of patchouli and wood.” The last scent Mekdachi created for the line—the Billiard Room of Jean-Jacques—is similarly inspired by a human experience; a rum-laced fragrance which originated from Mekdachi’s memories of playing pool with his admirably powerful and passionate lawyer.
The experiences reverberating through Rami Mekdachi’s concoctions are those he’s collected over 15 years of globe-trotting as a punk musician and photographer.
“This was a human project inspired by places I’ve been and the people there with me,” says Mekdachi, who splits his time between Paris and Palm Springs with his wife, son, and daughter (the kids helped name the brand—“Lola”, after a favoured doll, “James” as in basketball player LeBron). “I want to create scents that are almost cinematic.”
Mekdachi applies his 20 years of perfumery experience to every evocative fragrance he creates. After getting his start in cosmetic giant LVHM’s perfume faction in the mid-nineties, Mekdachi transitioned to working with early wave cult designer houses like those of Ines de la Fressange, Roger Vivier, and Costes—brands that appealed to aficionados seeking niche, unusual scents. Throughout this time, Mekdachi still travelled as a musician, accruing personal memories he wanted to share. Finally, in 2013, Lola James Harper debuted at Paris’s renowned concept boutique, Colette. Because he sees his music, photography, and perfumery as poetically interconnected—alchemic elements of a greater universe—Mekdachi presents his line in context where possible. These Lola James Harper spaces, such as his concept “living room” in Paris’s Le Bon Marché department store, are filled with mid-century modern furniture, custom-roasted coffee for the sipping, photography, and vinyl records, all reinforcing a sunny, West Coast by way of Paris aesthetic.
Though his inspirations may be specific, Mekdachi’s fragrances are universally evocative. “[Smell] appeals to your subconscious and evokes feelings—you don’t remember something so much as you feel it,” he says. His work is true to his word—to smell a Lola James Harper scent is to be imbued with the sense of adventurous optimism with which Mekdachi approaches all his pursuits.
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