According to perfumer Ayala Moriel, when it comes to most major-label perfumes, a rose is not just a rose. It’s a cost-effective synthetic chemical imitating the sweet, fragrant properties of a rose.
“Perfumes are just made as cheaply as possible,” says Moriel, who sat down with the Straight at her home studio to talk about the pros of natural perfumes. “When you buy a perfume off the shelf, they probably don’t spend as much as five bucks on the actual fragrance. Everything goes into the packaging, the models that are going to endorse it, and the advertisement campaign—all those things are what they actually invest in, rather than materials.”
It’s the complete opposite case with Moriel’s eponymous custom-designed scents—not to mention her 50 or so ready-to-wear perfumes ($45 to $180). Instead of working with a big-ticket marketing campaign on her products’ image, she works with about 300 botanical essential oils from all over the world in order to make great scents—and not one of her ingredients has gone through any kind of synthesis.
If you want to pick up an Ayala Moriel Parfums on the fly, both locations of Dream Apparel and Articles for People (311 West Cordova Street and 130–1666 Johnston Street on Granville Island) carry bottles of her premade scents. But if you want a one-of-a-kind perfume, be prepared—it will take a little longer. When you book a consultation at her home studio through her Web site, you’re in for a solid two-hour sniffing session. After a four-to-six-week wait, you’ll have your first of three modification meetings in which you can say, “Hmm, a dash less apricot, please, and a smidgen more amber, if you wouldn’t mind.” Finally, you’ll be ready to take home a quarter-ounce teardrop-shaped bottle of your personalized scent. Also included in the $620 package is a beautiful sterling-silver necklace that Moriel codesigned with a jeweller in her hometown of Clil, Israel. Inside the opal-bedecked pendant, you’ll find a healthy portion of beeswax/jojoba-based cream that’s been scented with your custom-made fragrance.
One of the benefits to investing in one of these all-natural perfumes is that they tend to emit a far more subtle and intimate scent, meaning only people you invite into your personal space can smell them—but, as Moriel points out, for Giorgio Armani fiends and Charlie girls, that could actually be considered a fragrance foul.
“It [natural perfume] doesn’t take over boardrooms and elevators,” she says. “It’s very environmentally friendly in terms of other people—not just the environment. But some people want to leave a trail behind—those people would be unhappy with a natural perfume.”
As for staying power, Moriel estimates that her perfumes have about the same shelf life as mainstream fragrances. But the actual scent may not last as long on your person.
“It really depends on your body chemistry, because the scent actually absorbs into your skin a little bit faster than synthetic perfumes because I don’t use any synthetic fixatives,” says Moriel, who gives customers the choice between grain-alcohol- and jojoba-oil-based products. “If your skin is more oily, it would last longer, but if you have dry skin I usually recommend an oil-base because that will actually help make it last longer on your skin.”
Interestingly, men who want in on the natural-perfume action are invited to sit with Moriel at her olfactory-sensation station and pick from among the same essential-oil ingredients as the ladies do.
“It’s the exact same process,” says the self-taught whiff whisperer. “The distinction between masculine and feminine [scents] is artificial western fluff. There’s no reason why men couldn’t wear feminine fragrances—especially with natural perfumes, because they really do interact with your skin’s chemistry. They don’t just sit on your skin.”¦They blend with your skin chemistry and your own pheromones.”
But perhaps the best part of trying out different scents at Moriel’s studio is that when you catch wind of a rose product, it’s as Mother Nature intended it to smell.
“It actually did come from a rose, and every year it smells just a little bit different because sunlight and rainfall—all those factors change it,” she says. “So it [the whole experience] is more about having that connection to nature.”