June 27, 2016
Douglas Little of Heretic Parfums
Profile: I was born in Los Angeles in 1974 as a red headed, Scorpio, only child to two photographers. My parents owned a photography studio in North Hollywood, CA. My earliest memories are of that place, I can still recall being strapped to one of my parents as they developed photos in the dark room. As self-employed artists, they were always on the go and took me with them everywhere they went. I was always with adults, in meetings, business deals and being looked after by throngs of hair and make-up people. Growing up it all seemed quite normal, it wasn’t until much later that I began to appreciate my insane upbringing.
Douglas as a young boy with his mother
My dad also taught a photography course a few nights a week at UCLA. I would tag along and sit in his classes. After a while I got to know many of the other instructors and started sitting in on their classes. By the time I hit fourteen I had completed courses in Japanese calligraphy, ornamental calligraphy, pastels, herbalism and ikebana. I have always had a voracious curiosity, a love for nature, the arcane and everything that goes bump in the night. I never had any interest in other kids or kid activities and spent my free time reading, planting carnivorous gardens and raising my odd ball pets that consisted of snakes, spiders, lizards, toads and a crow named Poe.
My first real discovery of fragrance was walking home from school and passing a non-descript, little shop in North Hollywood, CA. called Herb products Inc. Camphor seemed to ooze from the brick and mortar of the building and stopped me dead in my tracks. The store sold bulk herbs and essential oils, mainly servicing herbalists and God forbid- the weekend potpourri enthusiast. I became obsessed with this place. OBSESSED. The catalogue looked like the yellow pages, thousands of dried herbs, resins and flowers all sold by the ounce. I would scour the catalogue for hours on end, highlighting the ones with peculiar names and researched them until I knew everything I could about them. I would save my allowance and frequent the shop amassing a huge collection of the aromatic curiosities. It was here that I began to fall in love with fragrance and understand its innate power to transform the mundane into the extraordinary. With the strike of a match, coils of perfumed smoke would curl from a chunk of Dragon’s Blood and transform my bedroom in the San Fernando Valley into something foreign and exotic. What drove me further down the rabbit hole was the lush folklore and mysticism that went hand in hand with these materials. This “hobby” (which my parents thought would pass) would alter my path and send me on a lifelong journey into the world of fragrance and beauty.
In my early twenties I went to work for a professional cosmetic company as a junior art director and worked within the professional beauty industry until I was 28. My time working within the cosmetic industry was indispensable as it taught me how to develop product from concept to reality. It also sent me traveling all over the globe several times over. It was during this time that I had the opportunity to travel to Grasse and dig deep into my passion for fragrance and product development. It was also here where I began my career in visual installation. As part of my role as creative director I was challenged with designing and executing the company’s ad campaigns, visual merchandising and exhibit design. My signature was immersive design and I incorporated the five senses as much as possible into our brands strategy.
In 2003, I left my corporate creative job and launched my namesake, home fragrance brand D.L.&Co. Modern Alchemists and purveyors of curious goods. The brand was a culmination of all the things I loved and wanted to share with the world. It was an exploration of dark romance and dangerous beauty. The brand was a smashing success where I launched fragrances inspired by deadly plants and flowers such as my signature “Thorn Apple” and “Angels Trumpet”. In 2009, I left the company due to a poor partnership. Losing the brand was like losing a child, I haunts me still to this day as I poured my heart and soul into every ounce of that brand. Sadly, my story is not uncommon and what was meant to be will be.
Alexander McQueen Installation at Bergodrf Goodman
When I left D.L.&Co. I went freelance and began to do immersive visual installations, event and environmental design as well as fine art with companies such as Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, Van Cleef & Arpels, Jim Thompson, Harry Winston, Pierre Frey, Maxfield, AvenueL by Lotte in Seoul, Korea , etc. Fragrance was always part and parcel to my installation work and a vital component.
Queen of the Night at the Diamond Horseshoe In Manhattan.
One of my favorite projects was working alongside Giovanna Battaglia as a creative, scent and set designer for the production of Queen of the Night at the Diamond Horseshoe In Manhattan. A wildly subversive, immersive, dinner theatre where guests were transported into a subterranean wonderland filled with gender bending butlers, rooms made entirely out wax and crashed chandeliers. I was responsible for designing the spaces and overall environments for the production as well as developing the fragrances for the various landscapes.
Heretic Parfum Flask
In 2009, when I left DL&Co. I felt there was a hole in the fragrance market and believed that niche fragrance brands would be the future. Moreover, I believed that natural perfume might finally have an audience amongst luxury, fine fragrances. In 2012, I began developing Heretic Parfum. I made the conscience decision that I would only put myself through the stress of developing another product line IF it could be exactly what I had envisioned and not cut any corners. In March of 2016, I debuted Heretic at Barneys New York’s new Chelsea location in Manhattan. Heretic Parfum is the first 100% natural perfume collection to ever be sold at Barneys.
The name Heretic means one who is at odds with the common ideas of the masses. Working with high quantities of naturals in fine fragrance let alone 100% natural is not the standard practice within the fragrance world as the materials are expensive, can vary from batch to batch and convey a “raw” aspect that does not appeal to everyone. It was all of those reasons that were attributes to my wanting to develop a line composed of 100% natural materials.
Douglas Little Heretic Parfum
I am not interested in the idea of “perfect beauty” and for me the synthetic replicas of rose and jasmine are a plastic surgery view of these notes. I am interested in the quirks and nuances of these spectacular ingredients that make them so incredibly diverse and interesting. A synthetic rose while spectacular has been fine tuned to eliminate the “raw” aspects that you will find in a rose absolute. These natural ingredients are alive and convey aspects of the origins they came from. These fragrances I developed are inspired by the seductive, feral, sacred and erotic aspects of nature. For me, nature is both beautiful and terrifying, masculine and feminine, sacred and profane. Why does the word “natural” have to constantly equate to a granola eating hippie slathering patchouli on in a head shop or a person in Provence harvesting lavender or someone in a spa covered in cucumbers?
Douglas Little Studio
I develop my fragrances in small batches at my perfume studio on the upper west side of NYC. The fragrances are sent to my compounding facility in OH. Where they are blended with corn alcohol and filled in the bottles and packaged.
My fragrances are developed from experiences and names that take shape into perfume ideas. Pistil Whip is a great example of this- When I first moved to NY I lived in rough area of Brooklyn. Coming home late one night from the subway and was mugged and pistol whipped. The next morning after waking from the terrifying incident, very swollen and banged up I began smelling fresh flowers. To be specific, I thought I was smelling tuberose and peonies. The odd part was there were no flowers to be found. This went on for a couple weeks where upon I went to see several doctors and learned that what I was experiencing was a hallucination, more specifically, an olfactory hallucination. My brain had crossed fired and was manifesting the ghost flowers. Similar in many ways to synesthesia, however as I began to heal the odor dissipated. The experience stuck with me so vividly I developed a fragrance around it and called it Pistil Whip. What it would smell like if you got mugged by a flower.
Doulgas Little of Heretic Parfum oils and absolues. He is particularly obsessed with apricot absolue
On American Perfumery: There is a definitive and ecstatic freedom that comes with American Perfumery. It’s this freedom that allows new ideas and ways of thinking to manifest in an industry that manufactures dreams and sells the invisible. I wanted to showcase naturals in a provocative and elegant way. I studied with Mandy Aftel, she is the queen of natural perfumes and a trailblazer in the natural fragrance industry, she has paved the way for many of us to go out on our own and pursue careers within this alchemical art form
Dream World by Joseph Cornell, 1957.
Favorite American Artist: Two of my favorite artists are Joseph Cornell and Martha Graham. In both artists work there is an irreverence, purity and dream-like quality that is palpable.
Look at everything as though you are seeing it for the first time, with the eyes of a child, fresh with wonder. -Joseph Cornell
Photograph of Martha Graham (1940) by Barbara Morgan from the collection of Los Angeles
No artist is ahead of his time. He is his time; it is just that others are behind the times. -Martha Graham
Douglas Little, creator, Heretic Parfum
Thanks to Douglas we have a draw for a US and Canadian registered reader for THREE 2ml rollon of any Heretic Parfum: India Ink, Poltergeist (Hernando’s favorite), Pistol Whip, Jasmine Smoke (Michelyn’s favorite), Holi Water, Amulet, Blood Cedar and Couer Noir To be eligible please leave a comment with what you found fascinating about Douglas’ path to perfumery, which 3 fragrances you would like should you win and where you live. Draw closes 6/30/2016
Editor’s Note: I visited Douglas in his studio last month on The Upper West Side with Hernando Courtright as a follow up to a press release we posted. The line immediately got my attention as I realized that HereticParfums was the first natural perfume to be sold at Barney’s. I then remembered his candles from DL & Co and that he had studied with Mandy. It was quite a visit as he is indeed obsessed with natural ingredients, He has some of the finest absolues and oils I have encountered. He is our 106th perfumer to be featured in this series -Michelyn Camen
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