“A novel is a work of poetry. In order to write it, one must have tranquility of spirit and
of impression” said Fyodor Dostoevsky.
We were delighted to be presented with the opportunity to interview an inspiring individual in the world of perfumes: Mr. Jan Ewoud Vos. He is the founder and creative director for PureDistance, an artisanal perfumery from The Netherlands. Drawing inspirations from art, to music, movie and postmodernism, his insights span beyond fragrances and the perfumery business. Through our interview, we got a glimpse of his philosophy – of quality over quantity, and why less is better than more.
Q: Some perfume companies are flooding the market out there. Is that why you are taking a deliberate action to cater only to a small audience?
A: The word flood already says everything, when it’s too much then it’s dangerous. Our motto is “small is beautiful and less is better”. I’ve been applying this philosophy to my business model and also my life. I’d rather have 2 or 3 good friends than having five thousands friends. Thus I believe in quality over quantity, and this is really prominent in PureDistance where we go for the highest quality and produce in quantities as limited as possible.
We have 80 stores operating in 35 countries. In contrast, mass fragrance companies have 80 stores in just one country. Hence we have more or less a business model similar to Ferrari or Aston Martin, which only has one or two stores in each country. Why? Because you need a salesperson who really knows, understands, loves our brand, and passes these values to our customers. And that is impossible if you are operating too many stores. On top of that, exclusivity is significant. Because if you buy an expensive artisanal fragrance, the feeling and experiences will be certainly different than buying a mass fragrance. We have happy customers and I have small team to work with. To me that feels good because I can sleep better in the evening without the stress of caring too much for sales or marketing pressures.
Q: What core advantage does PureDistance have that other fragrance providers do not?
A: There are some unique factors that we have in PureDistance. One of them is a high percentage pure perfume extrait (oils) – which is the highest perfume concentration therefore our fragrances last much longer. But what fascinates me more is when every essence infuses into various skins. Many mass fragrances out there have many elements of chemicals and alcohols that defuse the perfume. Ours is the opposite and due to the primary substance being extrait, the scent will evolve throughout the day. And this is where it gets interesting because your skin scent is different from anyone else.
Another unique factor is our dedication to perfection. We have different perfumes and each one could take 1 or 2 years before the decision to finalise production was reached. I pay close attention to my concept and vision with our perfumers, to validate whether the scents are blending perfectly or not. In that respect, we want to provide the ultimate experience with an exclusive fragrance.
Q: Where do you often get your ideas and inspirations for a new perfume?
A: It all starts with a very raw concept. Black, for example, was started by irritation. I was irritated by the behaviors of today’s society, especially the young generation. They are exposing everything to everyone (online). To me, beauty is intriguing and it’s so much more attractive when you don’t expose all of it. In my opinion, it is best to reserve some privacy and personal time without smartphones or gadgets. I have two daughters and I’ve cautioned them not to expose too much of their personal lives on social media and online.
Also in this day and age, we tend to overanalyse everything, such as political situations, economy forecasts, movie analysis, music… everything is being analysed. When you go to a classical music performance and hear Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major No. 2, you are not there to analyse what notes the pianist is playing. You are there to just listen, feel the music, and take the beauty of it as one package. You will kill the experience if you start to analyse it. Feeling and intuiting are more meaningful.
Inspired by these irritations, Black was created. Now, how did I translate Black into a scent? I shared about my observations and thoughts with Antoine Lie (perfumer), and he gave me some samples that express my concept and visual. After I evaluate the samples with my team, I work together with my perfumer for 2 or 3 more rounds to narrow it down until it’s intriguing and matches my concept. Besides Black, many of our perfumes also convey sophistication with the vibes of royalty, nobility and classiness.
Q: Do you have a favorite scent or a personal signature scent?
A: For my signature scent, I have been loyal to Chanel’s Antaeus for 30 over years. I still use it but they have changed the formula. Besides that, I wear Black and sometimes wear M sparingly. Next year I will introduce another new signature scent from PureDistance.
PureDistance was founded in 2002 by Jan Ewoud Vos. It is one of the most exclusive perfume houses in the world that offers only pure perfume extrait. The master perfume collection for 2017/2018 contains eight exclusive scents crafted with extrait oils. The PureDistance collection ranges in price from $350 SGD to $560 SGD. They are now available at Maven in Takashimaya Singapore, The Gift Box at Level 3.
Interview contributed by Darian Im. Edited for clarity.