History, perfumery and place, with Loreto Remsing of Laromatica.

Loreto Remsing is the talented founder and perfumer of two Bay Area fragrance houses, LARŌ (all natural) and Laromatica (mixed media). Not only do we represent Loreto's wonderful fragrances at the shop, but we've also hosted perfumery classes with her at the helm. To learn more about her work, read on...

Q. What’s your first memory of wanting to make perfume?

A. When I was five, I used to walk home from the school bus by myself and I’d always stop dead in my tracks when I saw a patch of dark purple petunias. I was enchanted by their velvety texture, the iridescent-glittery petals and their faint, yet mysterious scent. I think this is where my synesthesia began, by cataloguing a scent according to texture and appearance, as well as fragrance.

Q. How would you describe LAROMATICA and LARŌ in terms of olfactory style, and why two lines?

A. LAROMATICA is a line of mixed-media, lighthearted, layerable, non-gendered fragrances inspired by places and people, flowers and foods. Simple everyday pleasures with a playful twist. Although the formulas are straightforward, they include rare and precious botanical ingredients.

Originally, I also had my all-natural perfumes under LAROMATICA but it caused confusion among my customers. So, I launched LARŌ and moved my all-naturals to this brand. I have a lot of love and respect for the all-natural medium and thought it deserved its own platform. The LARŌ formulas are more luxe and complex.

Q. What’s your process when you set out to create a fragrance?

A. I might be inspired to “capture the essence” of something that’s been on my mind. Certain flower aromas smell so familiar and I start obsessing about what ingredients I can use to replicate the scent. I’ve also been inspired by conventional perfumes and attempting to create something similar using only all-natural ingredients as a learning exercise. For instance, a “natural” version of Chanel No. 5 doesn’t smell a lot like Chanel No. 5 but it smells gorgeous nonetheless.

I like to challenge myself to “crack the code” of a fragrance whether it be synthetic or found in nature. I also use fragrance as a way to capture a memory, e.g. my Big Sur perfume is based plants and trees I smelled on a hike through Andrew Molera State Park.

Q. You first came to California as a young child, when your family fled the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and settled in the agricultural Central Valley. Has this experience influenced you creatively?

A. I strongly believe so. My first memories take place on a farm in Sanger, living in a trailer that had no air-conditioning, in an area where the summers are brutally hot. I remember my mom laying out my kiddie pool before sunrise. Despite the heat, the farm was a wonderful place for a toddler to roam. I played in the mud under the shade of a maple tree, ran through orange groves, enjoyed garden-grown tomatoes and the juicy peaches and plums the Central Valley is known for.

I definitely spent more time outside than in, and that meant touching, smelling, and tasting. Every time I inhale the sweet scent of dry grass at night, it always takes me back to the warm summer nights of the Central Valley.

As far as being a political refugee, I grew up around creative people who exposed me to folkloric art and music from a young age and instilled in me the values that creativity and self-expression are healthier for the soul than conformism and materialism.

Q. Natural environments of Northern California have been an inspiration, and you’ve even tinctured local plants...

A. I’m fascinated by the abundance of fragrant plants that grow wild in our Northern California habitat. Since it’s nearly impossible to find these botanicals in essential oil form, the next best thing is to tincture the plant. Tincturing and macerating are the oldest methods of capturing plant essences aside from distillation.

I shy away from distilling wild plants because the amount of plant matter you need is so great, it would be detrimental to the environment. For that reason, I only make small tinctures and use them in limited-edition fragrances, and I make sure not to use any plants that are endangered.

There’s a growing movement led by herbalists and Native American elders that call upon the public to rethink our colonialist views on taking native plants from the wild. The mass consumption of smudging bundles is depleting sources of white sage sacred to the indigenous peoples of Southern California and the Southwest. The Rethink Wildcrafting movement asks us to instead, tend the land, save seeds and grow our own herbs.

Q. You’ve taught classes at Tigerlily and do custom perfumery from your studio in Marin. Have you found ways to continue during the pandemic?

A. Sadly, I haven’t been teaching but the quarantine has made me think about ways I can start to remotely, especially after hosting a fireside chat with Firn Fragrance on tincturing for the Digital Scent Festival. I’ve also been doing a lot of remote custom perfumes. Now I’m thinking about ways to set up my studio so that I can do in-person consultations at a 6-foot distance. I’m extremely grateful that many people are still buying perfume during the pandemic, it seems to bring people a sense of normalcy and joy.

Q. What is most challenging/rewarding about being a perfumer?

A. The most challenging is the business side. There is so much bookkeeping and paperwork to keep track of and less time for me to experiment and create. The most rewarding is being able to reconcile the left and right sides of my brain while simultaneously immersing myself in botanicals and fragrance. And most importantly, providing a product that brings happiness to others.

Q. Your husband is a talented musician, do you ever collaborate?

A. Yes, Dennis and I have collaborated ever since we met in art school. We’re both graphic designers and although we have different taste, we find ways to inspire each other. A long time ago, I launched a fragrance that went out with one of Glacier’s albums as a limited-edition. The scent was supposed to be reminiscent of a glacier, with cool icy facets and all white packaging.

Q. We love Kulfi, your #1 at our shop, and are excited about the new variations of it!

A. For a long time I’ve been wondering how Kulfi, the perfume, would smell with the same “toppings” people enjoy on their Kulfi ice cream. I picked the most typical toppings such as rosewater, mango, almond, pistachio and orange flower water and added these as notes to the original Kulfi fragrance. It’s quite interesting pairing a creamy, custardy scent with these notes but if it makes sense with desserts, I thought it would make sense with perfume. Before the pandemic, I wanted to host a launch party and serve a Kulfi cocktail I concocted. You know me, I love to “eat perfume” whenever I can.

Q. Anything new we should know about?

A. Yes, a Soliflore Collection that will launch soon. My first scent obsession was flowers, so I’ve been busy “capturing” floral scents and I’d also like to bring back some of my previous limited-edition perfumes like Pink Magnolia and White Freesia. Another fun concept within the collection is to imagine what flowers that have no scent (or a faint scent) might smell like based on their appearance. I love the idea of creating a fragrance that represents that deep purple petunia.