The Smell of Success | Meet Andrea Maack The Artist Behind Her Own Fragrance Line

Author: Diannalyn Dy / Photos: Benjamin Hardman
09.19 / MB Series

Initially creating exhibitions featuring scents, Andrea Maack began her fragrance journey as a form of art to be experienced through sight and smell. After the success of her exhibition "The Ultimate Being" and subsequently introducing her first fragrance "SMART," she decided to continue creating scent installations, most notably an installation in the form of a "fake Andrea Maack perfume shop." The unique scents in Andrea Maack's installations became so popular that her self-titled fragrance line was born. Drawing inspiration from raw materials and elements that embody her artistic endeavors, she shares her experience in working with fragrances and how she stays motivated during her creative process below...

What inspired you to start your own brand? How did the idea of scented installations come about?
In the beginning, the idea was never to create a brand, it was born slowly and organically through the exhibitions. The idea of working with scent came about through a series of exhibitions with the working title “The Ultimate Being.” The first step in the series was a set of sculptures in the form of workout dumbbells I carved in marble, step two was an ultimate one-off fragrance and the final one, a wardrobe that was basically unwearable (clothing made out of paper with original drawings). I always envisioned only making that one fragrance with the title SMART (Smell Art), but after that show, I was hooked on this process and started working on scented installations full time. The brand came about when I was invited to host the opening show of a design gallery in downtown Reykjavík and I decided to do an art installation in the form of a “fake Andrea Maack perfume shop,” handmade 1000 bottles and opened “the shop” for 6 weeks. Wallpaper Magazine did a write-up on the show and after that I was contacted from all over the world from retailers that wanted to stock the brand that only existed through this one exhibition… and the rest is history.

Where do you draw inspiration from when creating your fragrances?
It’s very much an artist’s process like any other subject, it’s never preconceived and I usually let the ideas come to me through drawings, scribbling, writing down ideas constantly and organically starting a process with what I really want to see in a fragrance. It's very much a collaborative work with the “noses” I work with. The first scents were created though my drawings and exhibitions where I took queues from moods, color, and text like f.exmp Craft, but some of them are more literal. Now that I’m based in Iceland where I grew up it will inevitably have some influence on the fragrance creations; like Birch. That was inspired by my family cabin in the woods, and Dual, based on the swimming and hot spring culture in Iceland.

Tell us about your creative process and the science behind each fragrance?
It’s an unusual process, most of the perfume houses have more of a marketing approach and are creating scents for a specific group of consumers. My scents were never really meant to be worn but people love to wear them, it goes to show that it's impossible and a little bit insulting to decide what the consumer will actually like in a scent. I usually work on new creations over a period of a few months and send the “noses” rough sketches and ideas that we develop together to make my vision that’s in my mind and nose come together in a cohesive scent. The science in creating a scent is very tricky, the old notion of someone mixing oils in a bowl is not reality, it’s very much the white lab coat and robots that mix the scents in a super clean and sterile environment. It’s also amazing to be able to be a part of the constant development of creating new fragrance notes. It’s super fascinating and actually quite secretive.

What is the biggest challenge when creating your scents and evoking your message to your audience? How do you overcome that?
It’s so difficult to choose which one I decide to launch, I have probably over 100 scents I’ve worked on. In the end it’s a gut feeling that I go with and if I love it myself and am happy with it, I hope the consumer will feel the energy, time and love I have put into the creation. If they don’t smell or feel what I was thinking that’s totally fine, everyone has their own story and scent memory and for me that’s the most interesting and fascinating thing about fragrance, it’s so emotional and personal, it can make you feel so many ways.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
I love collaboration and have done many through other mediums, for fragrance, it would have to be someone that really loves scents and has an interesting idea and new approach. To put another brand name on a bottle does not really interest me, it’s the sincere collaborations that are the best.

How do you stay creative and inspired?
It comes and goes, I have now been working as the CEO for ANDREA MAACK for about two years, working on distribution and positioning the brand through my vision, and launching with amazing retail partners all over the world; that’s a different kind of creative. Recently, I have felt a strong urge to get back into the rawness of creating something new. Switching off from business to art can be tricky but I’m finding a balance of having the two co-exist and I’m learning that switching off can be super beneficial. I have just always been working and I never take breaks. I’m trying to pull away every now and again to see everything from another angle.

What would your advice be to others who are working towards a creative/artistic path?
You have to be patient and work very hard, write down ideas in note books, let the mind wander, try not to look at what other artists are doing; it has to come from you, from the heart, or it just won’t translate. With art you have to be so open, it can be draining to give a lot of yourself to others but it’s also rewarding, so just open up and let it out.

How would you say growing up in Iceland made you who you are today?
Today I can appreciate it so much, as a teenager and young adult I did not. I moved to London when I was twenty years old because I just wanted to get out and see something bigger. But now to think about growing up with all this space, it was like growing up in an amusement park of natural wonders. With that said, you also have to cope with long cold winters, and endless darkness; that probably gave me my stamina and patience, my love for nature and creativity. I love the memories of going to the natural pools and walking home after a swim looking up to the sky and seeing something green moving, I didn’t know it was the Aurora. People travel from all over the world to see this now. I guess it was like looking at a painting moving, I’m sure all these experiences have had an impact on my mind and break through when I create new work.

What's next for Andrea Maack?
I will be launching a new scent in November and I’m working on new products that I’m super excited about but I can’t talk about them yet. I’m blessed the brand has been so successful, we just launched in Hong Kong with amazing retail partners such as Shhh, Ink and Lane Crawford. Like I said, I now feel the need to go back to the rawness of creating new work and out of that you will for sure see something unexpected from me soon.