Tell us who you are?
NG: I'm Nick Gilbert, I've been in the fragrance industry forever. I'm a big queer dork who loves Star Trek, gaming, and naps.
PL: I'm Pia Long, a Finnish perfumer who has accidentally spent the last 30 years in the UK
How did you get into the perfume industry?
NG: I started working at Boots when I was, as one journalist once described, a 'young pup'. After my trial period was up at Boots, I was asked to move onto the perfume counter. From there my career took off and I moved to London to work for other brands and retailers. I've worked as an account manager, store manager/buyer/web manager/social media manager/copywriter, marketer and fragrance development manager, trainer, and so on. Except for wholesale, chemistry, farming and perfumery, I've done pretty much everything, and have been very fortunate to travel all over the world smelling stuff and talking about smells.
PL: I started behind the perfume counter, too (in my teens, after school - and later part-time during college in London). However, the key shift to a fragrance focus happened at a time when I became obsessed about the idea that I might thrive as a perfumer. This naive but persistent epiphany has guided every decision since - and it was in the late 90s when I started looking into how one might actually do it. Back then getting accurate information about the topic was a nightmare and I had to think creatively about how to overcome some of the obvious obstacles. I worked in many roles on my way, but have been a perfumer for about 15 years now, last 6 of which have been varied, demandng and fun as the chief perfumer at Olfiction Limited, a small fragrance house and consultancy we co-founded in 2016.
What was the first perfume you ever purchased?
NG: With my own money? Gucci Envy for Men. I thought it was so sexy. Perhaps a bit "grown up" for me at 16, but I loved it.
PL: Paris by YSL, I think, but I was lucky to get some free perfume as part of the job, and perfume presents, too - so I had a "perfume wardrobe" from teens onwards
What is your favourite meal?
NG: One metric ton of chicken karaage.
PL: Pizza, in Italy - ideally with capers, olives, artichokes
Where is your favourite place?
NG: I really love Singapore. It is exactly how I wish all cities were, with greenery and nature everywhere - the buildings are covered in plants. It smells amazing.
PL: A cottage in a forest by a lake in Finland. Or a good library.
Do you have an interesting party trick or any hidden talents?
NG: Not so much hidden talent because if you give me a microphone I become an unbearable showoff, but you should see me sing When You're Good to Mama from Chicago.
PL: I can lift and do reps using the entire block of weights on a leg extension machine.
Who would play you in a film of your life?
NG: I've been told, on numerous occassions, that I am the spitting image of Marion Cotillard (when I shave my beard and wear a wig). And who am I to argue with that? So Marion would play me. I don't know how well she'd nail my Bristolian accent, though.
PL: Miss Piggy
About your Brand
Describe your brand in one sentence.
NG: We're a playful candle brand with far too much money spent on the fragrance oil.
PL: Luxury candles for people who take fragrance seriously and have a cool sense of humour
Where does the name of your brand come from?
NG: Boujee Bougies means fancy candles. I woke up with it in my head one day and thought it was really funny, but also absolutely perfect for a candle brand.
PL: We did, of course, immediately start singing "everybody wants to be bourgie bourgie", but that wasn't the inspiration, just the obvious consequence
Who are your candles for?
NG: People who love scent and want their homes to smell fabulous - we have played with unique themes and also approached some familiar tropes from a new angle. We worked really hard to ensure that the candles themselves perform well, that they were unlike any other candle that fit the category before, and gave an impression of being 'boujee'. Most of the feedback we've gotten from people says we've achieved just that.
PL: People who are consciously aware of their sense of smell and approach selecting the scents for their surroundings with the same care a food connoisseur might choose what they will savour next
Tell us about your latest perfume/candle.
NG: We started with 5 candles, and have created some new ones that will be launched by May next year. So whilst we don't have anything "new" right now, we're still a relatively new brand. So instead, I'll talk about my favourite: Hellflower. I found an old sci fi novel called Hellflower, it was about some guy who worked on Venus and was drafted to work his way into a solar-system wide drug smuggling operation - they were trading Hellflowers, which people were addicted to. I forget why, honestly, it wasn't a great read and it was very much... "of its time". But the smell of the Hellflowers wasn't described at all. So we decided to create it. We thought about magnolias being the earliest flowers on Earth, surviving the dinosaurs and volcanos and all of that. And we also wanted to have a 'hellish' element, and we circled around the idea of sulfur and brimstone. To make a grapefruit smell juicy and bright, you need a bit of sulfur. And that paired perfectly with the magnolia concept. And we ended up with a fragrance that is a perfect example of why sometimes you need something dark to produce the brightest light. The fragrance itself is a sparkly grapefruit with the creamy floralcy of magnolia petals. It wouldn't smell like it does without the sulfur and brimstone. I love it, and I think the name is maybe scaring people off, but honestly its so fresh and vibrant and ticks all of those boxes.
PL: All I'm going to say is that one of the new candles contains some inspiration from a couple of my favourite things, and I can't wait to get it home.
If someone wanted to try your candles, which one would you recommend they try first and why?
NG: Probably Succulent. It's just so much fun. It's a 'green' candle, but unlike any other green fragrance you've ever smelled. Pia had created a fantasy cactus accord for another project, and we were all OBSESSED with it. It didn't smell like cut grass or cucumber or fig - and I asked her to spin it out further into a fantasy about the flesh of a cactus or a succulent, but it's so much more than that. I think it is genuinely innovative and once people smell it, they love it.
PL: If you like leather as much as I do, then I will get you to try Cuir Culture because it will resonate with you.
What challenges do you want to overcome for your brand?
NG: We want to widen our distribution, and frankly, sell more so we can do more fun stuff and hire someone to help us manage all of it! Our main work is running a consultancy and perfume lab, so there's a lot to deal with day to day. And at the moment we're working on upgrading our packaging, and also introducing some new things...
PL: It was incredibly tough to launch a fragrance brand of any kind during the lockdowns we had - and at last, with the repack and some big plans, we will now move into the true launch in 2023 where people can actually pick a product up and smell it in person. Everyone who has done that has bought something, so we just need that space to exist.
What is unique about your brand?
NG: It's probably a bit boring to repeat it, but we're putting ridiculously expensive fragrances into these candles. Literally 10x the budget we've had to work on for other projects. We wanted to have candles that felt super luxurious.
Also, we're a candle brand with an in-house perfumer, and we work with our partners Accords & Parfums to produce the oils. They're a spin off of Edmond Roudnitska's Art & Parfums, founded by the wonderful Olivier Maure and based on Roudnitska's Domaine Saint-Blanche estate. That's rare.
The other thing is that we like to have fun with names and concepts - so many home fragrance brands are super serious and aiming for elegance. Our aim is to be flamboyant and fun, but make really beautiful fragrances. We take the work seriously, but not ourselves.
PL: I hope our irreverent joy of creating and working with fragrances comes across via the brand. The candles are our feelings and imagination made tangible.
You can find out more about Bougee Bougies on the website here, and more about Pia and Nick's fragrance consultancy company, Olfiction, here.