Scent takes the stage: An interview with Sarah Baker

Fragrance has long been heralded as an art form, but for Sarah Baker this conviction is an especially paramount matter. Her background in fine art, courtesy of the San Francisco Art Institute and Goldsmiths College, paired with a perpetually curious mind, has resulted in the wonderfully eclectic body of work that is Sarah Baker Perfumes. Part curator, part creative, Baker's lens on fragrance has birthed a diverse universe of scent.

Her London Fields studio houses her multifarious collection, including the eyelash and wig-donning artist's edition of Jungle Jezebel, one of the brand's most infamous scents, designed by Miguel Matos. Inspired by drag queen Divine, the end product is as unabashedly attention-grabbing as the icon herself: a sweet explosion of banana bubblegum which segues into a full-bodied white floral begrimed in the best of ways by a heavy dose of civet. “It's loud, it moves you, and it's gender bending,” she states.

Rewind a few years and Baker is the first to admit that she was a far cry from her fragrance enthusiast self today. “I used to really dislike perfume,” she admits. “Getting wafted with department store fragrance, my sister overdosing on perfume and me continually getting car sick dealing with her fumes — those were my associations. It was a really amazing transition to discover how fabulous, wonderful, and magical it could be. Through being a judge at the Art & Olfaction Awards, I came to realise what an incredible artistic medium perfumery is. It's not just about perfume, it's about experiences. Now I am open to all kinds of different, interesting, crazier scents.”

The world of fragrance she has since crafted is fantastical and glamorous, often spanning the worlds of fashion and olfaction. Her earliest collection took inspiration from luxurious fashion motifs and she recently finished a collaboration with Versace (a photographic storybook and short film entitled Baroness chronicling soap opera-esque tales of deception), while her artistic practice has explored themes of celebrity advertising and marketing luxury, alongside scent-filled performance art.

The California-native launched her eponymous fragrance brand in 2015, with Leopard and Greek Keys as the debut fragrances — a Dynasty-inspired aldehydic floral and an ozonic citrus emulating “a guy in a Versace thong wearing a gold medallion in the Greek islands” (created by Ashley Eden Kessler). However, despite the vintage references to an era remembered for its outrageously loud styles, both fragrances have a modernity and wearability to them that avoids any cliched territory.

“My love of the 80s probably goes back to my mom and being so inspired by her. She was a fabulous businesswoman and she did wear some big fragrances when she went out, so I always associated that dressing up, glamour, and decadence with that era,” Baker explains, although she is quick to point out that she would never want to limit her creative process to one decade or aesthetic.

Baker likens her line to “assembling a cast for a soap opera. It would be boring if it would be a bunch of people that were all the same. It has to be different shapes and sizes and personalities.” One such personality is Charade, a honeyed leather tuberose, crafted by Andreas Wilhelm. “I picture this one as Audrey Hepburn in the tuberose garden of her Switzerland estate, having Carey Grant over for a cup of tea, and maybe he is sitting in a leather armchair,” she reminisces. "I am interested in producing really exciting fragrances that move me and feel transportive. It has to evoke a place, a character, or a time in order for me to get into it."

This year, the artist has made her first solo debut, with two of the five scents in the S. Baker collection being of entirely independent, rather than collaborative, nature: the coastal citrus G. Clef (including notes of grapefruit, hedione, lavender, calone, oakmoss, and amber) and Flame & Fortune (a spicy, smokey, and fruit-laced white floral). Furthermore, Matos returns for a countryside picnic-inspired scent, Far From the Madding Crowd, which features notes of eucalyptus, black cassis, plum, jasmine, and cedar, as does Kessler who created Bascule, a green leather with dashes of peach and lily-of-the-valley. She also teamed up with Christian Carbonnel for Symmetry, a reimagining of the classic cologne profile (bergamot, orange blossom, petitgrain) with the addition of oud. Looks like this season's cast of Baker's olfactive soap opera will be the most diverse lineup yet.
About the author
As well as reporting for Basenotes, Carla is a Freelance fashion, art and fragrance journalist. Contributor for Twin, A Shaded View on Fashion, Dazed Digital and more.

More articles by Carla Seipp


There are no comments to display.

Article information

Carla Seipp
Last update

More from Carla Seipp

Whatever your taste in perfume, we've got you covered...

catalogue your collection, keep track of your perfume wish-list, log your daily fragrance wears, review your latest finds, seek out long-lost scented loves, keep track of the latest perfume news, find your new favourite fragrance, and discuss perfume with like-minded people from all over the world...