At our press launch we had a little time with Ben and Ed, known better to the world as design duo Meadham Kirchhoff, to talk about our next fragrance, Tralala.
Matt: How did working with Penhaligon’s come about?
Benjamin: We had been working with Penhaligon’s scenting our shows for a while before the idea of creating a fragrance inspired by our world first came about.
Edward: We’d been scenting our shows with Penhaligon’s perfumes before we approached them to fragrance the shows “officially” nine seasons ago now.
Matt: Why did you choose Penhaligons rather than another perfumer to fragrance your shows?
Benjamin: I have been aware of Penhaligon’s since I first moved to London in 1997. I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with anything authentically English and they express this so well in scent that it felt like a natural match.
Edward: Perfume is so integral to us, to our lives and to how we think. It is completely incomprehensible for us to imagine not scenting the shows, for us it always seemed quite a logical partnership. With Penhaligon’s we recognise a similarity of approach in our independence and a sort of old fashioned Englishness.
Matt: How do you select the fragrance to match your collection?
Benjamin: Each collection presents itself with a new set of elements. We think about it for a moment, smell different Penhaligon’s perfumes and we will choose the one that links best with our story.
Edward: I love it when you can smell a person’s perfume before you have even seen them, and that was for me one of the reasons to scent the shows. I choose a scent which matches the mood, and the clothes, it is usually a logical choice which easily presents itself.
Matt: What ideas inspired the fragrance?
Benjamin: When we met Bertrand (Duchaufour) we spoke at length about our favourite smells but also about the complexity of perfume blends and how it’s becoming rare to have a composition around a scent. We wanted him to create something complex that wasn’t about gender or anything specific but rather about a combination of opposing elements.
Edward: I wanted the perfume to be heavy and old fashioned, I wanted it to smell glamorous. I love the idea of perfume dominating the space it fills and as a glorious sensory barrier between you and the World, like a deep velvety aura. We talked a lot with Bertrand about the smells and scents we like, what we have both worn and the way we feel about perfume itself, its importance to us and how it’s an essential part of dressing. We showed him our studio and how we work and the things which were inspiring us.
Matt: What’s the inspiration behind the packaging?
Edward: Deciding what to do with the packaging of Tralala was one of the hardest things I have done. I change my mind so often. Every collection I approach as entirely new, I can move on and re-explore and re-define every 6 months. But Tralala is permanent so I really thought about some of the most permanent elements of our visual language as well as Penhaligons’ iconic bottle and bow. There is the heart shaped chocolate box framed in white lace, the ribbon writing spelling Tralala and the dolls head wrapping the lid. I wanted the box to feel like an old jewellery box.
Matt: Why did you choose the name Tralala?
Benjamin: We thought long and hard about a name, some were good but didn’t fit the context of a perfume. Edward came up with the name Tralala one day and it stuck – I like it because it is nonsensical. It doesn’t apply to anything specific.
Edward: I woke up the morning after our show and I just knew that we should call it "Tralala" and could envisage exactly how it should look. I loved Tralala because it had no pretensions, no specific connotations, it just sounds sort of humorous and nonchalant but looks really good written. It has a nice rhythm to it.
Matt: What is it about Penhaligons that made you willing be the inspiration for a fragrance?
Benjamin: It was a question of mutual trust and respect for one another. I don’t think another perfume house would have let us run with this as much as we have.
Edward: This has been the most truly collaborative project we have ever worked on. Penhaligon’s have given us complete freedom and trust to create with them something so perfect. Anyone else would have fallen short of our perfectionism long before. Tralala went through numerous incarnations before we achieved what is for us the perfect scent.
Matt: Which Penhaligon’s fragrances are your favourites?
Benjamin: Hammam Bouquet is my all-time favourite scent; it’s a potent rare rose with a good dose of civet. It’s precious and animalistic and there’s nothing like it. Rose is sweet and feminine but it’s never thought of as an aggressive scent. Hammam bouquet takes you by surprise and makes you think.
Edward: I love Hammam Bouquet and I went through a really long Bluebell phase.
Matt: What are your favourite fragrance notes?
Benjamin: I like everything really, I don’t wear citrus heavy scents but I can appreciate most things. My mood changes all the time when it comes to perfume but I always end up going back to musky / leathery smells.
Edward: I like powdery heavy scents; iris, tuberose, leathers
Matt: Penhaligon’s are sometimes seen as old fashioned, why do you think they are relevant today?
Benjamin: I think that very old fashioned-ness is the reason for their success and their relevance. Few houses can boast that kind of heritage and know how. They have allowed themselves the freedom to create what they want and when they feel it is ready. It’s a very uncompromising perfume house that has never betrayed its heritage.
Matt: How would you describe wearing Tralala? How does it make you feel?
Benjamin: Tralala is the equivalent of wearing good jewellery or a very good outfit; it never overtakes you, it lets you know it’s with you but that you’re in charge. It’s a personal experience.
Edward: I’m afraid to use dreadfully boring clichés when describing how Tralala makes me feel, but glamorous and velvety
Matt: How does Tralala translate the world of Meadham Kirchhoff into scent?
Benjamin: It is a personal scent, people should wear what they feel and dress for themselves not to attract or to fit in., it’s intense and intimate but it is not created for the pleasure of others it is for the wearer alone.
Matt: What textures, colours, fabrics or materials does Tralala suggest to you?
Benjamin: Tralala is velvet, fur and satin in red and violet.
Edward: I always wanted Tralala to translate into smell the look and texture of red velvet, heavy, soft, warm, dusty and smoky.
Matt: What does fragrance mean to you?
Benjamin: Fragrance is the beginning and the end of putting myself together.
Edward: Perfume is as important an element of an outfit as shoes or underwear, it is impossible to be dressed without it.
Matt: How would you describe the worlds of both Meadham Kirchhoff and Penhaligon’s?
Benjamin: Uncompromising, autonomous and honest.