Rami Mekdachi has worked as a perfumer for over twenty years, collaborating with some of the world’s best known brands, such as L’Oréal, Colette, Lacoste and Chloé. And now, he’s created his own high-concept brand, Lola James Harper, bringing together his passion for music, film, design and fragrance with his friends and family. Millie Walton speaks to the Frenchman about curing perfectionism, capturing memories and bringing creativity to the hospitality industry.
LUX: When did you decide to master perfumery?
Rami Mekdachi: I never decided really. Encounters and opportunities make things happen in our lives. In 1996 I met Catherine Raiser, Head of CCB/L’Oréal. We decided to work together and I joined as a Perfume Developer. That same year, I met Pierre Bourdon and Benoist Lapouza, two amazing perfumers, and now two friends. That’s when I realised how grand the perfume world is. How playing with scents, images, poetry, myth and design can be powerful and generous. How wide and touching it can be…
LUX: Do you have a favourite scent?
RM: I have so many!
LUX: Have you ever struggled to capture a certain smell?
RM: Anything I do, I do it for the term. I do not struggle, I just take my time. I have 100 projects going on at the same time. I am way too much of a perfectionist and when I was 20 years old, I spent too much time on little things, struggling to get what I wanted and trying to get it as fast as possible. Now I have found the cure: 100 projects at a time, no time to lose, when it comes, it comes, when it does not come I change the project. My days are super diverse, every two hours I change fields and projects. That is my cure to perfectionism.
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LUX: You’ve had a very successful career as a perfumer, what led you to create Lola James Harper?
RM: For twenty five years, I have been playing music with great singers around the world and I would take pictures for music and travel magazines. Music and photography were in my blood even before perfume. My work as a perfumer was inspired by those experiences. I was lucky enough to have the chance to work with great people and big brands: Colette, Ines de le Fressange, Costes, Lacoste, Chloé, Roger Vivier, Dinh Van. Lola James Harper was a way to gather all the people I love and the three fields I enjoy: music, photography and perfumery.
LUX: Is there a central concept that ties all of your products together?
RM: Good and touching memories of places and people we love, generous and elevating mind sets.
LUX: The names of your candles suggest that their scent evokes a particular memory for their creator. Is it important that the customer realises the story behind the scent or is it more for the purpose of your inspiration?
RM: The point of it all is to share a life and moments that could be touching and evocative for everyone, to transport and make everyone dream. We are all dreaming machines. With Lola James Harper pictures, movies, music and fragrances I want to give to everyone the opportunity to feel free to dream and to do it.
LUX: How does your experience in perfumery inform your other creative pursuits? Music and film, for example?
RM: In music, film and perfumery, I have to compose ingredients together to create a new evocative world. In music I mix sounds, in perfume I mix fragrance notes, in film I mix pictures, motion pictures and sounds. Music helped me to get into the perfume field much faster in 1996, then working with amazing perfumers helped me to enhance my comprehension of a sound mix. Trying to imagine what a fragrance note evokes to people, what colour, what mind set, just opened my consciousness to what immaterial things provoke in our apprehension of the world and gave me so many clues about how to edit pictures, sounds and colours in a film. Life is a huge place to learn and now I know that when I am looking for any answer it always lies somewhere else.
LUX: What’s the most difficult part of your job?
Rami Mekdachi: The logistic and legal part of it! Legislation shifts so often in the perfume world that we have to change our fragrance composition and stickers every year.
LUX: Where do you go to escape?
RM: The basket-ball court with my son. Movie theatres with my daughter. Walking the town, any town, with my wife, son and daughter. Road tripping the world, renting a car with my family and cruising for days. And when I want to be alone, I like to go to any good coffee shop with good music and tasteful coffee where I know no one.
LUX: What lies ahead for Lola James Harper?
RM: Lola James Harper is a magical project. It gathers my family and all my friends and my encounters for over two decades. It brings together my three fields, music, photo and perfumery. I love to see people passing by our places and just feeling happy looking at our pictures, listening to our music and testing our fragrance memories. I am really proud to have achieved all that in one successful project.
Now we are working on opening full Lola James Harper destinations, hotels! Hotels with basketball courts, music studios, TV basements, vinyl shops, coffee shops, full of travel and music pictures, full of good fragrances and our way of life. This should happen in 2018. And just for now, we are finalising our first movie, 85 minutes about the last two decades, globe-trotting the world, discovering music, pictures, friendship and family.