Behind the Scenes: G Clef and Flame & Fortune
The launch of the S.BAKER Collection is doubly special. Not only is it the house’s fully fledged second line, but it also marks Creative Director Sarah Baker’s debut as a nose for the house she founded.
Sarah has taken a break from the frenzy of activity involved in launching a new line to talk about the inspirations and stories behind her two new fragrances for the collection.
“G Clef is a jazz-inspired fragrance with its feel-good vibes. It's that feeling you get when everyone is home in the evening, and suddenly you hear the opening xylophone of the Modern Jazz Quartet on their album Pyramid. It's time to unwind. I grew up listening to lots of jazz because my father was a jazz enthusiast, and some of it —not all of it, but some of it— just puts me in a state of mind that is happy, feel-good and relaxed. In the house I grew up in, there was jazz playing pretty much every single day.
Sarah says this about G Clef’s inspirations: “Its freshness reminds me of a sunny day driving through wine country or to a jazz festival. You could be in the South of France —Mediterranean vibes— or you could be in Northern California, where my parents live. We used to go to lots of live jazz shows at the clubs around San Francisco like Yoshi’s in Oakland where we saw Oscar Peterson, or Bimbos where we saw Keely Smith. We saw a lot of live jazz. It was a really big thing for my parents and they made sure that we understood the benefits: it makes you feel good and it’s enlightening; it elevates your mind and spirits. I think fragrance does that too and that’s what I was working towards with G Clef.
“G Clef is actually based on a fragrance called McEvoy I originally made for my father. It was a birthday present for him. My partner Andy designed a bottle holder that was shaped like a boat and it rocks back and forth. It's made out of wood and has a little music box, so when you lift the bottle out of the wooden boat, the music box plays the song Beyond the Sea.
“McEvoy was the first fragrance I made, actually. I made it in a workshop at Sarah McCartney’s and I loaded a bunch of really happy ingredients, using my instincts in terms of balance and composition.
In the light of G Clef being one of the first fragrances she is releasing as a nose, Sarah explains: “After high school you spend five or six years studying before you feel you have the right to call yourself a professional artist. So maybe that subconsciously influenced me because I realise that I was training and learning the craft of perfumery for pretty much exactly the same period of time before I felt ready to release my own fragrances.
“As an artist I have often shifted from one medium to another over the years. So, while perfumery is relatively new territory for me, I’m accustomed to relying on common sense and instinct to create my work. But with perfumery, it is an exact science that relies heavily on math.
“My early mistake as a perfumer was that I wasn’t taking adequate notes. I mean, you can use artistic instinct, that’s all good, but instinct is completely useless when it comes to expanding a formula. So, when I returned to McEvoy years later—I knew I wanted the DNA of the fragrance I made for obvious personal reasons—I had to rebuild it from scratch; to revisit each of the ingredients afresh. And the result is G Clef.
“Because of lockdown, I’ve been taking online perfume classes with the Institute for Art and Olfaction. They offer a huge range of classes from perfume 101 for beginners to the more advanced accords classes with Ashley Eden Kessler, the perfumer behind three of our fragrances: Bascule, Greek Keys and Leopard. I highly recommend these classes for anyone who is serious about being a perfumer. And, in a way, it’s more educational than going to a workshop because you have to source all the ingredients and make all your own dilutions.”
About her other fragrance in the S.BAKER Collection, Sarah went on to say: “Flame & Fortune is a recent creation that I approached in a way that’s a lot closer to my working practice as an artist. I often use narrative structures to make my art works; stories, films, soap operas.
“So, I started out with a story to create Flame & Fortune. It’s inspired by a narrative where there are characters playing out a comic tragedy in a soap opera-style drama. The main character, called
May-Belle Lean, is back-country hillbilly from the desert in Utah who fanangled her way to being CEO of a mega international beauty brand. She’s a money-hungry entrepreneur who attempts to get her hands on this thought-to-be-extinct flower, fabled to possess the power of eternal youth. She has even gone so far as to marry a cattle tycoon in Mexico, where the mythical flower actually exists, stepping over many people on her way up. In the end, the dry landscape is set ablaze, destroying these very precious flowers, essentially making them extinct.
“I let the narrative points and imaginary characters guide my decisions in the choice of ingredients I used to create Flame & Fortune. I started with a blooming bouquet of white flowers. I wanted it to first be dry, fiery, and strong: like a shot of tequila in the hot desert sun. But it had to be luscious and gorgeous too, so I included a delicious, naturally juicy accord to balance out the dryness for the eau de parfum. In terms of the narrative, I would love to see this work come to life.”