Memo is a discreet and luxurious brand, a word of mouth success, the scents suggested carefully to like-minded connoisseurs, skin savoured in pleasured appreciation. There is something rarified and apart about the alluring strangeness of the oeuvre. The fragrances feel expensive, finished, honed and polished, notes open like choral mouths, rolling and blossoming across welcome skin.
I have loved the brand quietly for years, wearing Siwa constantly and sometimes the heady holographic charms of Lalibela. Siwa’s plasticky warm blend of cereals, whiskey lactones, cinnamon leaf, popcorn, narcissus and vanilla wears like silicone on my skin. I smell like an replicant. I loved it from the very first moment I tried it and have never tired of its alien melted beauty. Lalibela is another one of my obsessive rose scents. It takes it name from Lalibela, a sacred place in Ethiopia where it is said angels came down to build twelve churches, all hewn from solid rock. The fragrance reeks of transcendental rose, joyous and fevered. Orchid and jasmine hold to the skin white-hot intensity as the rose seems to smoulder, ably abetted by really rich labdanum, tobacco, vanilla and frankincense notes. Everything smells offered up, sacrificial and sacred.
Memo (short for memory)is Clara and John Molloy. He is Irish, raised around horses in Tipperary, she is Andalusian, but raised in Paris. They are based now in Geneva after many years in Paris. They met apparently on a ski lift, suspended between earth and sky. I like this image of love blossoming mid-air, rootless, under a nurturing vault of blue.
John Molloy is the businessman, with a background at LVMH and L’Oréal. Beautiful Clara is the dreamer, explorer and creative director. In the 90’s she worked in editing and the world of magazine supplements and then in 2007 decided to write a book entitled 22 Perfumers where she interviewed many of the worlds most influential noses. This infected her with the perfume bug. So together with talented IFF nose Aliénor Massenet, one of the 22 perfumers, globe-trotting Clara set out to create a unique body of olfactive work inspired by her journeys. As the motto of the brand says… ‘The journey is the destination’. This is something many perfume noses forget in their scramble for our dollar; the inherent joy in travelling with a scent, living the notes, seeing places, smelling trees, mountains, rivers, feeling the sun and rain on skin, sand and snow underfoot.
The fragrances romance and distill experience. There is subtlety and beauty expressed in formulae of great tenderness and complexity. Each of the Memo fragrances is a reflection of a specific place and Clara’s reaction to it, filtered through the persuasive perfumed lens of Massenet. Clara uses scrapbooks as she travels to record her thoughts and experiences, noting sensations and emotions linked to places. It was this attention to traveling detail that first attracted me to Memo fragrances. I had read an article in a French magazine about the creation of Siwa, the scent-sation of an oasis night, described by Clara Molloy as feeling like a sort of cover, fur, something comforting. And it’s true I wear to to bed or when I am sad, it cradles me.
This fascinated me, this attempt to translate an emotional response to a time and place into notes, facets and accords. It is very hard to do with any degree of grace and harmony. Fragrances of this ilk are often sledgehammer subtle, deliberately using dull unimaginative scent, spice, floral combinations to suggest building blocks not the overall picture. What Clara Molloy and Aliénor Massenet have done is provide a series of poignantly charged scentscapes that allows us to see the world through olfactory constructs and personal vision.