For Prachi Saini Garg, what began as a hobby grew into a passion and profession. As an Olfactory Artist, she has created a symposium of scents, undertaken unique sensory installations, and recaptured smells that reflect Singapore’s environment and history through the ages.
Mastering the art of perfumery wasn’t easy for Prachi. A year and a half of continuous trial and error, setbacks and self-doubt were part of the process to making her first bottle of perfume that smelled “right”.
This led to the start of Je t’aime Perfumery, where she conducts perfume-making workshops for friends and families to explore the sense of smell, enjoy the company of each other and at the same time, create a special souvenir to bring home.
“Sometimes, by pushing the boundaries, you don’t necessarily create a beautiful smell. But, I am not scared to do that.”
On why she identifies herself as an Olfactory Artist instead of a perfumer, she defines perfumers as brilliant craftsmen who create scents that people can enjoy.
In contrast, Olfactory Artists like herself don’t just create scents, but also smells. These may not always smell good; their function is to connect with the audience emotionally and challenge their sensory perception rather than to only evoke a pleasant feeling.
As part of a museum exhibition to feature the different chapters of Singapore’s history, Prachi took the art of perfume-making to the next dimension – by recreating smells such as the earthy notes of the Singapore stone that rested in the Singapore River more than two centuries ago.
While being commissioned, one of her proudest artistic creations involved recreating the horrifying stench in a prison cell during the Japanese Second World War in the 1940s. On finding the ingredients to replicate the smell, she recalls its difficulty because the essences of sweat, fear and torture have no commercial value.
“It was a very unique experience trying to recreate that smell. I had to imagine myself being in prison.”
In 2016, she founded her retail line, Singapore Memories, so that tourists can bring home a piece of Singapore. Over the years, locals have also started enjoying signature scents such as the Vanda 1981 (Femme), which carries notes of the Vanda Miss Joaquim, one of the most famous orchids of Singapore.
To Prachi, flowers are the heart and soul of a perfume. Most of her products use locally-sourced ingredients such as the orchid, Singapore’s national flower. With more than 226 native orchids to work with, her perfumes are created from a unique, beautiful palette of fragrances.
Before Prachi blends a perfume, she studies her customer base to understand their personality traits and preferences. Each scent is made from a combination of essential oils, differentiating them from store-bought perfumes that are often chemical-based.
To Prachi, one of the most rewarding moments as an Olfactory Artist is when she sees the smiles and reactions of her students when they smell their creations. With that, Prachi hopes to recreate similar workshops in neighbouring countries to spread the joy and knowledge of perfume-making.