Little known fact: A growing number of restaurants, shops and hotels pump scents into the air as a way to fully immerse guests into the experience. WestHouse selected leading olfactory company 12.29 to custom-design its scent based on the hotel’s character. We spoke with the 12.29’s scent director Dawn Goldworm (pictured above left, with her sister Samantha Goldworm, who handles 12.29’s business side) to learn more about the process.
WestHouse: How did you get into this line of work? Have you always had a sensitive sense of smell?
Dawn Goldworm: I interned at Avon when I was a studying Art History and Business at NYU. I got on well with the fragrance director, who sent me to a perfumer school to get tested. Surprisingly, I tested really well! He told me he’d train me in perfumery, but I wasn’t sure I was interested. (I’d thought I’d work in fashion.) I said yes, though, trained for eight years and fell in love.
And you worked with Avon that whole time?
Yes, and then Coty Beauty in New York and Paris before I left to create 12.29.
You’ve helped celebrities create their fragrances. Who are some recent favorites?
I worked with Heidi Klum, and my last celebrity collaboration was Lady Gaga.
How was the inspiration for their scents different?
Heidi was all about her image—what she represents when she models, and when she does her different jobs; Lady Gaga was focused on her music: the shape of her music, the hook.
How do you go about turning that inspiration into a scent? Can you take us through the process?
I bring every client through the same proprietary creative process, where I take all the pieces—colors, texture, music, who they’re talking to, the emotion. I take it all and, with my understanding of global olfactic preference, I turn it into a scent.
So from a brand’s colors and texture, you can find a matching scent?
I have synesthesia, so I smell, hear and touch in color. I can see how it links because I know what I’d see if I smelled it. But it’s not subjective: If I give people a color board and a scent, they’ll match the scent to the same color, because scent and emotion live in the limbic part of the brain, and the one section that’s connected to scent is color. My synesthesia and training help me understand the reverse of that—taking the color and finding a scent.
How did that process look for WestHouse?
WestHouse is amber, dark, mysterious and smoky. It’s got that sexy old New York feeling that makes you want to have a cocktail and a romance. It’s a private hotel that you need a key to get in, so we needed to create a scent to match. The WestHouse fragrance, “Sanctuary,” uses warm spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, deep and smoky guaiac wood, a subtle hint of tobacco and amber resins.
Are people surprised to learn that what they are smelling has been specifically designed and pumped in?
Maybe, but I like to think of it as a seduction. Enjoy it! It seduces you like the music does.
What does New York smell like to you?
New York City smells like gasoline, peanuts, garbage, hotdogs, grass, horses and, in the summer...ice cream. The perfume of NYC is the best smell!!
Photo by Mark Squires courtesy of 12.29.