What's it like to work at ... AER Scents
Tell us about AER Scents and your role there
AER is an independent perfume house, based in Berlin. We hand blend and hand fill our perfumes ourselves. Our scents are unique and a bit odd. I would say they are all a bit “difficult"; we like to walk the line between beautiful and strange.
We make 100% natural scents – all our ingredients come directly from plants.
We’re a just year old now, but we’ve had some great successes, we’re stocked in 13 stores around the world including Corso Como and The Store x Soho House, we are now launching these two exciting new fragrances and we’re getting a bit of international notice, so things are going really well.I'm co-founder of the brand, and the Creative Director.
Being creative director, I take care of the “feel” of the brand.
I manage everything from the way the packaging looks, to how we talk about our scents, and even what our sourcing philosophy is and how we choose new suppliers.
We’ve created a brand that is super transparent and does things honestly and openly and with a focus on sustainability.
which means a lot of extra work, but I think ultimately also that we’ve created a brand with a lot of integrity. And that feels really good.
What does a normal day look like for you?
Our Atelier is above St. Oberholz at Rosenthaler Platz here in Berlin Mitte.
A part of my job is a desk job, doing the design and taking care of orders and invoicing. We meet with clients and press in the office a lot.
The room next door is our Perfume Lab, and there my business partner and AER’s Head of Perfume Stefan Kehl and our Lab Assistant Amber Richey spend the day mixing perfume and doing production.
I go in a lot to smell and discuss whatever they're developing and to help fill orders – we fill every bottle and apply every label by hand. We’re still a tiny company, so everyone does a bit of everything, and I really like that everything is more or less collaborative.
What’s been your career journey to date?
I started off Art Directing magazines at Condé Nast in New York. I worked for a while at Calvin Klein, then moved to London and worked permalance with The Partners for several years, before getting a job at Gucci under Tom Ford. When Tom left Gucci, I left as well and spent the next few years freelancing around London with Gabriele. I was the Head of Creative at Habitat.
After leaving Habitat, I founded a bicycle ride called The Tweed Run which also led to being Art Director for Brooks England for a bit. I sold The Tweed Run and moved to Berlin, and started AER.
I feel proud of my design career. There’s been a definite thread of valuing good, intelligent, concept-based design and strategy in all the companies I’ve worked with and it feels good to have been a part of these companies!
Do you have a favourite fragrance?
I like our new AER Accord No.05: White Pepper. The deep dry oakmossy pepper smell is very modern, but with a slight twist of old school barbershop, which I love. It’s a very contemporary scent.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Graphic Design is, really, the only job I’ve ever done. I’ve never been workshy, and I’ve spent my entire career working incredibly long hours making a lot of money for a lot of different companies.
What I like the most now is that the hard work that I put in is helping to grow my own company.
Stefan and I can make decisions that we feel are right for ourselves and for the company, and not have to answer to a detached boss or a Board of Directors. It’s a lot more pressure, but it’s also much more freeing.
What’s your design style?
Crisp, clean, precise… but then I like to play with contrasts and trying to find the beauty in ugliness.
Yohji Yamamoto once said "I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.” and I think that sums up my aesthetic very succinctly.
What has founding AER Scents taught you?
Sooooo much. Firstly, it’s taught me to use my sense of smell. We don’t, as humans, rely on our smell very much anymore and so most people haven’t honed theirs very well. I think my sense of smell is about ten times stronger since I started working with perfume.
Coming from fashion, I always learned that everything (EVERYTHING) has to be perfect perfect perfect, but when I was freelancing for a start-up in Los Angeles, they never worried about making things perfect.
I now follow the Japanese idea of Kaizen when i work… constant improvement.
Simply make things as good as you can in, with the resources you have, and then improve things when you have more time, experience, resources and knowledge.
It’s how we try to work at AER now. We aim to do the best we can do right now. It’s let us be so much more productive and do so much more than if we were always obsessed with absolute perfection. To be honest, it’s a new way of working for me. But I find that I really like it.
And I’d say I also have learned that you’re never really ready to do your own business.
The time is never right to start a business, you never have enough knowledge, you’ve never prepared enough, you never have enough money or resources.
So you just have to do it. If you want to do it, just do it. Nobody else is ever going to make your dreams come true if you don’t.