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Stephen Burlingham: Scents and Sensibility

What’s green, sensuous and exudes an intoxicating scent? It’s Truly Madly Deeply, the new fragrance from artisan Stephen Burlingham. Almost jewel-like in quality, the parfum spray is like a found treasure. And because Burlingham’s grandfather was Louis Comfort Tiffany, exquisite taste runs in the family. I recently caught up with him, in from Paris, at Kimberly Schlegel Whitman’s breakfast in his honor at the Mansion in Dallas. Call it breakfast with a Tiffany. But call it enlightening, as he explains the method to his scents ability.

Lance Avery Morgan: Creating a fragrance is difficult. Was this something you always wanted to accomplish?

Stephen Burlingham: It’s been a lifelong dream to create something precious, alluring and enduring. Something that would touch and remain close to someone’s heart and would answer the question, ‘how do you want to be loved?’

LAM: Everyone loves to be loved. Will your scent create that fiery spark for others?

SB: When I was first asked to create this, I really shied away from it because I thought the world didn’t need another fragrance. Most fragrances pushed me away from a woman rather than draw me toward them. So, I developed something that would attract me personally.

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LAM: How would you describe the woman who dons your perfume?

SB: She is pure and full of innocence. And yet very alluring. The suggestion underneath is that fragrance still has to be powerful. To me, it’s really a clean scent.

LAM: It is clean. And fresh. I understand it’s a combination of strands of hyacinth, jasmine and peach with bottom notes of woodland musk. I have to say, it’s a quite memorable fragrance. What inspired your creative vision?

SB: My origins are also as a fine artist. While I was living in New York, I was asked by a fashion photographer pal to style his fashion shots, as well as to work a still life photographer. I’m interested in product creation and the imagery around it.

LAM: There’s a real imagery in the bottle, too. It’s like holding an emerald freshly mined from Columbia. So, the bottles are works of art in themselves. But you’re a sculptor, so I’d expect nothing less.

SBL Thanks so much. I do sculpt, so I am trained in that, too. When it came to the development of the bottle, I worked with a glass company in France to develop some prototypes. They’re the same people who created the Chanel bottles. Because I also work with jewelry and faceted gemstones, which I incorporated into the design, you see a reflected quality of the bottle with the light. I wanted to create something seductive you could hold in your hand and that also has a gem-like quality.

LAM: How does your work complement that of your great grandfather’s, Louis Comfort Tiffany?

SB: It’s not so much his design point of view, but his pursuit of beauty, quality and excellence.

LAM: Your life seems to be an ongoing quest for beauty. How does truly madly deeply fulfill that?

SB: It is. There are different elements to beauty – the visual, the person’s nature and their character, What I like about fragrance is that it is an aspect to beauty that is invisible. Like clothing, it became a part of someone’s personality. With Truly Madly Deeply, the scent mingles with the wearers own natural scent.

LAM: Do you feel women you have a signature scent? Every time I smell Estee Lauder Youth Dew, I always think of my very stylish grandmother.

SB: I do think women should have a signature scent. It becomes a part of anything she wears. There are aspects of clothing that defines us and a fragrance does the same thing. Fragrance is not something to discard if something new comes along. Particularly if it produces the response aspects that a woman wants it to…you know what I mean…the desired goal is to be romantically alluring.

LAM: Speaking of a deeper context, your grandmother was in Sigmund Frued’s circle of friends, I understand.

SB: Yes, my grandmother was Louis Comfort Tiffany’s youngest daughter was my grandmother. She was a student of Freud and grew up in that circle in Vienna and London. Her search for the internal…self knowledge is something I appreciate and practice. With this fragrance, I wanted to combine the external visual beauty with the internal beauty.

LAM: And there’s a subtle connection between the colors of the perfumes and their names. Was this your intention?

SB: I work in total honesty in materials. The fragrance’s bottle is naturally golden. And glass is a metallic elements to make the gemstone colored. Like my vision for the fragrance, it’s about complete honesty.

LAM: Truly Madly Deeply is a beautiful name. Your inspiration?

SN: The origin came from a translated work by Pavra Naruda. It was used in a film of the same title, too. It was a very personal moment in my life that it came to be – through Zen meditation out of the air came the words Truly Madly Deeply.

LAM: Where can we acquire your fragrance?

SB: We’re at Neiman Marcus in Texas, Barneys and Takashimaya in NY. And we’re also at Harrod’s and Selfridge’s in London.

LAM: For our male readers, is there a men’s fragrance on the horizon?

SB: It’s on the drawing board. It will be just a whisper of fragrance. Perfect for any man.