In a world of OTT everything, exuding restraint is sometimes an impossible art. But Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, the highly creative, often elusive design duo behind cult fashion labels such as The Row and Elizabeth and James, manage to make it look easy and extremely chic—from their invisible presence on social media to the way they select fragrance notes. Their first fragrance duo, Nirvana (in Black and White), was considered a smash success. Two unique juices with addictive, unisex characteristics stood out in a saturated category. And last year’s follow up—Nirvana Rose and Nirvana Bourbon—was applauded once again. So it comes as a delightful surprise to explore the newest twinset to the Nirvana roster, Amethyst and French Grey (which just launched at Sephora yesterday). Amethyst is a warm mix of honeysuckle, spicy cedarwood and rich tobacco, while French Grey skews more floral with an emphasis on lavendar, neroli and musk.
Scent is so connected to memory–what were some of your most coveted scents growing up?
Mary-Kate: I’m drawn to rich sandalwood, tobacco, different musks and soft florals.
Ashley: I’ve always been attracted to rose and sandalwood.
What considerations do you have in mind when conceiving a new scent?
Ashley: The original development process for Nirvana Black and Nirvana White allowed us to establish a palette of notes we responded to. Our partners set aside our favourites and we revisit those as we develop new scents.
Mary-Kate: For every scent, we challenge the perfumers to keep the notes simple and true to the raw ingredients.
What’s your take on switching up your fragrance for fall and winter? Is it necessary?
Mary-Kate: I change my fragrance depending on my mood. It’s nice to switch it up.
What’s your favourite place to mine for inspiration?
Ashley: We have a deep love of vintage. There is sense of nostalgia with vintage clothing and accessories.
Mary-Kate: Inspiration isn’t always tangible. Sometimes it’s a feeling or a mood.
How is fragrance best smelled—should you overpower a room as soon as you enter, or is it something that should be experienced when they person is extra close to you?
Ashley: Your fragrance should never overpower a room. Less is more.
What is it about Amethyst and Grey that attract you?
Mary-Kate: Amethyst and French Grey continue to build upon the story of Nirvana as we further explore notes that Ashley and I are drawn to – dark and rich, light and floral.
What is the most difficult part about developing a fragrance?
Mary-Kate: The greatest challenge was not compromising the quality of the fragrance. Also, finding the perfect balance of the dry down.
If you weren’t designing clothing line or fragrance, what would you be doing?
Mary-Kate: We have never not worked so it will be interesting to explore that one day.
Ashley: Dedicating my time to keeping arts education in schools.
Elizabeth and James Amethyst and French Grey Eau de Parfum Spray ($138 for 100 mL) are available now at Sephora. Both juices are offered in a 30 mL ($82), 50 mL ($107) and a 10mL Rollerball ($35) format.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter