What first got you interested in perfumes?
Simon: I can't think of anything else. It was a different use of creativity after coming out of art college. That's what I think. That's the official line. I like perfumery because it demands a bit more discipline than other types of creativity; it's a different way of looking at things.
Mark: Jeffrey, my perfumer, disappearing from the team and me not being able to sort out any of that outside... Afterwards, I thought I could have been doing it the whole time! It's like instructing a dog - sometimes they might behave, sometimes they might not.
Simon: I was compounding for a few years and I think that was one of the best ways to learn.
Mark: I used to make up all the perfumes for us and then for LUSH.
Simon: It's really good training to help you understand about perfume and how it is put together, even if they were only pretty simple perfumes. Then I got more interested in the quality of the materials, especially when I found out that some of them might be adulterated.
Mark: That's when it actually started to become more real. The sheer grind of going through all that to get the materials sorted - that, I suppose, really developed our abilities as perfumers.
Simon: Then it got so interesting that I ended up exploring new perfumes and the quality of the ingredients.
What is it like to try to buy raw materials that are as ethically sourced as possible, and how does that fit with your animal testing policy?
Simon: We're lucky because we've decided to use a lot of natural raw materials and we can afford to do so because we've made environmental decisions on packaging, which means we don't have to worry so much about the cost of the essential oils. We're trying to get things as directly as possible and work with people, farmers and suppliers directly in that country. After that, it's just really looking at the ethics of that and looking at where the material has been produced and how you build up a relationship with your supplier just so you can talk to them about environmental issues, child labour and all of those things.
Mark: I think the interesting thing for you is that by going out and visiting all these places, you're getting an education that most perfumers will never get. Simon: Yeah, I definitely feel quite privileged in that regard. These suppliers will say to you - when we were in Egypt, the guys were saying that they used to have people from Guerlain come and visit the plantations and smell the jasmine to ensure the quality was really good and now they don't get that anymore. They don't get perfumers out in the field; they don't even get buyers out in the field. So yeah, we're quite lucky in that we can still do that - almost keeping that little flame alive.
This is an excerpt from an interview with Mark and Simon Constantine, first published at Basenotes.