The Smellarium: An Introduction to Olfactory Architecture – Interview with Ping Ang

What made you interested in smells and perfumery?
The women I admired first, my mother and Nanna. My Nanna used to wear Red Door by Elizabeth Arden and my mum introduced me to Anais Anais, both of these perfumes are rich, elegant florals. I loved the way scent transformed my mum's mood before she'd go out for the evening. When I was in my teens I studied chemistry and was always drawn to pharmacies to smell the perfumes on the way home. My mum also bought me a number of my earliest perfumes as presents e.g. Sunflowers, Davidoff Cool Water, Clinique Happy, Tommy Girl, Kenso Flower, CK One. My first job was at CS Company, the largest distributor of cosmetics and fragrance (acquired by Trilogy International Group 2015). I worked in the Prestige Fragrance division and was exposed to campaigns of global luxury brands so was surrounded by perfume all day long; it's been a love affair ever since. However now I'm obsessed with the natural world. I no longer use synthetic fragrance, preferring to understand where ingredients come from and the ritual of applying scent more often.

How do you feel about smell and the way people interact with it?
I'm constantly seduced and challenged by how things smell. I often begin my interactions through smell. I feel there is a movement towards exploring our sense of smell and experimentation as a society more than ever before. Smell can function as a warning, for pleasure and has so many meanings to people, to memories and endless possibilities.

Is there enough interaction with scent from people? (please elaborate on why you think there is or isn't)
I think the movement is here now and am so excited that people are interested and want to learn more and play with smell. The Perfume Playground is set up for people to have fun and is a very approachable platform for people who're new to the world of smell or people who're real scent lovers, such as wine connoisseurs and coffee baristas. I hope through the work we're doing with the Auckland Art Gallery and Lululemon internationally, that we can connect art, science and the natural world together more.

Do you believe there is a benefit in perfume or smell for human experience or wellbeing? (if so why)
yes, I believe there is a strong connection. We come into the world as babies and before we see our sense of smell is at work, breathing, the start of life. We're constantly taking in information about our surroundings through our nose and I believe we can alter our state using smell purposefully.

How do you feel you used scent to affect people's experiences and is this important to you? (if so why)

It's easier to explain my work through the words of my clients.

"OMG the fragrance, I feel like I am home every time I roll it on. I am not one to wear perfume daily (really not at all really except special occasions) but everyday I need to roll my perfume on. I feel a sense of energy but also calmness and it just feels right. I absolutely love love love it. Its a bit like a fix for me to put it on, I actually need it!!
Even my hubby who worked in perfumery in London for a while really liked it and he had a nose for smells :-)" Christina Leon, Reveal Yourself

"Thank goodness for my absolutely beautiful perfume. I wear it every day and every time I put it on I breathe deeply and feel alive, empowered, and sexy! I am actually attracted to my own scent, haha. My husband loves it too so that’s another win." Tui Flemming, Dear Mummy

I’m absolutely loving my perfume. It calms me as soon as I smell it. I’m always drawn to put it on my throat charka and wrists. When I wear it to bed, I sleep peacefully. Tracy Manu, Blossom

Life means something when you get notes above about your art.

Do you believe in such things as good smells or bad smells?
I appreciate all materials for what they are. You might hear me say something is aromatic, but I usually avoid the good/ bad conversation. I lean towards everything having purpose even if it's a warning function to leave the room!

Could you give me an instance or memory that you have tied to a specific smell and place, building or location?
I find the art of flavour and food hard to separate, so will say the intoxicating smell of simmering mince, garlic, onion and tomatoes reminds me of the warmth of family dinner when we were younger. Nowadays, this smell has been replaced by the musty yet fresh combination of 'pink fish' (coined by my nephews, Max and Archie) and soy-sauce. However, if we need to tie to a place, building or location I believe everyone relates to the smell of melting butter on popcorn at the movies!

From your experience in Perfume Playground, is there a specific demographic or occupation of people that attend your workshops or ask for a custom scent? (if so, who and why do you think that is?)
Smell is like music and food, it's universal, so this means we get a diverse range of people coming along for custom-made perfumes and our olfactory workshops. Most of our workshop guests like to explore the unknown, design, create and celebrate their individual style. It's a great way to have fun, forget about rules, connecting to yourself and others.
For our custom work, we specifically work with people who want to reduce the toxic load on their bodies, co-design a perfume for managing new levels of productivity and efficiency, rest and stress; essentially using scent as a new medium to enhance their wellbeing. We find people discover, experience, remember, understand and act differently through exploring their sense of smell combined with technology.

(I noticed in my workshop there were 6 of us who had background in architecture and was curious as to why and if this happened often?) Perhaps FB algorithm ?!

Lastly, is there anything you wanted to comment about perfume or scent and the significance of it within human lives?
Keep on smelling and interacting with it. We don't know where the technological advances that are blurring the lines of reality with virtual and augmented worlds, so enjoy the moment, smell and breathe in what's going around you now. Through exploring more of your senses you make more sense of your world.

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