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Our sense of smell involves a process of communication between sensory organs, nerves and the brain. The olfactory system is responsible for this process.  

The architecture of the nose is fascinating. When you breathe in through the nostrils, the air travels to the olfactory epithelium (a type of tissue). This area holds many chemical receptors which detect odours. These receptors send messages to the olfactory bulbs. The message is then forwarded to the olfactory cortex of the brain. Once the information has been relayed, the olfactory cortex, which is a component of the limbic system (processing emotions and memory), organises the sensory information.

The system is so beautifully complex that scientists cannot fully grasp the way in which the receptor neurons process and distinguish between trillions of scents.

What we do know, is that the olfactory cortex communicates with other limbic system structures such as the amygdala and the hippocampus. The amygdala is involved in the formation of emotional responses and memories. The hippocampus helps regulate emotional responses. Therefore, the limbic system directly connects odour to emotion and memory. This is why specific smells can provoke emotions based on the memory they are connected to. Take peppermint as an example. One person may be reminded of a sipping on a Mojito in Fiji. Another might recoil at the memory of a heavy breathing smoker covering up their bad breath with peppermint chewing gum.

This information is exciting for perfumer designers and perfume wearers as it creates space for playful storytelling. At Perfume Playground we love experimenting with emotion and memory during the scent design process, adding a layer of depth to our fragrance.

Smell is an overlooked element of wellbeing. Scent impacts emotion. Use this knowledge to draw on your essential oil allies whenever you need a mood boost. We recommend lemon for its invigorating properties. Although, it is entirely subjective based on your scent associations!

What smells do you associate with positive memories?

Would you like to incorporate your ‘happy’ smells into a natural fragrance?

Have a go at our upcoming Perfume Playground workshops. You will sense the difference.

Upcoming Clubs

  • 10 November. Auckland. Auckland Art Gallery. Our seasonal series themed around Spring peppermint. 2.5 hours of sensory exploration with founder Samantha Copland. We cover more technical elements of hero botanicals and scent evolution. 

  • 15 November. Auckland. Studio One, Toi Tu. Classic Club. Fast-paced and playful

  • 22 November. Melbourne. Work Club Global. Classic Club. Fast-paced and playful 

  • 13 December. Auckland. Studio One. Toi Tu. Classic Club. Fast-paced and playful

“You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation” – Plato

At Perfume Playground we believe in the importance of ‘serious play.’ Whilst it may sound contradictory, what if we were to tell you that serious play enhances creativity, innovation and engagement.

Simply put, serious play is play with a purpose.

When was the last time you had a good play?

This means to apply an open minded, non-judgemental mindset whilst engaging in playful activities to complete a task or problem solve.

When Julie enters the Perfume Playground, she reclaims her creative freedom. She is free to roam, smell and take risks. We do not enforce strict guidelines or encourage a serious atmosphere, instead it’s all about providing a safe space for people to develop their own methods. When Julie engages with her intuition and imagination in this way, Julie produces a fragrance which tells a personal story. She explores the role of fragrance designer, without judgement.  

Working a high-profile job has Remi strung out and longing for playful release. She attends the Perfume Playground club to reconnect with joyful creativity. There is no pressure to be ‘perfect’ in this space, only to do what feels right. She realises at the Perfume Playground it’s about enjoying the process as well as the product. The emotional benefits of ‘letting go’ of inhibitions at our club, aids her on her spiritual journey.

Serious play appeals to Alex, due to the way he can translate what he experiences at the Perfume Playground into his innovative business practices. Drawing on the imagination, all senses and getting out of one’s analytical head creates a mental space from which great ideas bloom. Alex fosters his mind-body connection through playful experimentation when designing a natural fragrance. When a serious play approach is applied to his work, through modelling and sensory exploration he has noticed profound shifts in his creativity and the quality of his designs.

The concept has received increasing attention recently, due to its proven benefits in fostering engagement. When engaging in serious play, one is said to lose track of time and self-consciousness which creates a state of flow.

Join our club to incorporate serious play into your life! 

Upcoming Clubs:

  • 11 October. Auckland Our Classic Club, with the only rule being there are no rules.

  • 18 October. Melbourne. Work Club Global. Our Classic Club returns after a year long hiatus.

  • 10 November. Auckland Art Gallery. Our seasonal series themed around Spring and hero botanical Peppermint. 2 hours of sensory exploration with Samantha Copland

  • 22 November. Melbourne. Work Club Global. Our seasonal series, this time our hero botanical Rose is explored


With David Apel, a fragrance hero. Designer of Tom Ford, Black Orchid

In June, I was in Europe to discover the Future of Fragrance at the World Perfumery Congress in Nice, France. Here are 5 things I discovered on my trip to the heart of the industry.

  1. Handcrafted is the new luxury movement – having your own personal scent is a new subtle form of exclusivity.
  2. The new ‘it’ raw fragrance materials are Sustainable, Renewable and Natural ingredients. There’s a number of new beautiful complex materials to discover such as Oakwood, Geranium Bourbon, Lavandin Absolute, Pepper Sichuan Absolute CO2 extract, Four Corners, and Gnidia Flower.
  3. Fragrance & Flavour – Master Perfumer Jean Claude Ellena’s spontaneous conversation about the diversity of peppers with top chef Olivier Roellinger’s led to him to distill Timut Pepper oil. This era of experimentation and collaboration will lead the next generation of designers from flower to fragrance, seed to scent, plant to perfume etc.
  4. The Aura of Aroma – seemingly superstitious during attempts to fight the plague in 1347 it was incredible to learn how how Carlos Benaim (IFF) and others have been applying the work of Dr. Broja Mookerjee, studying the aura of aroma and perfume construction to create fragrance with memorable sillage (a scent trail that lasts and is recognisable). In terms of techniques, advances in the understanding of scent perception as well as the development of non-linear modeling methods (AI), may allow us to better predict fragrance behaviour (impact, diffusion, tenacity, volume). We just hope science doesn’t take the mystery away from the alchemy of fragrance design.
  5. Macro-cultural trends influence global olfactory experiences. Interesting shifts, desires and scent remedies that show how scent can play a part in wellbeing and healing the mind-body at a collective level.
Definitive Shift Corresponding Desire Scent Remedy
Terrorist Attacks Comfort and Familiarity Vanilla / Gourmand
Communication proliferation (smart phones) Boundaries and Mindfulness Lavender
Political upsets Reassurance & Authentic sweetness Manuka Honey
Human right victories Individuality and cultural exposure Yuzu, Ginger, Tumeric
Crises and scandals Transparency & Purity White Strawberry
Non Toxicity (J&J Baby powder) Safety & Tried and True Ginger, Lemongrass, Lavender, Rose

The trip convinced me that Australasia has an opportunity to contribute to the world of perfumery. With a growing Asian market, we are perfectly positioned to innovate simply in brand and formulation, in addition to reducing impact on the environment. With our progressive stance to gender equality we can set the tone for empowerment and become leaders in an accelerating premium unisex fragrance market. Finally, we’re young in terms of our cultivation and supply of native botanicals with therapeutic value.

As a New Zealand startup, Perfume Playground is excited to be living the trends talked about on the international stage. Both ethical and empowering, with a focus on Naturals we interpret your brands essence using Scent, Soul and Science into fragrance that invigorates your retail store, home or body with wellbeing. If you’d like to give a gift to yourself or a loved one you can take your opportunity to build a Natural Fragrance yourself at our Sensory Clubs held in Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne and Sydney.

The Smellarium: Interview with Ping Ang

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.