Sarah Horowitz-Thran on Wake Up, Angel and the evolution of an indie brand.

Wake Up, Angel is the fourth fragrance in the SHP Evolution Collection, and most definitely another signature sexy skin scent from the genre-defining Sarah Horowitz Parfums. With a burst of green out of the bottle, the opening blend include tart citrus, pink pepper and juniper, before the fragrance floats on in a weightless cloud of powdery musk, vanilla and cashmere woods. 

It's with great joy that we bring you a quick check-in with the wonderful perfumer Sarah Horowitz Thran, who tells us more about Wake Up, Angel and the evolution of one of the original indie brands...

Q. The name Wake Up, Angel feels very personal, and could be interpreted in different ways — a cozy morning whisper to a loved one or an urgent appeal to the same. What's the story behind the name (if you care to share)?

A. It is very personal, and a pretty funny story, looking back....  When I was in college, I had two jobs when not in class — during the day, I worked at Essence, the blending bar I ended up purchasing with Dawn Spencer-Hurwitz when we graduated.  The other was at the Hub Club, a nightclub in Boston, as a dancer. 

It was also a time of deep spiritual discovery, and I had been reading a lot of New Age books  — Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain, Going Within by Shirley McClain, The Artist Way — and was reading a lot about our inner angels (keep in mind it was the early 90's).  I went to a few retreats with a teacher named Solara who spoke on this in depth and met some amazing people there.   

I believed that fragrance could bring you into the moment, and that the present moment is where we truly live if we wake up to it (still do, although life is noisier in my 50's). I had a fragrance I always wore — my fragrance Origin Story is based on this.  It was a simple blend of patchouli, vanilla, musk and jasmine.  So, when I was dancing in the club, I would take a small bottle of oil with me, and scream into the music filled room "WAKE UP, ANGELS!" as I threw little drops of oil into the dancing crowd. 

Did anyone hear me over the bass-line of Rob Base and DJ-EZ?  Maybe not, but I like to think someone did:-)  To this day, I think about this when I find myself getting pulled into the crazy of the world, and I think, wake up, Angel.  It is that moment to remember that there is more happening than just what we see. 

Q. How does the fragrance composition represent the story?   

A. I wanted this fragrance to be a wake-up call to remember ourselves, and used notes like Italian bergamot, sicilian lemon and pink pepper that would evoke a bright, invigorating start, and then some of my signature notes, weaving a warm musk, vanilla patchouli accord to ground it. 

Q. From Perfect Veil to The Now and Wake Up, Angel, your expertise in creating easy-to-wear, sexy skin scents predates today's craze. How do you define a perfect skin scent? 

A. I love a fragrance that feels like it could be what you actually smell like, like somehow your skin just smells like that, as opposed to you wearing perfume.  I think that is why I am so drawn to the musk/vanilla/sandalwood accords that I tend to favor — they feel very sheer and erogenous at the same time.

Q. What's the core concept behind SHP Evolution, and do you already have new fragrances planned for the collection? If so, any hints? 

A. My first collection was the Perfect Perfumes, which launched almost by accident with Perfect Gardenia in 1996 because I was creating a custom fragrance in the store I worked in and the owner asked if they could put out a few bottles of "whatever you just made for that woman" as a client left. 

After that, it was followed by Perfect Veil, inspired by a dear friend, and the rest followed.  I was very young, and just figuring out what I wanted to say as a perfumer. My specialty and my heart belonged to creating custom fragrances, so when I created I always had a collaborator who was both the muse and the client. 

With Evolution, I want to tell more of my own story.  And I do have the next lined up, which I am so excited about — it will launch this year, for fall of 2024.  It is the story of my move across the country, and first coming into Los Angeles, and the rituals I created here.  As soon as I'm ready to share more,  Ministry will be among the first to know!

Q. How has Sarah Horowitz Parfums evolved in recent years? 

A. The biggest evolution is actually behind the scenes. We started filling and manufacturing for my private label clients, where years ago I was the perfumer, and they would sell under their own names. But in 2016, I was approached by a client I consulted for, but didn't design the fragrance for, to fill their product. 

They wanted to start with small MOQ's but hadn't found a contract manufacturer for fragrance who would fill a single SKU for under $1,000 - $2500 per scent. I figured we had all the tools, the alcohol license, and we're doing it for ourselves — why not?  We started doing small run contract manufacturing that year, and that piece of my business has out-paced every other aspect. 

I love working with other brands and offering a solution to bring their product to market without having to do huge runs.  Now, we run anywhere from 50 unis to 50,000 units depending on the client.  I love it in a way I never would have expected.

Q. You've also expanded your role as a teacher in the field. What has that experience been like, and what's the most important thing you've learned from your students? 

A. I absolutely LOVE teaching.  My students keep me current, they show me brands, technologies, marketing that I would never have heard of without them. And I absolutely love introducing them to fragrances that they would never have expected. 

When teaching at FIDM, I started every class by asking my students to tell me about one fragrance experience they had that week — good, bad or ugly.  Perfume related, food related, sometimes human-related smells... whatever brought them into the moment olfactively.  We heard the best stories that way, and it encouraged them to be aware of the fragrant world around them.

Q. As one of the very first independent perfumers to lead a niche fragrance brand, what do you look back on most fondly, and what do you still look forward to the most? 

A. I look back at my own chutzpah honestly — I have teenage daughters and one of them is actually turning 20 next month. I think of myself at 24, moving across the US with a tool box filled with oils, telling people in LA that I made fragrance through a session of conversation, meditation and experimentation, and now know why my parents were TERRIFIED. 

I think back on how when I talked about being a perfumer, people looked at me like I was insane, like I spoke another language.  And then, the world started opening up, and there were more of us, and I felt less alone in that way.  A community.  I look forward to all there is to come — new materials, new brands, new students... new opportunity. 

I am grateful, ever grateful, that I found this path so early on, and have been able to bear witness to the indie perfumer revolution, one that wouldn't exist without the support of purveyors like you.  

Thanks, Sarah, for all you do for our fragrant community!