May’s – ‘The Fragrance Issue’ – Download Now

Dan Terry, Founder of Oo La Lab in Alserkal Avenue shares how this bespoke olfactory experience was born.

Can you talk us through your career?

I’ve always had a sensitivity towards the senses and the power of human experience. However, my calling was to eventually tell beautiful stories. Discovered over fifteen years ago when I was living in Australia, I uncovered my potential through this immersive storytelling ability that fragrances imbued. I subsequently lived in Hong Kong and then Singapore, which helped to develop my personal taste further which has also matured to include an Asian sensibility. As a business owner, I have been involved in many roles over the years which include brand consulting, fragrance evaluation, product design and hands-on production. Overall, designing perfumes is a mix of art and time, which I have more of these days that I dedicate to the practice. While for most of it, I’m self-taught, I have learned from my partners and perfumer colleagues over the years to refine my approach. Through Oo La Lab and other brands inside our portfolio, we have imagined a newly evolved fragrance industry catering to empowered and sensorial consumers.

Oo La Lab

What inspired you to allow clients to create bespoke fragrances for themselves?

With a background in designing fragrances for global brands, I also had an understanding of the little olfactory education there is out there for the general public. In a world where mass marketing leads us to function in categories of relative sameness, I understood how empowering it could be to provide this, therefore allowing people to distinguish for themselves what their own preferences are. Hence, designing a fragrance for oneself is the ultimate journey into who we are as individuals, almost like a personal theme song that expresses the essence of our memories and emotions. 

What has been the biggest challenge since launching and how did you overcome it?

We want to empower individual expression, which is great but can be challenging when everyone around is so different. I don’t think we necessarily want to overcome this but we have turned to technology and a newly anticipated website to help us to cater to the long tail of perfume expression and built confidence in our community to experiment and discover. 

What is your personal favourite scent and which memories does it evoke?

Such a tough question! I would say wild jasmine, woodfires and fresh lawn x mower gas rate highly. They take me back to my childhood, to the great outdoors and to the freedom of lazy summer days.

Oo La Lab Dan Terry

Was sustainability set to be at the center of the brand’s DNA?

As a highly creative brand, we wanted to accurately reflect and comment on the world around us. I wasn’t in favour of greenwashing or using marketing jargon to promote our products. Over time, I’ve realised that the planet is in a dire state and each and every one of us has a role to play in fixing our mostly self-inflicted problems. As opposed to being a passive creative interpretation of the world, we as designers have a duty to imagine a better world. Whilst we only have ever used sustainable raw materials, we are looking at ways to reduce our footprint with regards to packaging and shipping. We are currently prototyping a product shell made completely out of mushroom.

“When you realise the human brain’s close affiliation between mood, memory and our sense of smell, you comprehend how powerful it is as a tool for personal identity and expression.”

What innovations do you see in the world of perfumery?

The commonly quoted innovations are in better harvest and extraction methodologies and molecular design. Nowadays, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used to write fragrance formulas. My interest in specific is in the shift in lifestyle and consumer habits towards perfumery. I resonate with the transparency now demanded on the manufacturing process as well as the desire for personalization and localisation.

How are the sensorial workshops centered around the customer’s preferences?

We are all about the customer, our starting point is the ‘Oo Fragrance Table’ where around 27 ingredients are displayed – all in black and white so as not to trick or persuade the eye with mental shortcuts like colour or images. This way we reset, the learning process which is not based purely on whether the olfactive character of the ingredient is attractive to the customer or not – rather than say the depiction of an exotic flower or spice. 

Oo La Lab perfume

Which notes are the most popular at Oo La Lab?

Wood, Amber, Oud, Leather and Violet are a few of the most popular notes here in Dubai.

This is ‘The Fragrance Issue’ – What is your earliest memory of fragrance?

Being born in Africa, the first childhood home I had was alongside a swimming pool with a round grass-roofed changing room. Stepping inside, it was like a sensorial time chamber of dried thatched and musty cold stone, punctuated with Copperstone sunscreen and the sweet rubber of an inflatable tire tube. Oh, to only be there again.

May’s – ‘The Fragrance Issue’ – Download Now

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Images: Supplied