We sat down with Heather Sielaff, founder of OLO Fragrance, in her heavenly smelling apartment. We were also greeted by her two grey cats, Britches and Hoover. Britches is a lush and quite the poser and Hoover doesn’t like scents. The universe was obviously against him when he got placed in this household. Heather sits down on the chair, looks at Britches, pats her legs and says, “You want to check e-mail?” She then explains that’s his thing from when he was a kitten and would get on her lap at her desk. Originally from North Carolina, Heather’s faint southern twang proves somehow refreshing as she tells the story of OLO.
E+E: How did you get started in fragrances and scents as a career?
Heather: I used to own a wellness center and was a trained neuromuscular therapist, so I did a lot of body work. To keep your license you have to do a bunch of continued education. I did aromatherapy once and ended up really liking it, so I started doing it for medicinal purposes. It wasn’t until 2009 I started seeing “oh you put this together and get this” and I think I accidentally made the smell of fruit loops. It kind of hit me that I could make perfume. Started tinkering and then the business happened. It’s really expensive. It was a bit too expensive to just have as a hobby, so I started selling it.
E+E: How many scents do you make at one time?
Heather: Usually there are twelve in the regular rotation, but I am always making a few random ones that either don’t have labels or are special for bands and events. Darkwave I made five bottles of twenty minutes before an event and people ended up loving it. Unfortunately, I hadn’t written it down so it took me a couple months of testing to make the scent again.
E+E: How do you come up with your scents? Do you get inspiration from certain places?
Heather: Different places. Like Forêt is all forest smells. It’s just a combination of every forest I have ever been in – that one was definitely a specific smell I wanted. Violet/Leather I made from a Mark Twain quote. I was reading something and there was a quote so I just said, “I’ll make that.” I had no intention of actually making it smell good, I just wanted to try to capture that feeling. Usually it is just an idea or imagery. Then I’ll have customers who want a scent personalized for them.
A lot of my smells aren’t perfumey and I think it’s because I have a background in aromatherapy. A lot of what I make is more about how it makes me feel.
E+E: Is there a more popular scent?
Heather: It’s different in every city. In Portland, Nationale, Victory Wolf, Lightning Paw. In San Francisco, Nationale is definitely the most popular. In New York it’s Lightning Paw. In Canada, Valens sells really well but it doesn’t really do that great here. It’s based on the original old spice formula from the 1930’s. People say it smells as if you’re wearing your boyfriend’s sweater – kind of like your classic cologne. It’s one of my favorites. I wear it when I can’t decide.
The scents come and go seasonally as well.
E+E: So tell us about your newly released scent, Tulare.
Heather: A lot of time I’ll make scents based on people’s memories, and for this one I used my husband Jonathan Sielaff’s memory. He moved around a lot when he was a kid but lived in Sultana, CA (Tulare County) briefly when he was little. He has this really distinct memory of playing out in the orange groves on a warm day and everything had that dried baked smell. There was something about the wind wafting up the hill and the smell of night blooming jasmine passing – so it was a combination of things. I made Victory Wolf for Jonathan but this was the first collaboration I did with him.
E+E: What does your husband do? He must have a pretty good nose as well.
Heather: Yeah, he’s the general manager for Stumptown.
E+E: So tons of free coffee?
Heather: Ha, I don’t even drink coffee. He used to be a buyer for a tea company and I love tea, but oh well.