The Set Designers Reinterpreting the Scent of Perfume

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Studio Maud's Perfume Still LifesPhotography by Bruno Drummond

Studio Maud has produced visuals for some of the most exciting creative talents of the moment. Here, they talk to us about an olfactory inspired photo-series made in collaboration with Bruno Drummond

Studio Maud is a multi-disciplinary collaborative studio run by Daisy Azis and Sally Finnigan. The pair work across art direction and set design on concept lead still life and fashion projects, creating images that are thoughtful, innovative and – from what we witnessed at London Fashion Week A/W17 via their work for Supriya Lele at Fashion East – worthy of sharing on even the most carefully curated Instagram feeds. The fundamentals of Azis and Finnigan’s practice focus upon referencing a societal and cultural history. 

So fittingly, one of their first major projects was a set made for LVMH prize-winner Grace Wales Bonner’s debut collection, a designer who is undoubtedly preoccupied with similar thematic pursuits. “Grace approached us in January 2015 to help present her first show. It was a really defining moment for us creatively. Making a living, moving piece of work meant we witnessed the immediate reaction from the audience both online and in person. It really helped us connect to the work and opened up the possibilities of what you can achieve on a shoestring and in a very short amount of time, and the real strength in collaboration,” say the pair.

Alongside set design, Studio Maud also focus on creating photographic projects, with their work recently taking an olfactory turn. “I found this amazing collection of perfume bottles of my mother’s from the 1980s,” explains Finnigan about how their latest photo-series was conceived. “I suppose we’d already been talking about the ideas of scent and essence, but we didn’t know how to channel these ideas. These bottles gave us the starting point. The idea was to create simple still lives looking at the memory and history of these different perfumes and creating a narrative to describe their smell through vessels, subtle background textures and the balanced notes of flowers and objects.” 

Azis and Finnigan’s immediate thought was to contact photographer Bruno Drummond: “we were waiting for the right thing to work on with him, we wanted to create something together that was on a small scale, in a still life format,” says Azis. As Finnigan continues, “Bruno has an amazing eye for light and precision, at the same time he still allowed us to create something organic. He worked with us to make something that had a timeless feel yet remained completely contemporary. His openness to our ideas really made this project successful.” 

As for the trinkets used to form the beautiful imagery that you see here, hand blown glassware pieces from Jochen Holz, jewellery by Belmacz and bone and marble pieces from Elementary all come together to form compositions representative of the ritualistic process of the way perfume is applied to a wrist or décolletage. “We wanted to created a pictorial narrative around each perfume bottle. We then curated our selection of objects adding in natural materials that related to the scent, or the architecture of the vessels they came in,” the duo explain. “The idea was to create simple still lives looking at the memory and history of different perfumes and creating a narrative to describe their smell through vessels, subtle textures and the balance of notes.” And the result is alluring indeed.