Founder Stories: Abbott NYC | Vert Beauty

Founder Stories: Abbott NYC

We asked Michael Pass and Jose Alvarez—founders of Abbott NYC—to have a conversation about clean fragrance and capturing place through scent. 

Founder Stories: Abbott NYC

To me, the hallmark of Abbott is a connection to a sense of place. How do you begin to translate our relationships to place into a wearable scent?

Michael:When creating a new scent, we try to capture the essence of a natural destination that is special to us—whether it's the Sequoia National Park or the ski resort of Big Sky, Montana. For us, that means focusing on both the natural elements and the human interaction with nature. For example, in Sequoia what stood out to us is obviously the rich woody notes that you can't help but be inundated with as soon as you step into the park. On the trip to Sequoia that inspired that fragrance, we spent a lot of time around the campfire at night eating and drinking, so we decided to add a smoky character to the scent, evoking both the campfire and a bottle of nice bourbon. We take those ideas and then we work with our amazing perfumers to create unique and transporting scents that tell those stories.”

Do you remember the first place you went through this process of translation?

Jose: “I think it was The Cape. We had gone up to Cape Cod in the dead of winter for a trip to hang out in a rented house and to try some cold weather surfing. The power of that landscape—a rugged, empty coast and powerful cold crashing waves—was pretty epic. So we decided we needed to create a coastal scent, but something that evoked cold water and damp rocks and vegetation as opposed to the salt and sand you might think of on a summer beach vacation. On that trip we also had some great experiences in towns like Provincetown, which are really summer colonies, and it was fun to spend time in the restaurants and bars open off season there, being patronized primarily by the locals. All of those aspects came into play when putting together The Cape fragrance.” 

Fragrance is, of course, deeply personal. When someone is choosing a scent, is it purely instinctual? How do you guide people towards something that resonates? 

Michael:Every person is really different: some people gravitate to the same style of fragrance and want it every time, while others want to keep trying new things. There's also the distinction for many people between what they are looking for in a personal scent versus something for the home in a candle. If someone really wants our help to decide, we ask them what kind of natural places they are most drawn to, like the woods, the beach, the mountains, or lakes and rivers. But you can never substitute guessing with actually trying, which is probably why we've had a lot of success with our "Exploration Set", where you can try all 8 of our fragrances in a small 2ml size to really discover which ones resonate.” 

Do you stick with the same scent, or switch it up based on mood or season? Can you offer some examples of what you might gravitate towards based on your mood or season?

Jose:I like to switch it up based on both mood and season. In the summer I like something a bit lighter, like Mojave, which has citrus and spice, or Montecito with its California citrus character (but with a bit of edge). I also love to play with layering our Abbott collection—for me the mix of Sequoia (woodsy smoke) and Mojave (citrus spice) creates something unique and irresistible. But the fun thing about layering is there are no rules and you can really create your own unique scent.”

What are the tenets (or your tenets) of a clean fragrance?

Michael:Our mantra is do no harm to people and do no harm to the planet. That means choosing ingredients that have no known adverse health impacts and that are also as green and sustainable as possible. If we want a sandalwood note in a fragrance, we won't use a natural ingredient because that requires a component linked to the deforestation of sandalwood forests. So we opt for a safe synthetic alternative, which is an ingredient that is completely safe for humans to use but that has the benefit of requiring a minimal impact on the environment.

You can explore Abbott NYC’s scent library here, or come into Vert to find your scent in person. 

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