Plowden & Fallow INTERVIEW
The beginnings of a beautiful British fragrance house
SGB: Hello Richard, thanks for agreeing to a meet the maker interview. First of all, how did Plowden and Fallow come about?
Richard: It all started at a young age, growing up I had a fascination with the natural world, in particular insects, plants and flowers, my earliest claim to fame in this area was winning the gardening prize at School aged 11, I am not sure I have ever topped this victory come to think about it, at the time I intended to be a landscape designer. More recently my interest in scent was further developed as a result of taking a significant interest in men’s grooming products, wet shaving and a more traditional genre of men's fashion, all of these interests have combined to help bring about Plowden & Fallow as a brand.
SGB: This maybe a long question but how did you become interested in creating a fragrance brand?
Richard: I never set about initially with the view of creating a fragrance brand. We initially planned to develop a handful of quality UK produced gentleman’s shaving products, but we got a little carried away. As someone who is Dyslexic, whilst I am challenged the realms of spelling at times, the offset has been ample creative flare, I like to think it is this imagination along with the imaginations and eccentricity of a number of other key people that has developed Plowden & Fallow into what we see today.
SGB: Does Plowden and Fallow have a 'house' style?
Richard: I try to not go along with the notion of confirming to a particular house style in terms of our product briefs, as strict conformity I feel sometimes comes at the expense of creative spirit. However, we clearly have a strong brand identity which we are very proud of. However, if we did have a house style, it would be centred more around the notions of artistic expression, the exploration of folklore, and the production of Luxury British products.
SGB: Can you describe Plowden and Fallow in 3 words?
Richard: Luxury. British. Artisanal.
SGB: How do you come up with the initial ideas for new fragrances?
Richard: This isn’t the hard part for us! For every product sold by Plowden & Fallow there have been at least 5 other notions explored prior that haven’t quite made the grade, either due to production issues, or discussions with suppliers. The process is one that I have found can’t be forced, it’s those late night sit up in bed thoughts that appear as quickly as they then vanish- hence the notepad and pen that constantly is present at the bedside. One thing has been key is working with passionate, knowledgeable people that share our vision as a brand.
SGB: Can you succinctly describe the process of creating a perfume?
Richard: It all starts with the idea and brief, the brief is the fluid set of rules that gently guides the development of a given fragrance. For example, if we look at Plowden & Fallow’s Debonaire Eau de Toilette, the brief explored mainly men’s fashion, both traditional and contemporary genres, the interpersonal qualities of the ‘debonair gent’ and when we envisioned the fragrance might be worn, and by whom. Whilst Debonaire is more suited to a masculine wearer, as with all our fragrances it was important, we retained our unisex standing. In Debonaire Eau de Toilette, we wanted a daily fragrance that would complement and enhance one’s aura, metaphorically projecting oneself forward as the very best version of themselves- a compliment to the dapper gent or lady. On effectively developing the brief, we then start to consider in tandem with our perfumer what characteristics and therefore olfactory notes might be appropriate for the scent. In the case of Debonaire we explored a few options but settled on an aromatic woody floral fragrance. Thereafter, our perfumer painstakingly over several months worked with us and the brief, blending ingredients, assessing compatibility, and aging the formulations, to name just a few steps of the process. At this stage, the magical art that is perfumery is evident to see by all that who have the privilege to watch a master at work. Once a base formulation is achieved that fits the brief (not a short process) further time is then required tweaking and ‘polishing the edges off’ until we have a fragrance, we can be proud of. At this stage the process is still not over, rigorous testing is required before we can even consider manufacture, bottling and packaging. It’s a long process but not one that we rush.
SGB: Is there a part of the process you enjoy the most?
Richard: Without a doubt it’s working and bringing new ideas to life, long hours developing product briefs and then working closely with our perfumer in bringing them to life in the form of scent is always an absolute delight. As an aside, it doesn’t get much better than walking down the street wearing an experimental product recently formulated, to then receive a compliment from a stranger- that really does bring a smile to my face.
SGB: Quality is important to SGB in everything we purvey, what makes Plowden and Fallow fragrances special?
Richard: Plowden & Fallow embodies the notion of quality at every stage of product development and production. Firstly, when considering new perfumes, we do not rush the process, we do not like fast production, even if it is at the expense of profitability. We relish the artistic and artisanal nature of our craft, and this commences with some truly mad creative briefs and whilst all do not make it past the start point, when we find a workable notion our perfumer painstakingly then sets to work spending months at a time in tandem with us bringing our visions to life. Secondly, of note is the quality of the raw oils and botanicals that go into our products, we only use the highest quality raw ingredients from known established suppliers, our products are formulated by hand, in small batches, by our perfumer, with the utmost care and attention to detail. Thirdly, our carefully designed, themed packaging, constructed by a 5th generation London box maker, by hand, sets us apart and gives us an eccentric edge of sorts. Lastly, it’s about the people that have become involved in the Plowden & Fallow brand, with their intergenerational knowledge and craft making our products what they are, we wouldn’t be where we are without them.
SGB: The British niche fragrance scene is growing in popularity, is there a reason for this?
Richard: As someone who likes a whisky, or indeed a gin or two on occasion, I am old enough to remember the massive growth we saw in the alcoholic spirts sector since the late 2000’s. Personally, I see a few parallels between these different sectors, with a few factors helping the niche fragrance category expand, such as; customers who wish to be Informed and educated, a yearning for exploration in terms of variety, expansion in terms of local, or regional artisanal production, sustainability and a desire for an ‘experience’.
SGB: Can you tell SGB about the workshop/perfumery you craft your fragrances in and where it is based?
Richard: We are based In Shropshire; our offices are found in a gothic style folly building on the Plowden Estate. We work in tandem very closely with our perfumer located within the UK, who’s craft has been passed down generationally.
SGB: Scent is such a personal thing, do you have any advice on how to buy perfume that suits an individual?
Richard: It can indeed at times be hard to find your go to fragrance online, as a sensory product. Whilst some customers buy Plowden & Fallow products on our descriptions and note composition charts, if you are less sure, I personally would consider undertaking a three step process 1. An initial browse, often websites such as ours will detail the heart, heart and base notes in a fragrance, this may help the more accustomed make a selection, or at least guide the less accustomed, for example you may like a woody scent, our Squire Jack perfume is clearly aligned with this sensory category. 2. Consider where you want to wear the scent, do you want to wear the fragrance on a summers day? If so, you might like a summery green floral scent like our Ophrys perfume, or are you intending to wear it at dinner parties into the evening? if so a heavier, richer bold fragrance such as our A Masquerade perfume might be a good fit. Although with fragrance there are no rules, there are many parallels between choosing your attire and a scent, generally people dress to the occasion, weather, and their individual preferences. 3. Many fragrance houses such as Plowden & Fallow offer sample products at minimal cost, this is a great way to cost effectively explore different perfumes if you haven’t made your selection on the information made available prior.
SGB: Apart from your own fragrances do you have a favourite niche perfume you wish you had created?
Richard: One of the nice things about the fragrance sector is the inspirational people and brands within this world so we are not hard pressed to admire the creations of a few other disruptive brands. Plowden & Fallow is very much inspired by artisanal, or eccentrically themed fragrances, so other brands that have solid bases in these areas we take our hats off to, but these creations are with their rightful owners.
SGB: We love your brand and packaging design, it is like a cross between Alice in Wonderland and Terry Gilliam. Where did the inspirations for the designs come from?
Richard: Thank you! Plowden & Fallow having been born in deepest Shropshire a quite backwater of rural England steeped in myth, folklore and legend has never been short of inspiration or eccentric ideas for our fragrances. One of the key ingriendets for us as a brand has been working with people that not only believe in our ideals and themes, but those that possess vast amounts of creative flare. Fragrance I personally believe should tell a story, our packaging, produced by hand in London, endeavours to be the outer expression, or layer, that perhaps to some visually tells the inner fragrances story.
SGB: What do you see for the future of niche fragrances?
Richard: I believe the future is bright. In recent times we have seen the rapid emergence of the ‘niche’ fragrance category and with it disruptive new perfume houses emerging from the peripheries, turbocharged by the power of the internet. Ultimately fragrance, like clothing, is very personal to the individual and more diversity in choice throughout the sector is perhaps to be welcomed. We try to embolden and work towards a few key principles, as factors we not only support, but see as potential consumer trends; greater sustainability, ethical production and products produced in small batches by humans with a story! Think slow fragrance, rather than fast.
SGB: Thank you Richard for such a splendid insight into the world of Plowden and Fallow. Is there anything exciting on the horizon that you can let SGB in on?
Richard: Plowden & Fallow does indeed have a number of exciting products appearing on the horizon. In the next 6 months we are planning to release three luxury traditional shaving creams and associated aftershave balms, as well as expanding upon our range of shaving accessories. We have been slowly working away formulating our shaving products for well over a year and whilst the process of product development for us is very time intensive, we see absolutely no merit in rushing the process.