Interview with Anne Nelson Sanford of LURK
Posted On Nov 17, 2015
Looking for a true luxury fragrance experience? Sidestep the synthetics and give all-natural scents a try… starting with sublime organic line LURK. Here we get the inside story on LURK from the brand’s founder, Anne Nelson Sanford.
By Andrew C. Stone
If the time has come to swap your mass-produced perfume or cologne for an exquisite, natural, inviting, and subtle fragrance, get familiar with LURK (lurkmade.com). These small-batch, hand-poured scents consist entirely of 100% pure essential oils and are the loving offering of LURK’s founder, Anne Nelson Sanford. From her Sag Harbor, New York studio and boutique, Sanford creates extraordinary scents for the spectrum of conspicuous consumers and has created a number of offerings that smell like heaven on both men and women. There are no chemical preservatives, additives, or stabilizers, and everything from sourcing to packaging is guaranteed to be eco-conscious. Curious? So were we.
NEW YOU: Anne, LURK’s wonderful scents are a bit of an anomaly in the fragrance world, in that you use only all-natural formulations. Why is this so unusual?
ANNE NELSON SANFORD: It’s interesting, right? I’ve always wondered that myself. Why create a synthetic facsimile of a fragrance when the natural source is available… and it’s even better? It’s an old way of thinking in the industry, that “natural is not as good” as something created in a laboratory. It’s been a huge challenge to overcome that thinking, but I believe people are coming around. It’s even been said that natural scents shouldn’t even be called “perfume.” I totally disagree. What we create are authentic and “true luxury.”
NY: What’s the big difference between natural and synthetic scents?
ANS: Natural fragrances perform differently than synthetic counterparts. They don’t tend to linger as long or be overpowering… which I consider to be a good thing. The line is called Lurk because scent is a really intimate experience. When you have a crush on someone, there’s this deep affinity for what they smell like. When we use natural elements we’re unlocking actual sense memories, rather than approximating through chemistry. What we do is about love, life, and memories.
NY: Tell us a bit about your background, and how you came to be the “fragrance rebel” you are today…
ANS: Well, I’ve always had a fascination with essential oils. I grew up in Miami and North Central Florida as a total tomboy. And yet, I was always interested in beauty products, from a science perspective. What’s in it? As for fragrances, I never really liked them. My mom would wear Giorgio and that would just knock me over. But then Paloma Picasso came out. It was deep, funky, woodsy, and weird. That perfume was controversial at the time because it had masculine notes and didn’t smell contrived. I absolutely loved it.
In 2002, I had a green perfumery and apothecary in Florida, but natural fragrances were definitely not common then and it was before its time. When I moved to New York, I set out to change the perception of natural scents and create a line that was truly rooted in the art form of perfumery. I challenged myself to do it, and the results have been really wonderful.
NY: Now, many of your scents work great on men as well as women. How does that happen?
ANS: A lot of these elements react differently to the pheromones given off by men and women. We have a scent called BBII, which has this great candy essence in the bottle yet turns into something hot on a man’s skin. Indian sandalwood is very particular on either sex, as are pink lotus blossoms, which smell insane [as in amazing] on a guy yet turns really bright and floral on a woman.” Also, I think it’s so fun when real girly-girls put on something spicier. They inevitably love it. Because, they realize, why would they want to smell the same as everyone else?
NY: When do you find that customers are closed-minded?
ANS: There are some specific elements that make certain people nervous. I don’t push people, and yet I love to educate my customers about specific ingredients and get them to be a little more open-minded. For example, some people say they just don’t like jasmine. What they don’t realize is that jasmine from different genuses have totally different qualities. They try LURK’s TRJ and they are hooked.
NY: What are some of your other special ingredients?
ANS: I create very special rose accords. LURK’s TRN fragrance, for example, is a beautiful rose accord. I stayed away from lavender for a while, due to its connotation with “spa” and because it can be hard to blend. And yet, I’ve begun using high-altitude lavender, which is incredible. I use hexane-free tobacco, the sourcing of which is very challenging. Neroli blossoms are fresh and very gender-neutral.
NY: There are some very expensive ingredients you incorporate, too… What are some of those premier elements?
ANS: Oudh is something I had been wanting to use for a long time. It’s actually bacterial… An organism infects a tree and the tree reacts with this resin. It’s recently had this intense explosion onto the market, and it’s incredibly expensive.
Then there’s tuberose enfleurage, which I source out of Colombia. To create the perfume oil out of the flowers is a laborious process. The flowers are picked and laid on a chassis, or framed screen. Then, they’re covered with organic vegetable wax and left out in the sun for two to four days, in that deep heat and humidity. The petals are flipped. And when the petals have released all of the oils, they’re pulled off. The wax is pulled off and gently heated. There’s the wonderful fragrant oil at the top, and that’s what we use. It’s incredibly expensive, and we can get 500 ml of it, only two times a year.
NY: What’s your “fragrance philosophy,” particularly when it comes to people resistant to experimenting with scents?
ANS: There’s so much to say… I always suggest that you push yourself out of your comfort zone. Scent is really personal. It’s about making you feel more connected to yourself. Wearing a fragrance you love gives you confidence. And it’s not about masking who you are; it mixes with your pheromones. It’s your signature. I say, this is an area where you can really take risks and it will pay off.