Today I’m Wearing: Kartushya by Jonathan Ward

Who: Jonathan Ward, perfume author and candle maker. Jonathan is a storyteller through scent, he writes complex and captivating stories for his artful scented candle collection that are akin to miniature novels. Through a mix of his imagination and some beautifully combined fragrance oils, he conjures up romantic moments and magical experiences, released via a simple flame to the wick.

Today I’m wearing a fragrance from my archives, called Kartushya. It’s inspired by the breast pocket of an imagined First World War Russian soldier’s uniform as the wearer goes off to battle, with crumbled tobacco, a little spill of cognac from a hip flask, screwed up bits of paper, possibly some vegetal notes from the countryside he’s tramping through, walking from Moscow towards Germany. It’s a collage of all these notes.

I love the raw oils, Kartushya’s no longer for sale, apart from as a candle of course. I use a small dab on my neck, behind my ears, and I also comb a bit through my beard.

I’m quite generous with my applications, I love it when you leave a trace of scent, people are always stopping me to ask what I’m wearing.

Fragrance is sensory, one of those inexplicable vehicles that can change your mood instantly, you can feel a little bit tired or glum and one dab of this beautiful oil can wash those blues away. It’s like an invisible language, it speaks for you and can be one hundred percent mood changing.

I’m a slow considered worker and when I worked in New York, high up in the corporate world of fashion, things moved too fast for me. I figured out over time and with a number of serendipitous meetings, that fragrance worked better. While I was working for the trend forecasting agency Style Council in New York, part of the role was to do some colour and cosmetic trends for Estée Lauder. When I first visited their offices something clicked, I felt right away this was home. The feeling that I got inside the office, seeing the potions and bottles and experiments. The way that I compose an aroma is entirely different to the pressure cooker life of commercial fashion. I stopped grinding through life and started to flow through it.

What I love about fragrance is that you might not remember the T shirt you wore five years ago but you probably will remember what perfume you were wearing. It’s a universal language.

I love my craft and spend most of my time at my desk in my office space, so my daytime uplifting scent would be my Carmen candle, a beautiful raw citrus, with dried tangerine, white grapefruit, along with jasmine, carnation, ylang ylang. There’s been some great research on citrus oils which shows that children are 30% more attentive when they are smelling citrus, so its a great scent for the day!

When I’m creating, I start with the romance, the poetic lengthy story, which can often run to a few pages. It’s often about a real person, for example with the Carmen candle, it was her story from the streets to the stage.

When the story is written I outline the accords, which I give to our perfumer in Greece, who puts together a number of options for me. I’m hands on when it’s being constructed, I go over to Greece and work through each of the propositions, keeping as close to my vision as possible. I’m not a lazy designer, I like to be really involved with the process.

In my lab in Greece I get access to great quality oils, jumping ahead of the supply chain before the price escalates towards unreachable and getting a better quality product for my customers. So for the Roscuro candle, I got to use a beautiful, very rare Cambodian agar wood, just half kilo is about £900, I bought it officially through the Cambodian Government. If you wait until it hits Grasse, by the time that gets syphoned off by suppliers you’d get just a little vial for £1000.

Roscuro is about the journey from darkness into light, inspired by the Italian artist Caravaggio and his use of chiaroscuro (the strong contrast between light and shade). Using the lovely, gentle Cambodian oud, together with honey, iris root and coumarin, I imagined Caravaggio’s studio, just as the sun was breaking in through the window, with perhaps some spilt red wine on the floor – because he was a big drinker –  mixed with the hay in the corner where he slept. The honey is because he was a big fan of bees, I don’t know if he kept them but I like to imagine he did.

Photography by Chloe Winstanley