Who: Vicken Arselanian, re-founder of Commodity fragrances, a fragrance fanatic and a serial brand builder for artisanal fragrances.
New York based Vicken was already immersed in fragrance, as a distributor of niche brands in the US, when he heard that Commodity was up for sale.
Commodity was one of the first direct to consumer brands launched back in 2013, it had a great range of contemporary scent profiles but ran into difficulty around 2019, when Vicken, who was already a fan of the fragrances, stepped in and bought it.
Since then he’s tweaked the range, introduced a very transparent marketing strategy and created one of our favourite modern scent brands. To understand what it’s like to own a new fragrance company, for example, take a look at the re-launch Docu-Series journey on the brand’s website.
One of the most impressive aspects of Commodity is how it tries to help customers understand a bit more about fragrance construction, as well as helping them select the perfect fragrance with clear storytelling and ingredient listing. The three versions of one scent, Personal, Expressive and Bold allows you to pick the right strength of fragrance for your style, a clever idea and one which offers an innovative path to picking your favourite. There’s a great discovery box and good value 10ml sized bottles to play with too. We adored Gold, a warm ambery vanilla sandalwood scent, Book, all crisp woody vibes with a smooth finish and Velvet, a textural rosy amber. Milk, a musky tonka bean dream, is a best seller.
Today I’m wearing Gold Bold. The Gold Expressive is an original combination of amber and vanilla, so it’s a semi sweet sensual fragrance, but the Bold version I’m wearing is much smokier and deeper, even a touch exotic, with notes of saffron and labdanum. It’s a deeper and darker version of the Gold scent.
I don’t want to say it makes me feel sexy but it does makes me feel confident.
Fragrance is very important to my everyday life, I’d say it is third in line, after putting on clothes, being clean and then expressing myself with fragrance.
I’m a second generation fragrance business-er, practically speaking. It’s been a family run business for decades, although I don’t think this makes me any better at smelling. In fact my sense of smell is actually the weakest of my abilities, I would say marketing fragrance and understanding marketing of fragrance is a bigger strength for me.
Commodity began as a Kickstarter in America in 2013. It really grew fast and moved to the UK to become ‘spiritually’ a UK brand because the owner came from here. When I purchased the brand, I filmed London Calling, one of our Docu-series, on how I was taking it back to America. So, as our second most important market, we thought the UK was the best place to start our international expansion.
We’re very proud to be an American company but we’re very respectful of local tendencies and tastes. So, transparency is universally important, social engagement is universally important but how we do it will be adjusted according to local desires, we don’t want to be arrogant about it.
I’m an extremist when it comes to personal fragrance rituals. I’m either not using any fragrance, because I’m in the business where I have to smell lots of different brands and fragrances all day, or I’m practically inhaling it. As a young child I remember my father coming into my room and spraying a bottle of perfume, spraying it on his face and inhaling! So I had this idea growing up that you literally inhaled perfume. I don’t do that now, but I will absolutely douse myself. So it’s either none at all or an overload, I don’t have an inbetween.
To explain our fragrance collection, starting with the lightest, we have Personal, Expressive and Bold. We create each fragrance with what we think is the perfect balance, in terms of longevity and expression, and that becomes the Expressive version. Once we’ve established that, we make a lighter version, Personal, then a stronger one for the Bold.
It’s important to highlight that Personal fragrances are not meant to be weaker, they just don’t project as far. They last on the skin as long, sometimes longer, than the Expressive versions, they just don’t project as far. It ends up being a completely different formula, in fact most of our Personal fragrances have a higher oil concentration than our Expressive ones, because the formulation requires more of it to last as long.
I have the same strategy with home scenting rituals as personal scenting, the candles either smell excessively or not at all. Our Commodity candles are so diffusive that we don’t even need to burn them. We love smoky woody smells at home, I’m not a huge fan of florals, in fact I don’t mind saying that our range probably wont ever feature a straight floral.
Indirectly, I think I do use fragrance to help my mindset. I have my daily rituals, I bathe, get clean, put on my clothes. And putting on the last thing- fragrance- I think that subconsciously makes me feel complete, in a good mood and confident. That feel good factor is important for anybody, even if it’s just you smelling the fragrance, if it makes you feel good, that’s important
I love church incense, I’m Armenian so we love those traditional orthodox rituals and the smell of church incense. I also love the smell of gasoline.