Who: Muj Rana, founder of Side Story, a new perfume brand of six launch scents which aims for a modern approach to fragrances, tapping the founder’s love of memory and nostalgia. Rana was previously in the hospitality industry, so knows a thing or two about creating enticing atmospheres and sensual environments, a skill he has brought to his first fragrance collection.
As well as tapping his own life experience for inspiring scent-narratives, he works with perfumer Jacques Chabert in Grasse for fragrance expertise and brings in skilled artisans to enhance the storytelling, including author Morgan Childs, who writes the narratives around each perfume’s description, and illustrator Frances Lott, for the gorgeous packaging artwork.
The fragrances are beautiful, they give a nod to classic construction and style, overlaid with a strong modernist narrative, Road Trip, for example, is a clear, green tuberose which uses vetiver and cucumber notes to offer an almost thirst quenching new take on the floral. Pillow Talk is a softly empathic lavender, evoking lazy weekend mornings spent hanging out on clean cotton sheets.
All fragrances have a bold sillage, a trend we’re seeing a lot from new launches, although bold doesn’t always mean overpowering, there’s softness where it’s needed here. It’s rare we see such a competent and well thought through launch, from the multi faceted fragrances to a sound sustainability strategy, via almost cinematically immersive storytelling, this is a new launch definitely worth seeking out. We caught a few moments with Rana to find out more…
Today I’m wearing, as I do on many days, our signature scent, Hotel Lobby. It’s an utterly captivating green and woody scent. The base notes are of sandalwood, vanilla and coconut. Middle notes of pepper and patchouli, and top notes a very intriguing combination of fig leaf and oud.
My childhood memories are tinged with the scent of sandalwood. My grandfather owned plantations in India, and because oily sandalwood branches were often used for woodworking, the scent was ingrained in my childhood toys. Today, sandalwood is a sort of Proustian madeleine for me, it instantly transports me to another time and place. I’m obsessed with sensory experiences like thes, and hope that each of our fragrances will have a similarly transcendent effect on the wearer.
All of our scents are about those very fleeting moments when so much is revealed and so much is left to the imagination. We craft fragrances that convey full, rich narratives in a single instant.
Scent played an integral role in my early experiences, and still evokes memories of that distinctive time and place. I draw plenty of inspiration from my own experiences—big milestones, but also little moments that I just can’t seem to forget. I feel compelled to try to capture a story in a fragrance for our wearers, and create something that would evoke and transport a wearer to their own version of that story.
I sit at the helm of the brand’s creative and expressive identity, drawing inspiration from the stories in my own life and others’ to conceptualise strong, compelling fragrances. Our perfumers ‘bottle the narrative’ so to speak, but my goal is to set the scene and to ensure that the ‘story’ is clear and consistent. My responsibility is also to ensure we maintain the high standards we set for ourselves, from the craftsmanship behind the bottle and packaging, the balance and sillage of the scents and to the quality and sustainability of the ingredients. None of these elements should ever be compromised, even if it’s not a ‘safe’ decision from a business perspective.
My partner and I have founded various hospitality ventures over the last decade, and have always been eager to stretch our creative wings and to find an outlet for our love of design alongside these. With Side Story, we’re going a step further, expressing ourselves creatively through the sense of smell. Every Side Story fragrance has its own story, and we collaborate closely with our perfumers to ensure that each perfume has the depth and nuance to make you feel like you’re living that story.
I never leave the house without fragrance, I would feel bare without it. I wear different scents day-to-day, inspired by my mood but more importantly, where I feel the day might take me. We’ve blended our scents for longevity and character and I will still be able to smell the scent not only later that evening, but the next morning also.
I definitely scent my house, it adds a depth and narrative to each movement around the home. Opening up a wardrobe with a scent washing over you is so evocative, likewise the feeling that rushes over you when trying on a new purchase for the first time, its that same enveloping feeling again and again if it comes with a hint of fragrance. With Side Story parfums, you only require a couple of sprays and the enduring nature of them will linger on a garment for days.
There has been more focus recently on fragrances that enhance mood, reduce stress, or evoke emotional heeling. It’s incredible the depth to which certain essential oils and scents can elicit our responses and its definitely something I incorporate into my wellbeing.
Some of my more niche loved scents would be a blown out match, the smell of a diesel forecourt on a hot day, and the smell of lit cigars rolling across to you from a distance. I firmly believe whenever we have a penchant for unusual scents, it is explained by a deeper accompanying memory or association, a narrative. In essence, it’s exactly this which inspires everything we do at Side Story.