Her story is as magical as the masterpieces she creates. She spent childhood years exploring the wild, rambling bush in her Australian backyard and compiling posies for her mum. In 1995, she opened Grandiflora, a little flower shop in Potts Point, Sydney that’s become justifiably renowned. Working closely with growers and suppliers, Havekes often uses native Australian species, including eucalyptus, Gymea lilies and wattle, and she’s fashioned spectacular installations for many A-list clients and brands. Her journey has been one of creativity, passion and devotion, and while her little flower shop in Sydney is still thriving, so too is her line of exquisite, flower-inspired fragrances. The latest of these is Boronia, a fragrance dear to Havekes’s heart, thanks to childhood memories of this wild and rambunctious flower.
Saskia recently travelled to New Zealand to launch her latest scent with her New Zealand partner and stockist, WORLD. Boronia was introduced to an audience of fragrance devotees in WORLD’s Britomart store, where Saskia and her team had spent the day creating a mesmerizing, large-scale floral and foliage installation. We asked Saskia to fill us in on her background, inspiration and her unique fragrance collection.
Why Boronia? Boronia takes me back to my childhood. I grew up in an area around an hour out of Sydney. We lived in a very creative home. My father built most of the house, and it cantilevered over a valley. I used to go down to the creek, and boil my billy and make damper. I loved being in the bush, and in this one, there were a lot of the pink Boronia as well as flannel flowers and Waratahs. It was a very typical Australian landscape. Fast forward to a conversation some years later with Bertrand Duchaufour, the nose who helped create Queen of the Night, my fragrance inspired by the orchid cactus, which flowers once a year. He asked me about Boronia oil. He had sampled a little bit of it and wanted to know more. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I am speaking to one of the world’s most famous perfumers about this unassuming Australian flower’. I knew it had a fantastic fragrance, but it was so left-field. This discussion triggered something in me, so I decided to investigate when I got back to Australia.
How do you go about creating a new scent? What’s the collaborative process like? With my flower work, I instinctively know in my head what my creations are going to look like. Fragrance making is quite different. I start with a description of the flower and write down how I feel about the flower. I also ensure I have the flower itself right in front of me. I then go on to write an explanation of the environment, which surrounds the flower. As well as this, I am also reliant on the knowledge and respect of the perfumer. Getting introduced to all of these wonderful perfumers and being taught by them is monumental for me. It’s a very gradual process, learning year after year about the world of perfume.
Bertrand took some convincing to work on this scent. Why was that and how did you manage to convince him? While Bertrand had encountered a sample of Boronia, he didn’t know the flower itself, so was a little bit shy about working with it. It took some time for him to understand it and learn about its environment, before he could envisage creating a beautiful scent.
Can you explain about how you use sketches in your work? Essentially, they are a collection of samples of fragrance that is a work in progress or an idea. The scents come in tiny vials, inside a little package. They are variations and interpretations of the scent, each with small tweaks. Bertrand’s are always immaculately packaged and very well padded to ensure they arrive to me safely from the other side of the world. Each round may contain three sketches or 14 — it depends where you’re at in the process. From these sketches, the conversation starts, and you go back and forth until it’s perfected.
Do you do anything to prepare yourself for each sketch? Yes, thankfully. I get to spend time with the sketches. I create space to assess them, and I discuss each one with Bertrand before another round is created. I wear all of the sketches on my skin, and we both spend hours, days and nights assessing each one. Then Bertrand sends another lot, and this process keeps going until we get it right. I always have classical music playing at the time of creating. It’s a very quiet and calm process.
Once you agree with Bertrand on the scent, does it all flow quite easily? Bertrand is an incredible perfumer to work with. He’s immediate when it comes to communicating about each step of the process. I could send him an email in the middle of the night, and he will respond straight away. He has never failed me in that sense. I find him to be a very caring, warm, friendly, capable, and talented man to work with.
Are there dos and don’ts of combinations when it comes to creating a new scent? I don’t think there’s such a thing. I believe there are most certainly notes you might shy away from, but regarding mixing them, I don’t believe there are any rules. I am also very much in the hands of the perfumer and their knowledge in that respect. There are notes you have to have to balance a fragrance — for me, musk is essential, especially in the dry down.
Do you have a favourite fragrance that’s not your own? I have never been a massive fragrance wearer. I do have a fragrance I wore in my 20s that I loved. It was called Antonia’s Flowers. She was a florist in the Hamptons, and I remember walking into a cool fashion store and in the corner was this fragrance. It was a little bit like my Sandrine — citrusy, with floral notes. I discovered that she was a florist and I she has been an inspiration on my journey. I wore her scent for some time, and when I smell it now, it takes me right back.
You can still be seen at flower markets at dawn picking your favourite blooms — a sign of your true passion. Do you plan to continue both floristry and fragrance making? Yes, absolutely. For me, they go hand in hand. I would never be able to let one go now. I have found that I do spread my time differently to accommodate the two. My days are still involved with my flowers while my evenings are often spent working with my fragrances. I find it challenging and exciting. I have had the flower shop for 24 years and was working with flowers for five before that, so I know that business well and it’s exciting that I now also get to learn this new side. I feel so proud to have come this far and I love that people love the fragrances, because they are genuinely niche. They come from that little tiny flower shop in Pott’s Point. They haven’t come from some big umbrella company. We have felt it, lived it, and breathed it, every step of the way from its conception. From here, I don’t see my business doing anything other than growing.
The full collection of Grandiflora fragrances and Saskia’s floral books can be found at WORLD stores across New Zealand |
Event photography—Greta Kenyon | Floral photography—Gary Heery | Words—Sarah Simpson