Fall for fragrance: We talk autumn scents with D.S. & Durga

CO-FOUNDERS OF D.S. & DURGA. PORTRAIT BY JASON FRANK ROTHENBERG. (1)
Kavi Ahuja and David Seth Moltz (Photo: Jason Frank Rothenberg)

As the leaves start to change colour and the daylight hours grow shorter, it’s time to embrace everything about the autumn season, including its scents. And who better to do it with than the co-founders of Brooklyn-based perfume house, D.S. & Durga: David Seth Moltz and Kavi Ahuja.

Combining their unique talents as a musician and architect to offer the world eclectic fragrances inspired by myriad influences (including historical movements and Americana), we spoke with the duo to find out which autumn scents invigorate their senses most:

You’ve said that the power of scent is equal to that of sight and sound. What qualities make a scent great? 

David: For me, a scent’s ability to convey ideas is no different than any other art form. Greatness has clarity of vision – some idea that’s complete in the eye of the artist. True greatness is when a single idea becomes universal and unites the consciousness of many people.

Kavi: Something you smell and then want to return to right away – like the way I just want to bury my face in a fully bloomed lily.

Tell us about your design process from day one to launch. 

David: I have a running list of names and ideas. I work them out in the lab. I research about the world of the scent – the history, landscape and flora of particular regions. I write a description, workshop names, and pare it all down into the most concise narrative that hopefully implies something larger.

Kavi: David and I both “get” things a certain way, so much of my process is making sure that whatever we’re putting out there translates to a broad range of people. We want the customer to understand what we’re trying to show and to get the vibe. I love doing this with little graphics; they’re fun and universal.

As we transition into autumn, is there a particular memory (and scent) that comes back to you?

David: It’s decorative gourd season! I’m from New England and we love our fall. The pumpkin spice explosion hits close to home. I love the smell of the leaves in the crisp autumn air.

Kavi: Halloween excitement takes over pretty early in our house. So maybe the smell of sugar? But really, the scents coming from our kitchen change to heartier spices, heavier flavours. We cook more fragrant Indian food and say goodbye to a few months of fresh tomatoes and peaches.

With both of you coming from different disciplines, how do you reach a middle ground in how each fragrance is presented?

David: I handle the scent and words. Kavi fronts design and oversees the look of the product.

Kavi: I take direction from David for this. He conceives the scent and has a whole olfactory storyboard in his head. Then we work to translate that into something visual.

What’s next for D.S. & Durga? 

David: We have some big collabs launching in 2021 – new scents, candles and products, of course. And we’re opening a shop in Williamsburg that was supposed to open in April.

Kavi: Catching our breath after some major COVID-19 pivoting. It has really given us perspective. Looking to have some more fun with collaborations and expanding into some new territories. 

Shop for D.S. & Durga fragrances and select candles on Mr Porter

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