Are you a sucker for scents? Then you must have heard of Lola James Harper – the candle company with a twist. Rami Mekdachi is the founder of the company, with his family friends and nostalgic encounters running throughout and creating the building blocks for Lola James Harper. Launching in Paris three years ago with Colette, Mekdachi believes that we need to give our five senses (arguably there’s more, but let’s not get into that) more room to hear, smell, touch, taste and see. His understanding of the link between fragrance and memories is incredible: one whiff of The Surf Shop of Stephane and you’re whisked into his memories of a surfer/designer friend whose place has an aroma of wood and wax fragrances. Sharing is caring and all that.
The brand is a place to share the energy and love they have for amazing spots around the world, and it’s not just about fragrances, but music, photobooks and furniture too. The label has new scents releasing in June with inspirational names that we could all seek to embody ourselves, such as Just Say Yes or Do what you love with people you love. We talked to Rami Mekdachi himself to find out more about his love for aroma, atmosphere and the Proustian power of smell.
How did you come up with this lifestyle concept?
Over the last 20 years I have been lucky enough to meet amazing people from around the world from singers to musicians, wax-masters, perfumers, coffee roasters, furniture designers, printers, and sound engineers. Together with these friends, I have developed local projects such as candles, music, picture books and furniture. It’s also been 8 years that I have been travelling around the world with my wife, my son, and my daughter, taking pictures, playing music, creating perfumes, and working on my different collaborations. Lola James Harper wasn’t about ‘coming up’ with a concept as such… instead I am really just living my life the way I like it and, in 2013, we decided to gather all our projects in one; creating a platform to share this creativity and the ‘together’ way of life.
Tell us where the name Lola James Harper came from?
Lola James Harper is a project all about togetherness. In fact, next year we will be launching our movie, ‘WITH’, which is all about friendship, travels, music, encounters and, most importantly, co-creation. So, of course the name of the project was created together one night at my family dinner table!! My daughter came up with LOLA, as this was the name she used to call all her dolls…my son is in a national basketball team and loves LeBron James, hence JAMES… and then together we tried to find a name with instrument – HARPER… and by the way we love Ben Harper!
Why did you found LJH?
I launched Lola James Harper as my way of gathering the amazing people I have met around the world whilst travelling the world working for major brands. It is a platform to share the energy and love we have and the great places around the world where the sun is always shining. It’s an invitation for others to share our positive and joyful philosophies through music, fragrances, and pictures. I really believe that we need to give our senses more times to hear, smell, touch, taste, see… Although I am an iPhone addict, playing music with friends and composing fragrances every day is so unbelievably powerful and balancing. Through Lola James Harper I encourage people to share with others, and encourage people to use all our amazing senses. So when you come into a Lola James Harper life store you can see the pictures, taste the coffee and cookies, smell the fragrance, listen to the music, feel the photobooks, textiles and furniture, and just relax!
How did your love for perfumery begin?
When I realised how poetic and magical perfumery is, and how it is linked to our memories. Perfumery is a souvenir opener, I love it.
You’ve recently launched in Selfridges, was the plan always to expand from Paris where you are based?
I live in Paris with my family and during the school holidays we travel, always! We launched Lola James Harper with Colette in Paris 3 years ago now, and shortly after we opened our ‘Life Store’ in Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche. Today we are growing quickly and are now stocked in many amazing places around the world including Cape Town, Shanghai, and Sydney. In May, we proudly launched into Selfridges London…certainly an exciting step for Lola James Harper. The great thing is about all our new adventures in different countries is that they come about very naturally – people have come to me because they like the Lola James Harper way of life. We have decided to work together as they like what Lola James Harper can bring to their store – sensory experiences and a place for people to unwind and enjoy the things we share.
Scent has the magical ability to trigger memories – what scent triggers your most favourite memory or place?
I have so many it’s impossible to choose just one! For me, scents do not just open memories, they are memories, and they have the ability to open a whole spectrum of sensations… When I smell warm bread, I am 4 years old again, living in my grandparents country house. When I smell cinnamon, I am at Pike Place Seattle in the early morning, eating a Cinnamon roll with my family. When I smell wet earth, I am at Canoe Island, in the San Juan Islands.
You’ve worked with big fashion names like Corinne Cobson, to come up with a scent that sums up their ethos, did you enjoy working with them and did you find it easy to pinpoint their scents?
The thing is that I love listening, talking, even debating with people… For me there is nothing better than hearing about someone’s background – what they do, what they love, how they got to where they are and where they want to go. Everyone has completely different points of view and a different way of doing things. When it comes to the people I have worked with like Ines De La Fressange, Colette, Corinne Cobson, Dorothée Schumacher, Costes, Serge bensimon, and Isabel Marant… they are all great people and hugely successful entrepreneurs. They are a good example of how there is no good or bad way of doing things, there’s just one’s own way. Through listening to them and learning about their way of thinking and creating, I am inspired to create a fragrance that sums up everything they are about in one symbolic object. It is all about finding the right fragrance and bottle that captures that individual.
Can adding a scent to your daily routine add a sensorial dimension to your style?
With the EDT fragrance collection that launches in June, you will see that the names are all our philosophies – Little by little with joy, Just Say Yes, Do what you love with people you love, Together is always better, Everything will come together, and Play again now. I wanted to do fragrance how it was done in the 1920s and 1930s, when amazing brands like Chanel and Lanvin created fragrances for brand lovers. Women who bought Chanel clothing would also want to buy Chanel fragrance so that they could embody the ‘Chanel’ way of life. In that way, perfume is all about embodying philosophies and ways of life and their impact on your style and being is so pertinent. When you wear a Lola James Harper EDT, you are embodying the Lola James Harper way of life and all our philosophies, like in old school perfumery! I definitely believe that people should add scents to any joyful moment as a ritual… creating your own personal potion. Whenever you smell that scent it will bring you back to that joyful feeling.
How would you describe the Lola James Harper way of life?
Lola James Harper is all about spending time with family and friends, travelling the world, playing music and basketball, taking in the many scents that surround us, taking pictures of the places we love, trying to open as much as we can to new opportunities and new encounters, and remember always ‘little by little’ and ‘always with joy’.