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Kavi Moltz & David Moltz

If you've never Googled "orris root butter", you will soon...

MONOGRAM: List your names, professions, and place of residence:

DAVID SETH MOLTZ, perfumer/founder, DS & Durga. Brooklyn, NY.

KAVI AHUJA MOLTZ, creative director/founder, DS & Durga. Brooklyn, NY.

MONOGRAM: You might be the only people we know who have professional-use nicknames. How did these come about?

KAVI: David used to go by D.S. Molchanovsky (the Russian name from which Moltz was shortened, via Ellis Island) for his music. Durga is David’s nickname for me. It’s based on a character in a Satyajit Ray movie that he says reminds him of me.

MONOGRAM: How (and why) did you – a musician and an architect – start making perfume? You guys smell great, by the way.

DAVID: Thanks! I always loved scents and plants and started tinkering in late 2007. Kavi thought it would be fun to label the juice and make a business. A whole new world of creativity opened up for us as we transitioned our ideas into this unsung art form.

MONOGRAM: One of our most treasured belongings is the custom wedding perfume – Shitty Roses – you made for us years ago. Do you have a set process when you collaborate with people on scents?

DAVID: Blast from the past! When we make scents for other brands, we start off with as many specifics as they can think of – the scent’s time, place, visuals, notes, music, etc. After a sniff sesh, I try to pare it down into a concise narrative. I’ll make trial runs and modify it over time to hone in on the best expression of the initial idea (and hopefully make it a wearable perfume that all can dig).

MONOGRAM: Kavi, we know you design everything besides the juice. How do you translate a scent into tangible objects like packaging and bottles?

KAVI: A hallmark of niche perfume is to have a common and understated look to the bottles, the idea being to highlight the juice inside and just to provide a blank canvas. So for the perfume and their boxes, I thought of them more as a group. The way they'd look on a shelf in a row. How the boxes would have a sculptural quality when lined up together. Where I get to have fun is in our candle and pocket perfume designs. Each has a graphic that I probably spend about 10 minutes tops designing. Well, maybe sometimes 10 weeks. They are like a design charrette. I try to capture the scent’s vibe or a moment in the story. We're always looking to round out the experience and take it beyond smell. Using graphics allows us to make it visual. David’s super into laboring over playlists for each scent, too.

MONOGRAM: How do you go about sourcing materials? What’s the most expensive material you use?

DAVID: We work with two of the oldest and best fragrance houses for the most part – their catalogue of materials is unreal. I have a massive collection of materials from around the world for reference. As you grow into conceptualizing perfumes, you actually need fewer materials. You learn how to convey larger narratives by carefully contrasting dosages of raw materials that you truly understand. Climate change and natural disasters (fires, earthquakes, tsunamis) have really impacted our industry – there has been so much scarcity, quality control, and price increase within the past 5 years. Some of the most expensive materials are orris root butter, vanilla absolute, and ouds.

MONOGRAM: Since you both obviously have a trained sense of smell, are your other senses hyper-acute? For example, are you wine nerds that compare all the notes of a certain vintage? 

KAVI: David does all the perfume creation for us. His attention to olfactory details certainly informs his understanding of food, drink, environments, plants, etc. He’s a great cook, especially south Indian food, which is itself a symphony of some crazy flavors. He also makes the most amazing tea.

DAVID: Kavi is more of an evaluator. She contributes her taste. Her design sense definitely informs her sense of hearing – she can spot any goth or new wave song from its first note!

MONOGRAM: David, tell us about the immersive musical scent performance you produced at El Cosmico in Marfa. How did that concept come about?

DAVID: I’m always trying to bridge the gap between scent and sound (I have a new HIKO MEN record coming soon with a scent set that is the landscape of the record for you to sniff as you listen). For Marfa, I had a friend build a scent machine that sprayed any of 16 accords (radiant mountain air, desert, primeval forest, etc.) into a centrifugal fan via footpedals. Everyone sat around the fan in a teepee and as we played, I sprayed scents that enveloped the listeners. The journey is more immersive when you sniff what you are hearing and vice versa.

MONOGRAM: Do you have a favorite vintage t-shirt? How and when did you acquire it?

KAVI: I found this WVKR Vassar College Radio shirt in Venice, CA when I moved to LA for grad school in 2003. I had a radio show called “Ain’t Got Time For What You Feel” (Ministry song) on VKR with my friend Seth. We had the shitty 2 am spot, but we loved every minute. It was unreal to find such a random shirt in California!

MONOGRAM: What’s your favorite way to style a t-shirt?

KAVI: Tucked into anything black and high-waisted.

DAVID: I dig a tee with a blazer and fitted pants.

MONOGRAM: Do you use graphic t-shirts to articulate your point of view? How so?

KAVI: I really like to wear graphic t-shirts to formal meetings. It just helps lighten the mood and cut down the serious. I will always get a kick out of being able to wear whatever I want even in uptight business situations. I'm truly a rebel.

MONOGRAM: Time for the lightning round! Kavi, can you describe David in terms of the following:

COLOR: Ambers
ERA: Morning
FETISH: Rare teas, sub-boiling water
SYMBOL: Clover
LOCATION: Scottish Highlands

MONOGRAM: David, your turn. Describe Kavi in terms of the following:

OBJECT: Red Lipstick
BEVERAGE: Crémant du Jura
VEHICLE: Black (goth) Honda CR-V (soccer mom)
RITUAL: Working after hours
TAGLINE: Attitude

PHOTOGRAPHY: Susanna Howe