Gallivant founder Nick Steward invites you on an exotic voyage of perfumed escapism
Time in a bottle. Message in a bottle. What if we could close our eyes and be transported to the city of our most fanciful dreams? No airports, no long queues, no tourist traps, and no reservations. Desire and imagination are our passports for entry. Our journey would take us to mountain tops and seaside villas. To windows that open onto verdant floral gardens and early morning strolls down alleyways bathed in the aroma of freshly baking bread. We could cruise through a fabled canyon where rock ’n’ roll dreams were made, or traverse a city so far away you need a flying carpet to get there.
Does this wanderlust in a bottle have a name? Is there room in our lexicon for this yearning to surrender oneself in a place so deeply that we get lost there, even in our daydreams? There is now, thanks to Nick Steward, founder and CEO of Gallivant Perfumes. ‘Gallivant is about hidden corners. Unexpected finds. Getting off grid. It’s about finding that new place, the next neighbourhood. Favoured old haunts. Chance encounters. Taking the pulse of a place and drinking in the vibe. It’s an antidote to our fast-paced lives, about being in the moment,’ says Steward. He calls it perfumed escapism.
Born with a traveller’s spirit and a linguist’s ear, Steward studied Arabic and French at university before diving into a career in international marketing at major cosmetics firms such as L’Oréal. When he landed the job as creative director for niche perfume house l’Artisan, Steward finally found his own niche. His passion for fragrance grew more profound and his knowledge grew deeper under the tutelage of Bertrand Dachaufour, one of the great noses in fragrance history.
It was only a matter of time before Steward married his fervour for fine fragrance and zest for the freedom of global exploration into a boutique brand. The result is a series of captivating perfumes that are as much about the anticipation and evolution of the journey as they are about poetry and slang of the destination. Gallivant is about celebrating simple pleasures, and the human desire to be free to explore. Combining inner wanderlust with armchair travel, Gallivant takes you on an olfactive journey through highly curated scents inspired by exciting destinations.
With a flagship store in London and an award-winning fragrance on its roster (the sultry neon floral Los Angeles), Gallivant is situated among the most respected and coveted niche fragrance houses. In this exclusive interview, Nick Steward opens up to Lucire about the trajectory of a Gallivant fragrance, the meaning of perfumed escapism and the creation of travel in a bottle.
Lucire: What inspires you about a city to choose it as a perfume destination?
Nick Steward: For some places I’ve visited, it’s simply a gut feeling: the vibe of life on the streets there. For other places it’s the history and the architecture that leave an imprint on my imagination. Sometimes it’s the people, the music, the food, the art of living there. It’s all about the vibes. To translate a destination into a perfume I need memories, emotions, vibrations.
Once you decide on a destination, what is the fragrance creation process?
Time is the most important element in our creative process. That’s the true luxury today. Time to reflect on the feeling I want to create, time to think about the material selection, time to compose and experiment. Time to wear the idea on skin, to evaluate the composition in different moments, different moods, different climates even. We’re a slow perfume maker. For example, the formula development of our award-winning Los Angeles took four years. Accra, which we’ve just launched, was over three years in the works. And then once we finalize a formula, the production is also slow, at least six or seven months for the first batch.
How do you capture a destination via scent?
I love the simplicity and democracy of our travel theme. Places that you may or may not have visited, but they have some resonance. Wanderlust in a perfume bottle. And the idea of throwing a spotlight on places which are under the radar pleases me to no end. For example, I have customers who have travelled to Gdańsk (on the Baltic coast of northern Poland) and Bukhara (on the Silk Road in Uzbekistan) because they fell in love with our perfume.
Where do you acquire and harvest the ingredients used?
Gallivant is a British brand and a very global affair, and as such, we source our raw materials (perfume essential oils, absolutes, concentrates) from all over the world. We work with France’s premier artisanal sourcing house, situated in the hills above Grasse in the south of France. It’s a very discreet, private affair—the company was founded by legendary perfumer Edmond Roudnitska (who created iconic fragrances for Dior, Hermès, Rochas). It’s an honour and privilege to work with them. They’re a very human and ethical company too.
How do you define perfume escapism?
Perfume has a magic power to transport us all out of the mundane. To give us that feeling of escapism to another realm. A whiff of something can truly move you. It can bring back distant memories, but also take you in a flash to somewhere else. The other day I was smelling a natural raw material which had a plasticine facet, and I was taken back instantly to my five-year-old self, sitting at my kindergarten table. I want my perfumes to have an almost dream-like, otherworldly quality.
You can explore the entire collection on the Gallivant website or follow them on their Instagram.