YeYe Parfums: handcrafted in-house from idea, to creation, to bottling
True to our brand name, we are perennially in search of “uncommon finds” in the world of fine fragrance with which to stock our boutique. While most lines come from across the Atlantic, one contemporary is based in sunny Santa Barbara, California, and is the latest in our spotlight series: YeYe Parfums.
After years in other industries like retail, fashion, real estate, and engineering, founders Ryan York and Ernesto Sanchez-Bujanda decided to launch a highly niche, small-batch luxury fragrance brand that they could selectively distribute and quietly find fans of around the U.S. and the world.
I wrote to them with some questions…here are their answers…
You both had big careers before launching YeYe…how did those experiences shape the brand and your approach to it?
As outlined in “Our Story,” for Ernesto, his education and the discipline of Industrial Engineering is a huge help in the myriad technical aspects of creating fragrance formulas; his professional experiences leading from his years in the cosmetic industry in NYC, to co-founder/buyer of the only niche perfumery in Miami (when “niche” was a matter of fact, versus what it has evolved into day, with niche becoming the new mass), was a major stepping stone, instilling a passion for fragrances and wishing to place his own personal mark on the fragrance industry, creating YeYe Home Fragrances in 2007, which was another major stepping stone that lead to co-founding YeYe Parfums, featuring Personal Fragrances, which officially launched in October of 2015.
Ernesto: “The whole experience of opening and operating a niche perfumery and close exposure to all the amazing products was what inspired me and my budding passion for what we now refer to as the Artisanal Perfume World.
As for me [Ryan], as outlined in our story, my major retail training, during nearing 20 years in NYC with the most respected US Haberdasher, where the then-president taught by example to see each and every detail of that which ones eyes set upon, insisting on the highest standards of personal style and quality throughout.
And, more specifically, my extensive experience as Director of Stores for America’s oldest apothecary, Caswell-Massey, dating back to the days before 1776, which initiated importing various fragrances and skin care products from abroad, before developing its own line of such products; overseeing, with the help a significant assistant, the design, construction, stocking, staffing and on going operations of some 30 +/- branch and franchise stores, throughout the US, Canada and a pop up store in Harrods of London, plus maintaining the historic flag ship store on Lexington Avenue, increasing annual sales 5x.
In addition, during my time in Miami, among many other duties, I was responsible for all graphics, logos and signage for a large company that owned several cafes/restaurants, retail stores and significant real estate on and off South Miami Beach; this experience was extremely valuable, as I honed…over twenty years…my understated, striking, but self-confident style.
All of our combined decades of experiences helped us to found and run a fragrance operation, from A – Z, front and back of the house.
What is your biggest challenge with your brand and/or you personally? (e.g. awareness, distribution, time-management)
We think the biggest challenge that not only we are experiencing, but many artisanal American brands face, is the overly saturated market, where every season there are hundreds (or thousands) of new perfume launches.
Any start-up business faces a myriad of challenges and hurdles, on many levels, that were not initially anticipated. All companies, whether new or not, always face challenges by an ever evolving market place, which must be responded to, or risk being left behind. The way we deal with them is how we evolve into something better. We take every challenge and embrace it, always trying to learn and transform those challenges into positive lessons that will shape our future, which is our “general” approach, business wise, as well as personal.
What is your process when you develop a new scent prototype? Does it start with a scent you remember that you want to recreate, or an abstract concept you want to personify in smell?
Ernesto: More the latter than the former, I neither use a perfume brief nor attempt to conjure up something from past experiences, nor do any kind of “market studies.” I am always trying to create new olfactory experiences.
I work mostly from a non-reality-based point of view. For me, it is important to ensure romance and mystery when deciding on what kind of ingredients are going to be used to write a story that will evoke emotional responses that are unique and very special.
I am never motivated by what will be considered a success in the marketplace, as much as I hope each perfume will eventually achieve. The whole creative process is exciting and fascinating. Perfumery is an amazing experience of self-exploration. It is near impossible not to think about perfume, most of the time. Perfume making results in a passion that teaches you discipline, a great deal of patience, appreciation and detail, with each perfume possessing a part of the perfumer’s soul.
What is your hope for YeYe? Best possible scenario?
As part of the artisanal market, we place the emphasis on the quality of the ingredients, rather than on all things but.
We are doing what we truly love and for that…fragrances will always be part of our lives. Our goal is to create a very special and unique collection where the end user (customer) will take note of the unique style and DNA of the brand, with each new fragrance, but in an effortless sort of way.
We made a very conscious decision of not to do more launches unless we have something very special that we want to add, with no urgency to come out with one or more fragrances every season.
Ernesto has been working on two new fragrances; one is ready, including its name, and the other still a work in progress. We may attempt to launch both together…or not.
There is a movement of “renaissance people” in and around the US that are making, from fashion to timepieces (Shinola) to niche fragrance (there’s you and then we also carry Kerosene, which is made in Detroit). What do you see for the future of domestic manufacturing? Is it an advantage or disadvantage to be remotely separated from the centers of your industry, like Paris, Milan, London, and even New York?
We very much embrace US based fragrance houses; there are a few artisanal and indie brands made in the US, and we think most of them are doing a fantastic job with their brands and the awareness it brings to the industry. However the US market is a very young, compared to the centuries old cultures of most other countries, and has a way to go.
In addition, we acknowledge, in recent years there are more and more new perfumeries, such as Uncommon Finds, that are doing a great job at representing and exposing brands from the US.
As for being geographically isolated from the main market hubs of the US, we do not see any major advantages or the lack there of, thanks to technology and social media. As for us, the stunning beauty and culture of Santa Barbara, the American Riviera, is a magical place like none other, is in it self, inspiring.