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Fragrance, Fashion and Family with Dame Perfumery Founder, Jeffrey Dame

The artisan perfumer shares his passion for perfumery in his three-generation family business.

Jeffrey Dame wants you to love your perfume.

As the founder and creator behind DAME, a Modern American Perfumery, it’s most certainly good business sense (pun intended). But it’s very much a personal affair as well.

“I want my perfume to be easy to wear so that when a woman or man first smells it, it just brings a smile to your face and you just enjoy it. There’s a simplicity to the beauty of it,” he says.

When we meet for a fashionable lunch at AZ88, he’s dressed in an all-black suit despite the fact that temperatures today were in the triple digits. It’s a nod to the many years he spent in New York and Paris working with luxury fragrances.

“I want my perfume to be easy to wear so that when a woman or man first smells it, it just brings a smile to your face and you just enjoy it. There’s a simplicity to the beauty of it,” he says.

Dame started out as an assistant buyer for fragrance at Neiman Marcus. He then went on to work directly with Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass and Geoffrey Beene, to name a few. Eventually, he launched his own collection in 2000.

Having been involved in the fragrance industry since the 1980s, when perfumes were about the designer and not about celebrities, it’s hardly a surprise that he ventured into the world of artisan-crafted perfumes. “The type of customer interested in artisan fragrances is someone looking to connect with the maker,” he says.

And connect they do.

Dame makes it part of his business philosophy to create a strong relationship between his creations and his customers. With each purchase, he includes postcards featuring his father’s artwork and samples of additional fragrances. He’s also been known to send out new fragrances to loyal customers he thinks they might like. “People kind of freak out,” he says, explaining they often end up thinking they’ve accidentally ordered something, not realizing it was a “just because” gift. It’s simple, but effective. And it’s the type of personal touch that keeps his customers coming back for more.

“What I try to do is create something that’s just simply beautiful.”

Much like his marketing approach, his process of fragrance creation is also simple but effective. “Artisan perfumes can be an intellectual exercise where the maker has some complex theory about it… it’s torturous and complicated. I don’t do that. What I try to do is create something that’s just simply beautiful. They’re all very smooth, balanced, modern, easy to wear. You put it on and you say to yourself ‘I smell beautiful’ and that’s the end of it.”

It’s a family affair for Dame, whose father and son are also involved in the business. His son, Cullen Dame, handles the graphic design for the company while his father is the Artist in Residence, doing many of the bottle labels.

“My dad has painted for his whole life, but he paints for himself and his sculpture; he’s not into fashion and so it took him a while to get his head around it,” he says. “He painted the first Black Flower Mexican Vanilla image, which is gorgeous. And I came back to him with another one and then he got really excited, and then what happened is I would go over to see him and all of a sudden he’s taking out drawings and paintings and saying you should make a perfume off of this painting rather than me saying please make a painting for my perfume.”

Dame’s collection spans more than 35 fragrances for men and women and includes perfumes and body creams. And while he isn’t one to play favorites, he mentions that Dame Black Flower Mexican Vanilla is a bestseller.

“Perfume is very much about a narrative, and if I see there is a story that’s not being told then I create some fragrances around that narrative.”

“Perfume is very much about a narrative, and if I see there is a story that’s not being told then I create some fragrances around that narrative.”

He is also passionate about making his fragrances accessible, an interesting take for a boutique perfumer.

“For perfume in this artisan level a typical price point is $250 a bottle, and the thing that always bothered me about this was no one could afford to buy a bottle so they would buy little samples and live off of those. To me that’s just horrible because you want to have a beautiful bottle and spray it. You don’t want to be thinking to yourself, ‘I paid $250 for this, I can only wear it on special occasions.’ And so that’s part of the Dame philosophy: keep it, wear it, enjoy it.”

15 Qs WITH JEFFREY DAME

LAST BOOK YOU READ

There There, by Tommy Orange

IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL?

A coyote

GUILTY PLEASURE?

The taco truck on 22nd Street

FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR?

Just straight up chocolate.

FAVORITE BRUNCH SPOT?

Don’t have one

DREAM DINNER PARTY GUESTS?

Winston Churchill and Andy Warhol

WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE?

Jack Nicholson

MORNING OR NIGHT PERSON?

Morning

WHAT ANNOYS YOU MOST?

Misdirection

THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF?

Passionate, true and kind

IF YOU COULD TRADE LIVES WITH ANYONE FOR A DAY?

I wouldn’t

LAST MOVIE YOU SAW?

Deadpool 2 with my son, Cullen

COFFEE OR TEA?

Coffee

SUNSET OR SUNRISE?

Sunset

WHAT OR WHO DO YOU CONSIDER ICONIC?

Andy Warhol

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