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How Sigil Scent Creates Perfumes with Their Own Story

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05.18.20 | By
How Sigil Scent Creates Perfumes with Their Own Story
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There’s something to be said about having a signature scent, a symphony of notes that brings you to mind whenever someone else smells it on a breeze. Inspired by his love of nature, Patrick Kelly founded Sigil Scent in 2015, creating a line of hand-blended singular eau de parfums meant to evoke the world around us. Sigil’s premium fragrances are long-wearing and 100% natural through the use of handmade tinctures, essential oils, and absolutes. We spoke with Patrick about how the brand has pivoted during the COVID-19 pandemic, the process of creating a scent, and how building their brand online using Squarespace has been an integral part of his business since day one.

Photo by Ryan Pfluger

By definition, a sigil is a type of symbol imbued with its creator’s entire being, a talisman that represents different aspects of their identity, passions, and endeavors in life. For Patrick, perfumes are a sort of invisible symbol we can use to enhance our identities and personalities. “I think of each of our perfumes as an invisible olfactory sigil, a tool to be used by the wearer as they see fit,” he said of the brand’s name.

Sigil’s sanitizing hand mist

As a perfume company, Sigil uses high quality, small batch, craft distilled, high-proof alcohol, and organic cane sugar-derived alcohol. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these very ingredients became valuable hygienic products. Patrick quickly pivoted part of their existing business model to support the community: multisensory, effective, and custom sanitizing hand mists. The hand mists, which are available directly through Sigil’s website, quickly gained traction amongst previous customers as well as piquing the interest of new ones – often selling out in a matter of days or weeks. Despite the popularity, as a gesture of goodwill, each bottle’s price is left up to the customer – they can choose to pay the cost of goods, add $5 to benefit the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s youth and senior food pantry, or add $5 to Sigil’s bottom line. Overwhelmingly, people have chosen to donate or give back to the business.

We’ve raised over $4,000 for the LA Center’s food pantry and COVID-19 relief efforts to date.

Photo by Hubert Yang for Sigil

Photo by Hubert Yang for Sigil

As a values based company, Sigil has always been interested in giving back to the community. “As a queer business owner, it’s imperative to put inclusion and representation first in all business and creative decisions. You can see that in our very intentional choice of language, imagery,” Patrick points out. These values permeate Sigil’s formulas, striking a balance that’s neither overtly masculine or feminine, but a bit of both. In addition to targeted and ad hoc giving programs, Sigil also participates in evergreen initiatives by donating 1% of all sales annually to eco-conscious grassroots nonprofits through 1% for the Planet.

Photo by Hubert Yang for Sigil

Now more than ever, storytelling matters – especially in a category like perfume that’s meant to be experienced firsthand. “Having a website that allows us to easily articulate our brand identity, values, and product benefits is essential to our growth. Squarespace provides the tools to be able to expand on the strength of our brand platform with beautiful templates, which are easily customized, and best-in-class ecomm tools to help cut through a very noisy marketplace,” Patrick said.

As the business has evolved, having the right tools has made all the difference. Squarespace continues to help Sigil stay on track by providing a robust list of options to assist the brand as they grow. Having the right suite of analytics has helped with swing decisions and navigating marketing strategy and direct programs as the seasons shift.

Patrick has also integrated Sigil’s direct newsletter lists and content with Squarespace’s platform to reach out to their customers and keep them up-to-date with any new products. In a time like this, streamlining this process has been helpful with increasing purchases and overall return for the business. He noted, “As we’ve moved to focus more on direct sales during the pandemic, adding a few additional email automations on customer behaviors has been helpful to bring them back and remind them about some of our limited and upcoming offerings.”

Photo by Hubert Yang for Sigil

Growing up, the opulence of perfume packaging stood out to Patrick, especially the ornate caps and shiny glass vials he would find sitting on gilded and mirrored trays in his grandmother’s bedroom. What he eventually distilled those memories down to is this: “the power that lies in perfume’s ability to marry fantasy and storytelling with visual references in a way that other, more tangible categories like skincare, cannot. Perfume is more musical, more subjective. It creates interior worlds. And yet, it’s a powerful tool to help facilitate community, connection, memory, and shared experience.”

Photo by John Von Pamer for Sigil

When Patrick, a self-taught perfumer, formed Sigil, he created a brand that is equal parts old world and new world, with a socially conscious and inclusive voice. People who reach for their natural scents have discerning noses and love their complex, long-wearing fragrances and beautiful packaging. Sigil’s perfumes are meant to be sexy, evoke distant landscapes, and focus on the breathing, living qualities of the materials used in their formulations.

Photo by John Von Pamer for Sigil

Photo by John Von Pamer for Sigil

We had Patrick take us through the process of developing a scent from start to finish. He said that there’s always an anchor, either a material or a story, behind each. Perhaps a place, a memory, or a dream, other times it’s the thought of merging materials for an entirely new scent experience.

“In the case of Prima Materia, for example, I knew I wanted to honor the perspective of our first assortment from 2015, which is primarily rich, arboreal, ancestral. It is a very core adjacent fragrance, with a heart anchored in fossilized amber, to signify the culmination of the alchemist’s work in transmuting base metals to gold. The story found the scent. But in the case of a perfume like Anima Mundi, it was more conceptual, then pragmatic. I knew we needed to have a not-too-sweet floral, in line with our gender neutral formulary perspective. I wrote the story of the scent, and then spent months fleshing it out in order to achieve the finished formula.”

According to Patrick, there are then 100 to 300 edits on a fragrance, across a six to twelve month period, before he feels ready to have a trusted committee of advisors weigh in and add some final finesse before bringing the perfume to market.

Aside from hand sanitizing mists, Sigil is working on product variations that are more direct-to-consumer, another necessary pivot due to COVID-19. They’re also in the midst of creating a late summer marketing campaign that reflects their brand values through the collective pandemic experience. Sigils are “the art of believing,” according to Austin Osman Spare, and Patrick Kelly keeps community at the heart of it all.

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Photo by Maria Troconis for Sigil

Photo by John Von Pamer for Sigil

Photo by John Von Pamer for Sigil

Kelly Beall is senior editor at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based graphic designer and writer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, and enjoys sharing her finds with others. When undistracted by great art and design, she can be found making a mess in the kitchen, consuming as much information as possible, or on the couch with her three pets. Find her @designcrush on social.