Fragrance is more than a means to a pleasing aroma. It can be the spark that ignites a fond memory or the spritz that inspires an alluring alter ego. There’s no doubt that fragrance is compelling and as the founders of D.S. & Durga, David Seth Moltz and Kavi Moltz ever so artfully play up its power. They are not only scent makers but storytellers with a passion for delighting the senses and transporting customers to unseen realms with their unique blends. Here, they give us an inside look into their inventive world.
Kavi Moltz David Seth Moltz, Founders of D.S. & Durga
You are incredible storytellers. I want to know your story. How did you get started in the fragrance business?
Kavi Moltz: We started making gifts for friends—just handmaking and mixing little scented tonics. Our friends liked them, so we gradually started taking it more seriously. Neither of us formally trained in what we do now—making perfume for David and branding and design for me—but we are both creators and enjoyed learning something new.
I know firsthand that it can be hard to describe a fragrance well enough for someone to want to purchase it without smelling it. Tell me about your vivid descriptions.
David Seth Moltz: The stories are immersive worlds. I try hard to explain what’s going on in the world and in the most concise way. I believe all great art is enriched by speaking about it—of course the experience is wordless. But discussing things helps us digest the majesty of created things.
When I read the ideas behind fragrances like Burning Barbershop and Freetrapper, I can’t help but wonder—Which comes first, the story or the scent?
DSM: It works both ways. I have a running list of names and ideas. Sometimes a new experiment implies something that I’ve been wanting to explore. Then I refine the fume and work out its narrative simultaneously.
Which scent tells your favorite story?
KM: The story of the scent Durga is a favorite, as it references the bouquet of tuberose flowers my beloved uncle would put on my bedside table each evening in Delhi. When I’m not feeling like putting on something so sultry I wear Radio Bombay. It’s warm and mysterious.
DSM: The Bowmakers story is one of my very favorites. It tracks the moment when American music was born from the making of American instruments (that were made from the woods the transcendentalists tramped through).
What’s your bestseller?
KM: I Don’t Know What Perfume is surely having a moment. I wear it alone and also layer it with other scents. Our Big Sur After Rain Candle is also well loved. It really transports you to the foggy California coast.
You say scents are an invisible soundtrack you can carry on the body. I hear you even have playlists for some scents.
DSM: Every scent has a playlist. The perfumes and candles are little worlds that can be endlessly expanded on. I’m a musician, and music is my first love. The playlists are the soundtracks to the fume, or they highlight a particular aspect of it.
These days connection is more important than ever. How do you strive to connect to consumers with your scents?
DSM: A perfumer is like the candy man in Willy Wonka doling out sweet fantasy, but also an artist like any other discipline. Hopefully the products provide some joy that spark thoughts, ideas, and explorations for people. We try to give as much information about what’s in the fragrance and what we are trying to say with it without being didactic.
Have you had to pivot your business during the pandemic?
KM: We have become more direct and digital for sure. We’ve expanded our home and hand business. It’s cozy time. This year has helped us step back, focus, and hone in on what we want to do and the kind of brand we want to be.
As curators of cool and purveyors of incredible perfumes, we were dying to know what David Seth (the D.S.) and Kavi (the Durga, which means Hindu goddess and is David’s nickname for Kavi) are gifting this holiday season.
-Desert House Art Print by LINNA. Can't travel but we miss the southwest lots.
-Antique Green Opaline Boxes by KRB. Jewel greens are a favorite accent color.
-Linen Napkins in Burgundy by GoldieGirl. We have a couple dozen in our house and have basically stopped using paper towels because of them.
-Auto Fragrance Set by D.S. + Durga. All of our autos for your car, closet, or spaceship.
-The Holiday Comb by Crown Affair. So chic.
-Manzhaya Reserve Incense Gift Set by Verdant Tea. We burn it in our house all the time.
-Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day by Jay Shetty. I am smitten with Radhi Devlukia-Shetty and her husband Jay Shetty who wrote this book. Their positivity is infectious and so welcome at this moment.
-I Don't Know What Fragrance Enhancer by D.S. + Durga. A fragrance enhancer that blesses anything it touches.
-Portable Fireplace candle D.S. + Durga. Easiest gift of all time.