About Maison d'Etto
"I look at each individual fragrance as a piece of art and each collection as an exhibit. Maison d’Etto is about inspiring moments of connection, reflection, well-being and nurturing the human spirit one moment at a time. Our first collection, 'Connection to Self,' is represented by 5 horses that had tremendous pivotal impacts on my life."
– Brianna Lipovsky, Founder Maison d'Etto
Since launching last year, the luxurious, gender-neutral collection has become a favorite among the fashionably in-the-know, and it continues to win hearts apace. “We are in the stage where we can take risks, use insanely expensive ingredients and roll the dice,” says Lipovsky. Here, she shares what guides her aesthetic, and what we can expect from Maison d’Etto going forward.
You began with scent memories from your life’s equestrian experiences—why were those so meaningful to you, and how did that lead you to creating Maison d’Etto?
Horses have been a constant in my life from the age of five. I didn’t grow up in an equestrian family but the vast majority of my life outside of schooling and in my adult years, work was spent with or around horses, riding and competing. I sacrificed so much to have a “normal” city life and a horse life. Instead of going to the fashion shows, gallery openings or other social engagements, I spent most of my free time driving and/or flying to practice and compete. After having my daughter and seeing how brands were really fragmenting around psychographic niches vs just demographics I felt that it was my time to build and create something around my two passions – horses and scent – combined with my background in luxury, fashion and design. I have had close to 35 years of intimate experiences with these animals and so many amazing stories, experiences and personalities that I could deeply dive into creatively with authenticity and truth. It served as an incredible platform for me to create from but make something that was profound enough that it could really speak to anyone and serve as a metaphor. We don’t translate any of these scents directly. It’s not like we’re saying what horse X smelled like; we paint a picture based on a day or a few days, the horse’s personality, the setting, a special place or experience.
I look at each individual fragrance as a piece of art and each collection as an exhibit. So the brand Maison d’Etto is about inspiring moments of connection, reflection, well-being and nurturing the human spirit one moment at a time. Our first collection, “Connection to Self,” is represented by 5 horses that had huge pivotal impacts on my life. Our next collection is titled, “Connection to Nature” and it will feature stories that took place on horseback but immersed in nature. The fragrance that will launch for holidays took place in the French Pyrenees on a very special palomino mare, who’s name I can’t share for another few weeks ;).
You had a very clear sense from the beginning not only about how you wanted the scents to smell but how you wanted them to look and fit into people’s environments. What inspired this vision?
Yes, we did not come at this from a traditional beauty or fragrance perspective at all. That was very important to me. We drew inspiration from art, architecture, and design as well as a unique interpretation of the contemporary equestrian lifestyle, which is extremely nomadic. I not only wanted to be known for our fragrances but our packaging and the entire Maison d’Etto experience. Knowing how transitional many of our clients are we wanted everything to be not only beautiful, an object of art in and of itself, but also practical, and portable. I worked with the insanely talented and world-renowned graphic and product designer Lotta Nieminen as well as space and interior designer Olivia Song to help ensure that our products are adding an aesthetic value to each client’s life space and home.
The packaging is extremely considered. I wanted to create something sustainable and beautiful but not just for the sake of sustainability. So for example, we could create sustainable, recyclable but inevitably throw-away D2C packaging or we could create something with wonderful quality with a focus on materials that will last the test of time. Something that you want to hold onto and treasure, like an Hermes box. So our discovery set, after use, provides a beautiful design piece to place in a room or save jewelry, trinkets or crystals in. You will see with some of the other product categories that we start rolling out how we envision this evolving.
How do you believe that fragrance can help us connect with each other, ourselves, and to the world around us?
As we all know, scent is the only sense that we have as humans that goes straight into the limbic system and isn’t processed elsewhere in the brain. This guttural, reactionary nature I find to be deeply therapeutic. It almost brings you back to a childlike state. Many times, when I would get too in my head about things in the brand development stages, I would actually turn to my then 3-year-old daughter to ask what she thought because I know there would be no pretense, anxieties, judgement or overthinking.
Additionally, after doing a lot of work myself dealing with anxiety in my late 20’s I learned how to apply behavioral and observational patterns to reduce the anxiety. The more I came into myself I was able to apply those same techniques to the world of mindfulness, consciousness and meditation that translated into awareness and appreciation in even the most mundane aspects of life. I am so intrigued with the intersection of fragrance and science, the brain and the mind.
The brand focuses on five key aspects of connection — the sacred pillars that help us to achieve a sense of balance and wholeness. These include: connection to self, connection to others, connection to nature, connection to the world, and finally, connection to finding one’s purpose. These aspects will be brought to life with more robust programming and community-based initiatives.
What was the idea behind the name Maison d’Etto?
Etto is a combination of Ethics + Motto, created by writer, novelist and female polo player Courtney Maum. It represents the core truths and beliefs you carry with you despite where you are or what you are going through in life. It also stands for “Each To Their Own”. It is a brand that refuses to dictate values and beliefs to its wearer but rather empowers them to explore what Etto uniquely means to them.
What is your process for working with perfumers, and what have you learned from them along the way?
Ha. It’s unconventional to say the least!
Sometimes it can be a straightforward brief, but even then it’s just a springboard – there is always plenty of room for interpretation and space for each performer’s signature style to come through. Other times it’s a conversation, text (or even Instagram DM which drives the sales team crazy, sorry!) Other times, it’s cracking open a bottle of champagne on a Friday evening dissecting every single ingredient, nuance, and modification then doing a documentary photoshoot, which turns into a bunch of us rolling around on the ground of IFF laughing until our stomachs ache…Pre COVID, of course!
Perfumers are creatives. I really like to work with perfumers that connect with energy, passion, emotion, and can distill all of those things into an incredibly soulful fragrance. I have never had success with any type of creative person sitting behind a desk, so I like to get them out of the office if I can, and get them out of “work” mode. I like to be able to connect deeply with each perfumer, and let’s not forget the evaluator. I couldn’t do any of this without Alexandra Cassar, she’s my eyes, ears, voice, translator, and brand filter. We have a very deep and personal relationship, she at this point knows exactly how I’m going to react and respond.
I have learned from perfumers to love and enjoy life and to surrender to the beauty and frustrations of life and perfumery. Sometimes it just works and other times you can’t force it, you have to just give it space, time and a lot of patience. The more you respect the fragrance the more it will give to you. Perfumers have also taught me that this is where I belong, and that is so cool.
What achievement has been most gratifying for you since the brand’s launch?
Hands down the most gratifying achievement was the ‘Our Love Letter to You’ initiative that we did during the first wave of COVID in May when the tri-state was absolutely inundated with cases. I wanted to do something special for my friends who had all become doctors and were on the front lines. I had to do something as a member of society, founder and leader of a purpose-driven brand.
We partnered with IFF and other like-minded brands (Costa Brazil, Diptyque, Royal Fern and natureofthings) to donate 500 care packages to healthcare workers. IFF discovered through fMRI technology that one of the ingredients used in the fragrance, which by the way was still a complete work in progress, was associated with activating parts of the brain involved in relaxation. Our purpose was to bring respite, hope and peace to healthcare workers through a new fragrance we were working on at the time. It was a true moment of community, care, commitment, love and gratitude. A HUGE thank you IFF's production and manufacturing team, Dionisio Ferenc, Pascal Gaurin, Julien Boye for your trust in making this dream a reality for so many in need.
What does joining the Fragrance Foundation mean to you, and what do you hope it will bring to Maison d’Etto?
As a complete outsider to the fragrance industry, joining The Fragrance Foundation means so much. Number one, it validates our existence by a trusted and respected industry authority. It provides community and a place for connection and collaboration. As a self-funded brand, being a part of TFF always seemed a bit out of reach given the capital requirements for membership. With the new inclusivity initiative, I am now able to participate, and have a seat at the table, but also give back with my unique skill set as well. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and I am so excited to be able to learn and strengthen our weaknesses and add tremendous value with many of our strengths to the collective membership and organization. When we all come together amazing things happen!
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