ARTIST INTERVIEW: Sam Rader of Dasein Fragrance
Sam Rader is a self-taught perfumer and owner of Dasein Fragrance. Her perfume style is mixed media avant garde and all her scents are unisex. Sam blends her fragrances and runs Dasein out of her home in the hills of Glassell Park, Los Angeles. When not perfuming, Sam is a psychologist in private practice in Silverlake. Previously she was the founder and artistic director of The Silver Lake Chorus.
We at EPCF are huge admirers of Sam’s fragrances! We spoke to Sam about her creative journey.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now. Did you take any big risks to get where you are?
My life as a perfumer began quite suddenly and unexpectedly. I had always loved smelling things, because I am a sensualist at heart. There was this precise moment when I was visiting Big Sur in 2013 where the blend of smells in the air—spring lilac, sagebrush, saltwater, woodsmoke, wet pavement—just made me bonkers. I thought—Why is no one combining such diverse elements in a perfume? I want to try to make something like this. I went home and ordered all the oils and molecules I could find online and started sniffing and blending. It’s a lot like cooking. My first few attempts were overly ambitious and didn’t smell great. But I challenged myself to create a scent in time for the holiday, and see if some local stores would be willing to carry it. That’s when I came up with WINTER, which is still my most popular scent. I was completely self taught, so I thought the perfume community would laugh me out of the room. But to my surprise the store owners I approached were willing to carry it, and it flew off the shelves in a week. Now Dasein is in 80 stores worldwide. The biggest risk I took was to pretend to be a perfumer when I really had no business doing so. It still baffles me that it sells! I feel very blessed.
How is your work inspired by or influenced by nature and your surroundings?
For each of my scents—which were all inspired by the seasons—I tried to think of what about being in the natural world at that time of year smells the most satisfying. For AUTUMN I imagined fall leaves crushed underfoot. For SPRING I wanted to conjure little green things and blossoms budding out of wet dirt. For me the best smells, colors and feelings all come from nature . . . well, except for Iso E Super, which is a man-made molecule that smells like futuristic pheromones. It’s amazing.
Did you have any important creative influences?
I don’t think I could have even imagined making the kind of outside the box unisex scents that I do if it weren’t for Comme des Garcons. That fashion house creates the most innovative, sexy, gorgeous smells. There are several lines within the collection, including ‘Sherberts’ and ‘Incense’. My favorite Comme des Garcons smells are Peppermint Sherbert, Shiso (which they sadly discontinued), Kyoto Incense, and Wonderwood.
Did you have any artists or creative people in your family? If so, how did they influence you?
My mother is an actress who went to art school for college. She is a talented singer, dancer, painter, decorator, and comedic / dramatic actress. I think her artistry slipped into me through osmosis. I always went to stuffy schools that didn’t support my creative side. But my mom was quick to laugh, sing and dance with me. She always had an art project for me to do. Our home was clean and aesthetically interesting. My mom also read a lot of books to me with such great intonation and drama that I’ve always felt engaged with emotion and story.