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Clandestine Laboratories - Mark Sage

Clandestine Laboratories began in January 2010 as an accidental obsession with fragrance. Perfumery was something I'd never thought much about because I'd never worn fine fragrance myself and rarely noticed it except when it was something cloying or unpleasantly strong. As the son of British scientists, it was definitely not part of my upbringing and if my parents taught me anything about it, it was indifference.

In spite of my upbringing in science, but also partly because of it, I became an artist and, eventually, a perfumer. My name is Mark Sage and while I’d originally planned to remain anonymous and mysterious and hide behind my brand, things haven’t worked out that way, which has been a wonderful thing. This past year has been incredible in terms of connecting with a wider audience, making new friends, and pretty much exploding out of nowhere to become a somewhat public figure and a brand with growing recognition and an enthusiastic following of indie fragrance lovers.

Perfumery is a strange art, in many respects. Imagine being a painter, but instead of using a relatively small number of paints, which can be blended to produce intermediate colors and applied by the artist to produce representations or abstractions, there are hundreds of materials to be blended, with any representation or abstraction requiring many specific ones used in proportion to their strength, diffusivity, longevity and intended effect. One missing material, one wrong material, one iffy proportion and the result falls short. Further complicating things, the composition has to unfold over time, while the materials all have different effects over time - and sometimes surprising effects when combined with one another. Completing a successful fragrance formula can take years of frustration and failure, at least for me. I like to think it’s because I have high expectations. I’ll often wear fragrances I think are finished and then go back to years of reworking after finding something missing.

The sense of smell itself makes perfumery a particularly difficult art, I think. Imagine trying to paint a painting with certain colors that become almost invisible the more you look at them, some more than others. Imagine if, instead of linear perspective, certain things became less noticeable with distance, whereas others stayed pretty much the same. Imagine certain elements, certain colors, actually changing each other in your perception. That’s literally how the realm of smell works and one reason it’s so difficult to create excellent fragrances that aren’t simply imitations of others.

This story has a happy ending, which is that over time I’ve found that the near-impossibility of creating a truly great, original fragrance is exactly what makes it so compelling and so satisfying to attempt. That and the reaction from people when they smell one they really love for the first time - it’s not something anyone fakes.

It’s finally time to share and it’s been fantastic connecting with a community of people who appreciate me for trying.