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Sense Familiar

Work / Publication

Sense Familiar magazine lets you smell the people it profiles

Fashion is notoriously inaccessible, too often the preserve of those blessed with lithe bodies and deep pockets who live behind the glass veneer of street style photographers and Instagram filters. Stylist Isabel Bonner wants to disrupt all that with her new publication Sense Familiar, a collaboration between photographer Alec McLeish with the added dimension of a set of scratch and sniff stickers designed by Joshua Checkley with scents by florist and candle maker Timothy Dunn. The magazine profiles six creatives — Assa Ariyoshi, Pete Sharp, Charlie Boxer, Logan Hill, Eve Miller and Niko Riam — and matches each with a fragrance created exclusively for them.

“Sense Familiar came from desiring something more in the ways in which I was viewing and consuming fashion,” Isabel explains of the origins behind the unusual project. “I wanted to create a multi-sensory, interactive and layered project that also focused attention on people who would bring their own complexity and multiplicity. Smell is a sense we don’t often use in the creative industries, in comparison to sight and touch or even sound, and it’s also a sense that is very connected to memory and personal experience. So it really came from there, talking with these individuals, treating them as a subject of inspiration rather than an object, and creating emotive fragrances to engage participants.”

When it came to choosing collaborators to help her realise the publication, Isobel turned to a team she knew and respected. “I chose Alec McLeish and Joshua Checkley for the project as I admired their work and when I approached them they shared the same enthusiasm for creating something multi-sensory. When it came to the scents we teamed up with florist and candle maker Timothy Dunn, our idea had a language he is very familiar with so it seemed perfect. When I wanted to create a smell that was dusty and hot Tim knew what elements would provide that.”

Sense Familiar soon became more ambitious than Isabel had originally anticipated. “The project I didn’t know how vast all the possibilities were. It usually takes at least a year to create a single fragrance so for us to produce six was pretty incredible. The smells were created to represent aspects of the subject and the image. So there were a lot of abstract brainstorming sessions…”

After exhibiting the images and scents at the launch of the magazine last month, the Sense Familiar team were inundated for requests to buy the fragrances, which is next on the list for Isabel. “We’re hoping to get the book into some shops, and have discussed putting on the show again,” she adds. “We want to share the experience with as many as people possible.”

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