Interview with John Malloy: How Memo Fragrances designs its perfumes

Bottled memories of destinations

An African safari. Winds in an Irish meadow. The oasis of Siwa. A pilgrimage to Lalibela in Ethiopia.

Imagine scents that encapsulated memories of these destinations into little glass vials. Each whiff digs out a faint memory from the back of your head, and for a moment, you’re transported to that far-flung city you’ve been yearning to revisit. Precious memories of birds chirping, a child’s innocent laugh ringing through the valley, the sight of blue oceans come ringing back to present day.

These emotions are what Parisan fragrance house, Memo, sets to evoke. “For us, fragrances remind us of destinations, instead of people,” muses John Malloy, co-founder of Memo.

Founded in 2007 with his wife, Clara — whom he met on a ski lift in Switzerland — Memo’s roots lie in exploration and travel. Translating destinations into fragrances, the brand has won over a cult following, all of whom can now have a piece of tangible memory to call their own.

Here, Malloy speaks of his favourite scent, his family, and the downside of doing made-to-measure perfumes.

John and Clara Malloy

The more you smell, the more you develop an olfactory memory. When you start to collect something, like art, you’ll learn about various types, the artists, their works, and colours. It’s the same for perfumes. Your mind will regroup things and it becomes part of your memory.

I take care of everything other than creating the scent. That’s Clara’s job. I make sure that products are out on time to our stores around the world, our staff are properly trained.

My secondary task is to keep Clara happy and motivated! This means ensuring everything runs smoothly, allowing her to free her mind to dream up the different perfumes, with our ‘nose’ of the brand, Aliénor Massenet.

Clara thinks of a destination and tries to pull various scents together to form a ‘memory’. She thing discusses it with Aliénor, who’ll let her smell various base notes. Clara picks her favourites that best describe the destination, and Aliénor will put the scents together, and suggest alternatives.

There are a number of scents that remind me of Clara
, but the one that really touches me has to be French leather. It’s the whole ‘Parisian thing’. I met her in Switzerland, but we were both living in Paris at that time. She was the ultimate Parisian. You take her the wrong way and you’d get ‘pricked’ by her ‘thorn’.

Clara has the final say in all scents created and sold. She leads the brand in her direction. There’s no scent that we sell, that she wouldn’t wear, and we don’t produce a scent unless she is 100% happy with it. Our product is a point of view in the world, we’ve got to be clear about what we do, and why we do it.

It’s sometimes a pain to do made-to-measure scents. It takes between six months to a year to create the scent from start to end. Some customers drive you mad. They want a year-long discussion, and change their minds all the time. You have to put your foot down. You can’t finish something if you keep changing your mind.

It’s impossible to do a single scent for Asia. Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and Korea for example are all so different. We could create one for Africa, because when you think of Africa, you think nature and wildlife.


Irish leather best describes me. Clara made it after we came back from a holiday to visit my family in Ireland. I’m Irish, but I don’t live in Ireland, and when I wear it, I think of my home, parents, and roots. I’ve lived more outside of Ireland, than I’ve been in Ireland. This brings me back to my origins. It has everything, the winds, energy… It also makes me think of my wife.

Even though we’re work partners, Clara doesn’t come into the office much. She’s in once or twice a week for meetings, then leaves. The office is my place. It’s uncomfortable for the team to have a husband and wife in the office. Funnily enough, and we didn’t make the rule, it just happened naturally.

We travel as a couple at least once a year. We also travel with my two children, aged three and six, every summer and spring. Plus, we’re always travelling back to Ireland and Spain where our families are, and we shuttle between France and Switzerland too. The company’s based in Switzerland, but everything’s made in France. 

My children are a little too young to create scents, but they influence where we can travel to as a family. This in turn affects the perfumes we create. I guess they influence the scent in a different way.

Memo Fragrances is available at Escentials Paragon.
Paragon Shopping Centre
290 Orchard Road
Singapore 238859