Smells Like Poetry: the Clean Scent That Comes With a Creative Hit

LONDON To perfumer Beckielou Brown, founder of clean scent brand Altra, the smell of poetry starts with a single white lily.

Brown has collaborated with photographer and poet Suzannah Pettigrew on the launch of her new fragrance Ghost Flower with accompanying imagery and poetry.

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The pair met 20 years ago working at a nightclub called Kabaret’s Prophecy in London.

“I have seen her creative practice develop from her early work to what she is creating today, and have loved her work since the beginning. When Altra was in its early stages, I knew we wanted to work with different creatives and artists to bring a multi sensory aspect and collaborative energy to what we were creating,” Brown said. “Her work for the collaboration came as her response to the scent itself, and the conversations around the inspiration I had when creating it. We wanted it to come from her own experience with Ghost Flower, rather than a fixed brief.”

Suzannah Pettigrew has just released her debut poetry and photography book “A Sphinx Looking for a Poet.”
Suzannah Pettigrew has just released her debut poetry and photography book “A Sphinx Looking for a Poet.”

Altra has been a work in progress for seven years, beginning in Los Angeles, California, where Brown lived for seven years.

“Initially it was a personal exploration, a creative outlet — a way for me to recreate memories and experiment with translating emotions and feelings into this fascinating intangible medium. At that time, I wasn’t planning to create a perfume brand, but increasingly all I wanted to do was channel my creativity into this area. Initially I was working with a mixed medium pallet of naturals as well as synthetic molecules,” Brown added.

Toying with the complexity of natural scents, she soon realized there were so few scents with solely natural materials.

To capture the essence of Ghost Flower, Brown enlisted Pettigrew, who has been writing poetry as a world building practice. She’s just released her debut poetry and photography book “A Sphinx Looking for a Poet.”

“I wanted to draw focus on sensuality, both the thrill and the fallout. Often it’s how I remember, through erotic markers of the past,” Pettigrew explained about the process of producing a special piece of work for the scent, she took ideas from the white lily’s burnt orange pollen.

Suzannah Pettigrew Altra perfume. Image features two women intertwined, seemingly nude though covered in flora and transparent red fabric.
The smell of poetry: Altra’s new campaign.

Brown, who is both spiritual and superstitious, unveiled her brand on Feb. 22 at 11:11 a.m. with the help of her business partner and best friend, Bridget Plant.

They had initially planned to launch in 2020 right before the pandemic hit. The pause in time gave them new areas to approach, such as digital scent scapes by working with artist George Jasper Stone just as brands were getting increasingly into digital outputs and entering the metaverse.

“We wanted to create a scent and brand experience that was conceptual and exciting, but made with meticulously sourced natural ingredients and produced and packaged with minimal impact on our environment,” said Brown, who has avoided greenwashing language and empty promises within the brand.

ghost flower perfume altra
Ghost Flower from Altra.

She’s fixated on breaking down what sustainable means and has instead drummed up “Profuture,”  a commitment to mindful production at every stage.

Altra houses four other fragrances: “Altra Skin,” “Stone Cold Heart,” “Dualist” and “Jasmin XXX.” The liquid contour bottles are refillable with black packaging inspired by Brutalist houses. Prices start from 138 pounds.

The perfume is direct to consumer with a solo stockist in Los Angeles boutique Just One Eye.

Brown said she wants to continue collaborating with different creatives as she readies a new scent for next year.

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