Vidushi Vijayvergiya’s family legacy in the business of fragrances goes back a long way. Over the last century and a half, this fragrance house has managed to build and blossom the business, driven by artistry and perfection in hand blending and a keen inherited nose, counting 160 years and 6 generations to be precise.
Isak is the family’s latest initiative to put Indian perfumery and its craftsmanship on the world map. Vidushi said: “We strive to offer rare fragrance formulations created from the rarest of the rare ingredients, using a hallmark technique to carefully concoct each bottle with the same care. We go all out to expand our perfumery with the same honesty we use to craft our products, starting with sustainability and ending with a great fragrance for all.
“Based in Lucknow, we manufacture and extract many of our own essences using traditional infusion and distillation techniques that capture the complexity and notes of raw and rare ingredients of each blend – a process now foregone as too meticulous in times of machine-made products. Each essence is still measured, blended and formulated by hand as it was a century ago.”
In 2017, a range of nine couture perfumes called Isak were created which are being sold at some niche stores across India and international airports besides the brand’s own store in Lucknow. A large part of their customer base consists of people looking for authentic and exclusive Indian products. Isak showcases a pack of nine miniatures in a mind-blowing Discovery Pack as well as a range of room fresheners in the form of reed diffusers.
Isak is a Hindi word derived from ‘Ishq’. It is pronounced as /IS(e)K/ and is largely used in the heartland of Uttar Pradesh, which is also the brand’s home.
“Our biggest strength lies in our continuation to be artisanal, handcrafted, and original over the years and not get affected by the commerciality in an industry that’s otherwise mass-oriented and can get stereotypical. We have managed to survive and thrive over the last century and a half while staying true to our roots and remaining relevant to the current times with the never-ending love for our craft,” revealed Vidushi.
We went behind the brand with Vidushi, to discuss what makes a luxury fragrance and how the history of the brand influences today’s perfumes.
What gives Isak that cutting edge in the Indian perfume market and what has its journey been like so far?
We have a unique advantage since we manufacture perfume, design and retail in the same company. As a result, we have end to end understanding of the perfume value-chain. Understanding the customer and their requirements are extremely important in any business. We have developed a deep understanding of the customer through regular feedback and analysis at our retail store and via online feedback. Also, what gives us an edge is the focus and control on the quality of the ingredients that are used in the fragrance industry helping our customers find the most beautiful fragrances.
What makes Isak perfumes such a high-end, luxury product?
In our endeavour to provide unique and innovative perfumes, we have always kept our creativity high. Our motto is to never compromise on the quality and the use of natural and some rare ingredients that make our perfumes high-end and luxurious.
How easy is it to innovate and come out with radically different, newer fragrances in such a traditional sphere like perfumery to suit a younger customer base?
It is not easy at all. The tastes and preferences in the fragrance industry are ever-evolving. We keep up with the latest trends and launch new products regularly to appeal to the younger customer base. We continuously experiment with new ingredients, new blends and create new fragrances. After rigorous sampling and testing, a lot of them do not make the cut. But that is what the craft is all about. Only the best survive.
Given its origins in India and the fact that one of your main ingredients, oudh, is majorly sourced from the country, how has your brand incorporated India’s rich perfumery traditions of attar and spices into its perfumes?
The recipes of my grandfather and great grandfather are almost like the Holy Grail for us. They teach us a lot about the trends back then and allow us to keep the creativity alive with unique ingredients and blends. Being from India, our rich perfumery history allows us to work with exotic attars and spices and build on these to suit the tastes of our niche clientele.
What are some of your current bestselling fragrances and what, in your opinion, makes them so popular?
Some of our best-selling perfumes are 5th and Always, Edge of Dreams, Cosmic Dance and Bon Bon. We believe that a fragrance should not only appeal to the wearer, but also help them enhance their personality. Our unique blends are distinct from each other and other brands, allowing our users to wear a fragrance that helps them create their own special aura with ease.
Give us an insight into Isak’s more contemporary western, bespoke, and home fragrances verticals?
Our recent launch of perfumes with blends of ingredients such as saffron, cypriol, mint and nutmeg along with the exotic notes of oudh, patchouli, and jasmine absolute results into an outstanding creation of contemporary and bespoke fragrances. Our special range of home fragrances focuses on creating a calming and refreshing environment for your indoors. The creative process does not only include the creation of lovely fragrances but also picks up learnings from the science of aromatherapy leading on to create the perfect fragrances for your homes.
Where do you see Isak perfumes a decade down the road?
We look forward to taking Indian perfumery to the world and are seeking to be available across the globe soon. With our continuous efforts into launching new offerings, we hope to expand our product range gradually to cater to a wider market.
If you could give an ‘Isak spin’ to any fragrance, Oriental or Western, which one would that be and why?
Most of the lovely perfumes created are crafted after a thoughtful process of representing an idea. They are special in their own unique way and I would not like to disturb the creative idea of a fellow perfumer. If I need to give the Isak spin then I would like to start from scratch on a new idea entirely.
Lastly, as a perfumer what smells come to mind when you hear the word ‘luxury’?
Luxury to me means something that is comforting but not easy to find. It is rare and beautiful. The smell of earth when it first rains after scorching summer months is both calming and comforting to me. It is the most surreal experience.
In perfumery, the smell of oudh, amber, and sandalwood pronounce luxury to me. These are not only ingredients, but how you create an experience with them.