After Stine Hoff had her third child in 2016, she found herself craving a beautiful perfume. “During pregnancy, I hadn’t been able to wear perfume, so I was really excited to smell nice again,” she remembers, “But as soon as I sprayed them, I had a headache. I found that I wasn’t able to wear the same synthetic perfumes that I used to love.”
It was a devastating blow for Stine, who has been fascinated by perfume and scent since she was a child. She collected mini perfume bottles as a kid, and even visited a perfume factory in Egypt with her father.
In 2018, she began researching natural perfumes. At the time, there was one store in Copenhagen that specialized in them (now closed). “When I smelled the natural perfumes, I realised that it wasn’t just about nice scents – the combinations actually affected my mood,” Hoff explains. She embarked on a weekly mentorship with a natural perfume expert with the eventual goal of making her own perfumes.
As she began her journey, Stine’s dad was diagnosed with cancer. “My dad always encouraged me to run my own business,” Stine says. “He had run a business with his brothers, so he really understood what it meant to be an entrepreneur, and he thought that it was the right path for me too. Throughout his illness, I would sit with my oils and scents and try to work things out. It became much more than work for me; it was a creative release, and a form of meditation. It is something that helped me get through that hard period of my life.”
After her father passed, Stine quit her job working at a theatre company and took a trip to Italy. There she met a team of female perfumers who took a philosophical approach to perfume. “From that trip on, I knew I wanted to make perfume. I knew it would make me happy,” says Stine.
“I know it sounds like I just kind of…did it,” laughs Stine, “But looking back, I really think that I quit my job too soon. I thought I would have the business up and running in six months! It was much longer. Financial security is important too! I would definitely caution people from taking that step too quickly. On the other hand, going full time was something that motivated me to work hard,” explains Hoff.
As she experimented with mixing scents, Stine also began thinking about packaging and branding. “I had known for a while that I wanted to make the bottles porcelain,” she says. “There’s something so luxurious about it – the look, the feel, even the sound – and I feel that luxury is the element that’s often missing from natural perfume. People don’t think of buying a natural perfume the way they might think about buying a designer perfume; I wanted to bridge that gap. Then as i read more about the history of perfume, I found out that porcelain had actually historically been used for perfume bottles. So I knew I was on the right track.”
It took six months with a graphic designer (who is now also a part-owner of the brand) to get the bottle shape and logo for Porcelain Perfumery just right. “We went through 250 bottle shapes before we hit the one we have today!” Stine laughs. “It was important that it not only be high-end, but also unisex in design; I don’t believe that scent is gendered,” notes Stine.
Once she had the look of the perfumes in place, she began searching for producers. “I thought, well, people eat on porcelain, so surely putting perfume in it won’t be a problem! But there are a lot of EU regulations around this, so I ended up working with a Danish laboratory to get the safety elements just right.”
“Then I had to find a factory to actually make the bottles,” continues Stine, “At first I looked at Danish brands like Royal Copenhagen and Kahler, but the minimums at their factories were just too big for me – something like 10,000 bottles just to start!” Stine ended up finding a family-run porcelain factory in Germany to produce for her, and she works with them to this day.
All the while, Stine had been perfecting her set of three initial scents. “Learning about perfume is really about training your nose,” Stine explains. “I did a lot of blindfold training to get to know the difference between similar but separate scents, such as lemon, lime, and orange. It’s a lot harder than you might think!”
The perfumes, she decided, would come in three profiles: floral, woody, and spicy. “Each perfume took about 100 trials to get right,” she says. “I had to work with a laboratory so that I was in line with all EU regulations concerning allergens and so on.”
Porcelain Perfumery Scents
Osmanth – Floral
– Italian bergamot
– Chinese osmanthus
– French juniper wood
– Ethiopian mirrh
Myristica – Spicy
– Italian lemon
– Indian nutmeg
– Indian black pepper
– Omanish frankincense
Cedtarté – Woody
– American cedarwood
– French clary sage
– Moroccan orris butter
Porcelain Perfumery finally launched in August 2020, after over two years of development. “It was just a relief to launch, honestly,” says Stine, “but it was also scary because this brand is so personal. There are only three scents and each of them mean so much to me.”
She notes, however, that it’s important to separate your own feelings from your product, explaining: “I spoke to a perfumer and he said ‘if people like all three of your scents, you’re doing something wrong.’ because perfume is such an intimate thing, people aren’t going to like the same things. I had to prepare myself for that, and he was right!”
Discussing the hardest part of selling her perfumes, Stine notes that it’s difficult to sell online because the vocabulary for scent is so limited. “A lot of the language around scent is similar to that of wine,” she notes, “words like earthy, rich, soft, dry, and so on. That’s the reason I created the scent testers, so that people would have the opportunity to try the perfume before committing to a full bottle.”
Stine’s goal with Porcelain Perfumery is to get the word out about natural perfumes and encourage consumers to learn about their options. “I still love synthetic perfume, although it gives me a headache,” she explains, “so it’s not about calling one thing ‘good’ and another thing ‘bad.’ It’s just about opening people up to the world of natural scents and scent profiles. It’s really such a rich world, and I have benefited from it so much. I want to give other people that chance too.”
Porcelain Perfumery will be coming out with new perfumes, as well as additional items like candles and even travel-size perfume. “I think Porcelain Perfumery is great for people who already love natural perfume, as well as those who are just getting to know about it,” says Stine. “There’s nothing more wonderful that putting on that spray of perfume in the morning and thinking, ah, that smells like me. I feel lucky that I get to create that for someone.”
Shop Porcelain Perfumery.
Fabric backdrop is by Broste Copenhagen.