New York’s strangelove creates authentic luxury by combining the unique scent of oud with other rare ingredients

For Elizabeth Gaynes, founder and CEO of independent fragrance house strangelove, there’s much more to what she does than meets the eye. Founded after Elizabeth worked with sustainable agarwood farms in Borneo, strangelove is first and foremost a celebration of oud, the rare oil produced by agarwood trees.

“When I was in Borneo,” she explains, “I came to understand how precious agarwood trees are, and how sustainable farms can prevent deforestation. I realized how magical oud was, and learned how revered it was in much of the Middle East. I also found its scent to be incredibly mysterious, sexy and enduring. Shortly after a trip to Borneo, I was invited to be part of a marketing project at a TED Conference, and created oils using oud from the farm. The oils were such a hit that I had to keep going. I wanted to create ‘addictive potions’ that would make people feel confident and irresistible.”

Beyond its rarity, oud evolves on the skin – and smells different on everyone. When combined with other rare ingredients like gardenia enfleurage, ambergris and orris butter, you have perfumes that embolden their wearers with their uniqueness and embody what Elizabeth calls “authentic luxury”. “I wanted to take all the finest rare ingredients I could find in the world and use them with oud,” says Elizabeth. “I didn’t think about why I couldn’t do it – I just wanted to make perfumes that were memorable, that I knew people would love.”

With supermodel Helena Christensen serving as Creative Director and Christophe Laudamiel as Master Perfumer, strangelove – one of just a few independent American fragrance houses – has certainly succeeded in its mission. Six years after launching its first scent, deadofnight, at Harrods’ prestigious Salon de Parfums, strangelove now has five arresting oud-based eaux de parfum and perfume oils. Adding to the brand’s mystique, strangelove is only found in a handful of boutiques around the world.

“Our philosophy is about empowering yourself to take risks and explore different aspects of who you are,” says Elizabeth. “Our scents are powerful, daring, and can lift your spirits or take you to faraway places. What matters most to us is the adventures you can have while wearing them.”