As children, some of us play with dolls. Kim Spadaro played with fragrance, so it’s not surprising that when she grew up she decided to start Spadaro, a line of perfumes. She’s traveled all over the world—Europe, the Middle East, Asia—leaving behind (via Facebook) a message of tolerance scented with sandalwood and patchouli and bergamot. For Kim, fragrance is a temple, “So spray it on and wear it—spray it like you mean it!” For a closer look into the work she considers her destiny, read on!
Can you give me a little of the backstory about how Spadaro came to be?
I was always into scent. It goes back to when I was a kid. I always had some sort of essential oil or incense. I was very into incense—I liked how it had a global feel. I was always looking at airplanes and thinking, I want to be on one of those, I want to be out in this world. It’s funny how life happens. You go on, go to school, graduate, get a job, work. I got married and had kids, and during that time I was always trying to find a healthier way to do things.
When you say healthier, what do you mean?
Using natural products instead of taking medication. I had a lot of headaches and stress, so I got a lot of books on essential oils and started looking at which essential oils were calming, like putting lavender in the room to quiet the babies. I thought, “I want to learn more about this,” so I enrolled in the American School of Healthcare Science. I started studying clinical aromatherapy. At the time I was on the board of the children’s hospital. I took a tour of the hospital and thought, “What if I made scents for them?” But there are a lot of allergens in naturals, so you really can’t bring them in to someone whose immune system is down. So I just started using them in homes for women who were going through divorces.
So you were using it for psychology?
Yes. And then I said, “Scent, lighting and music—what if you were to tie it all together?” So I started this thing called Spadaro Style. Everybody would come to my house and say, “I want my house to be like yours. I want this feel.” There was always some kind of oil burning, and I used them in cleaning products. I also used certain kinds of bulbs and dimmers. People don’t do that. They come in and put in horrible fluorescents, thinking they’re energy-saving, but they do disturb a lot of people.
You’re like a feng-shui specialist.
You know, I never trained in it. I did, however, do an event for the comedian Dennis Miller at my home. He was there to raise money for the psychiatric ward at the children’s hospital. I believe that the party begins as soon as you exit the car. It’s an experience. I scented the house with nebulizers, and I scented the yard with incense sticks, so that you got the scent but you really didn’t know where it was coming from. Everybody was like, “I want this, I want this.” And I was wearing the oils too—clove and lots of sandalwood.
When did you begin making your products?
A friend of mine was dying of cancer. She said, “You love doing what you do, and I’ll never see my kids grow up, I’ll never see my dream of writing (she was a journalism major, diagnosed with terminal colon cancer at 36), so you need to go for it.” She made me realize that I was turning 45, and this was the time in my life to do something.
It was now or never.
Yes. So I grabbed my oil, booked a flight to Paris with my ten-year-old daughter, and said, “Let’s go see if I can make perfume.” I was scheduled to meet with two female perfumers there, and they showed up at my hotel with this pyramid you’re supposed to follow. They said, “What are your ingredients?” and I said, “Let me replicate it with your oils,” and they said, “Well, we want you to follow this pyramid.” I said, “Well, I don’t want to follow the pyramid, I want to do what I’m making, because people want to wear it.” Seven batches later, I got what I wanted. They said, “It’s really not acceptable.” I’m not a trained perfumer. I’ve never claimed to be a trained perfumer or a nose—I know what I make is good. I’m not the chef, I’m the cook, but it all works. So I came back to the U.S., and went knocking on every door of every organization, and by happenstance got into an organization where I was invited to perfume launches with people from the industry. The connections just started happening. I connected with an Asian fill house, and that’s how Noche del Fuego was born.
Noche del Fuego?
Night of fire. It was inspired by a great night of dancing in Majorca. Sole Nero is from Sicily, Doux Amour is from Morocco, and Beso del Mar, which just launched, is from Las Ventanas in Cabo.
These are meant to be worn, and to scent houses?
These are perfumes. I have candles, I have shower gels, I have bars of soap. I only produce a thousand bottles of each. I’m a niche indie perfumer. Nordstrom launched me in 2011, but they didn’t know what to do with me, so they put me in luxury perfumes and they said, can you give this away, can you give that away. After giving away a quarter of a million dollars in product, I said, “I can’t do this.” I told Nordstrom I was pulling from them, and that I was going to focus on international sales.
It was ballsy. But I was always selling out online. The Middle East was inquiring. Europe was inquiring.
How were people finding you?
Press. Marie Claire, Glamour. A lot of great bloggers. An international fragrance site. The next thing you know, you start getting followers. My Facebook has been amazing. About 20% of it is personal, because my brand is me. It’s about the lifestyle. My brand is global. It’s about traveling. What it has evolved into is teaching people about tolerance.
What do you mean by that?
I try to always post something about people, culture and tolerance. I don’t teach religion or politics or anything, what I do is promote tolerance.
Would you say that tolerance is one of the essential elements of your brand? What would you say the brand’s qualities are? Talk a little bit about the equation of you as a character in your brand.
I never know. I just know me as me. There’s nothing deliberate. It’s the same story every time—I don’t have to practice. I’ve got great followers and fans of the brand because of its authentic story. This brand is created from my heart, my soul, my life, my love, my loss, my tragedy. This brand has a soul. I love it when editors write that this brand has a heartbeat. It’s not created by a conference room of people sitting around going, “Okay, we need a spring scent.” There are 1300 new fragrance launches a year—clearly people are doing it to make money. I need to make money to stay in business, but I created this brand out of passion. It’s like a temple—it’s particular, and there’s nothing like it.
I love the idea of your fragrance being like a temple. Describe that a little bit.
The mood feels like a temple. It’s so aromatic that when you’re wearing it, you smell the different layers of patchouli and bergamot and sandalwood. I think the clove shocks people. I also have a little black pepper in all of my fragrances because it spices it up, and I like things to be a little spicy.
But just to go back to the idea of your scent being your temple. Can you talk about that a bit more?
Well, your body is your temple. Spray something on that’s going to make you feel good about what you’re wearing—you don’t want to smell like everybody else.
How does feeling like a temple manifest itself for you?
I wear my scent, and I feel like a goddess.