Brooklyn is more than just home for David Seth Moltz and Kavi Ahuja Moltz, makers of niche fragrance brand, D.S. & Durga. For David, the city’s impossibly cool energy and promise of infinite possibilities drew him there more than 15 years ago. “I moved here in 2002 from Boston,” he says. “Right when I got out of college, I was in a band and we all wanted to move to New York. And the kind of people we were, you obviously moved to Brooklyn. This was the time of The Strokes and The Walkmen. I was in a band working in coffee shops. It was very different then. It was magical. It felt like the world was your oyster. Everyone you met was doing something cool and creative in the arts.”
It comes as little surprise then that Brooklyn was where D.S. & Durga was born, with David (the “D.S.”) as the discerning self-taught nose and wife Kavi (Durga) as the thoughtful creative behind the visuals. Since its opening in 2008, the label has quietly built an empire of fragrances that tap into abstract moments, people and places, both real and imagined. Their first physical space was a studio housed in Brooklyn, open to the public for a few hours every Saturday, and they’ll soon be relocating their offices to the Brooklyn Navy Yard alongside other homegrown businesses like Catbird. And just last month, they opened their first flagship across the river in Manhattan at 251 Mulberry Street .
D.S. & Durga may have landed in Manhattan but the brand’s DNA remains firmly entrenched in Brooklyn. And for David, it’s teeming with inspiration in every corner. 100 ML asked him about the scents that best capture the essence of the city.
“Wild flowers in Brooklyn are incredible. They only bloom for one to two weeks every spring so if it’s crocus, you’ll get it for a week, and if it’s wisteria, you might get two and a half weeks. I’ll bring them to my house and make flower studies. Some of those studies have been used towards other fragrances that we have made. I’ve yet to make my Brooklyn flower scent. I also go to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden every spring and early summer when all these things bloom because there’s an incredible assortment. There’s a yellow magnolia there that’s unbelievable.”
“If you smell Air Force One Jordans—there’s this whole thing in Bed-Stuy with Jimmy Jazz and all those sneaker shops—and the smell of those sneakers is so Brooklyn and hip hop. We’re always going to be associated with hip hop in the nineties with Jay-Z and Biggie, both from Brooklyn. The scent of sneakers encapsulate that. It’s a sort of pristine, factory leather, suede-like smell. I use that kind of stuff all the time in my fragrances. Free Trapper is about frontier beaver trapping, but has a modern leather smell to it.”
“When I moved here, there were Italian spots that made coffee, but coffee hadn’t taken off where people were putting leaves in lattes. I worked at St. Helens Cafe, which might have been one of the epicentres of Williamsburg back in the heyday where all the bands and artists hung out. It was the first place you could get this strong, dark roast, Seattle-style coffee and then it exploded. We have this scent called Breakfast Leipzig that has coffee in it which is supposed to smell like where Bach wrote the Coffee Cantata.”
“There’s a bar called King Tai in Crown Heights that has some of the best cocktails you’ll ever have in terms of complexity and they’re $9. A cocktail is the closest art form to perfume. You’re taking all these elements that are blended in a certain way to have a myriad of complex flavours. You can have a cocktail that tastes and smells like flowers or one that tastes and smells like wood. It’s very analogous to perfume.”
“On Greene Avenue, the entire street for a stretch is all ornamental pear trees. In the spring, it’s such a strong smell. It has an ammonia-type smell—it’s fresher than fresh. Brooklyn has so many trees compared to Manhattan. One of the things about Brooklyn is that there’s a bit more space and nature.”