An architect and a musician got together to make fragrances, and that’s exactly why David Seth Moltz and Kavi Ahuja of DS & Durga excel at what they do. Self-taught and self-made, the Brooklyn-based duo had no benchmarks, and definitely no cookie-cutter ideas, when they started in more than a decade ago. Since then, the brand has grown to become one of the coolest boutique labels with an innovative ingredient list and hip visual vocabulary. What’s even better is that this famed fragrance label has now made its way to Indian shores with Scentido (about time if you ask us!).
DS & Durga is a name derived from Moltz’s initials and Kavi’s nickname, Durga (inspired by Satyajit Ray’s film ‘Pathar Panchali’). The name also alludes to India being intrinsic to their craft. “I’m Indian and my husband, the perfumer, was into India even before we met. He is an avid meditator, and follows an Indian Hindu guru. India has always been a part of our lives, work, and marriage,” says Ahuja. The fact that Moltz is self-taught adds to the charm of the label. “The perfume industry is secretive and rightfully so. We were from the outside, so we figured out on our own. David’s style is very much his own,” she adds.
Apart from the name, what makes DS & Durga attractive is its off-beat sensibilities. The artisanal fragrances feature cherry-picked ingredients from across the world. While ‘Durga‘ is a heady mix of tuberose, iris, ylang ylang, and jasmine, ‘Radio Bombay‘ comes with serious sandalwood base. Does India feature in the ingredient-sourcing list? “India has some of the best ingredients for fragrances that are easily available and are of high quality. David loves working with Indian ingredients like sandalwood, vetiver, tuberose, and frangipani,” says Ahuja. Currently, there are 19 scents on offer. A little research throws up ‘Siberian Snow’ as the their most popular offering, but we were disappointed to know it has been discontinued.
The bottles have a minimal, clean, and chic sensibility – circular bottles topped with black caps – and are labelled with millennial slangs. While the bestseller ‘I Don’t Know What‘ is very French, ‘The Debaser‘ is named after a Pixies song, and ‘Burning Barbershop‘ is inspired by a fire that broke out in Curling Bros. barbershop in Westlake, NY in 1981. Every product taps into a certain new-age wokeness. “Essentially modernist, the packaging and labelling is done by me. The name adds to the intrigue and has a large part to play in the success of the perfume. It leads to curiosity and discovery,” says Ahuja. “We are not gilded, embroidered, ornate – it’s all about the juice inside. Humble and unpretentious, perfume alone is the biggest draw for us.”
Besides scents, their repertoire also includes candles with beautiful illustrations in black and white (so chic!), and beautifully labelled body lotions and washes. There is an exclusive Diwali candle on the roster called ‘Rama, Won’t You Please Come Home?‘
DS & Durga gives as much importance to its story as they do to its ingredients. One look and you know it’s hipster-chic with dose of minimalism – their visual vocabulary includes neon lights, artsy imagery, and a rather punchy Instagram page. “DS & Durga consumers are intelligent, offbeat, and lead their own way. That’s what we are offering here in India too. We are looking at people who like discovery. There is value and uniqueness in the craft, made by a self-taught perfumer. After all, we are a perfumer and designer-owned label – we do everything ourselves. Nothing is outsourced; that’s the story and we are looking for someone who cares about that story,” says Ahuja.
The fragrances are priced at Rs 12,200, and are available at Scentido.