Bodha | Emily + Fredericus L’Ami
As the founder of Bodha, a Los Angeles based perfumery company which she runs with her husband and Creative Director Fredericus, Emily L’Ami believes that scent is not only deeply evocative, but also has the ability to completely shift the way we feel.
Photography: Scottie Cameron for Hunter & Folk
Tell us about how you first met?
Emily: We first met as roommates in Auckland, New Zealand. I was at university studying mathematics and Fred was working as a graphic designer. Fred moved to Amsterdam (his motherland) for a few years to immerse himself in their design scene and when he came back to New Zealand we reconnected, went on a road-trip and the rest is history. Since then we’ve lived in London, Vancouver, Sydney and now Los Angeles.
How did the journey to work together first come about?
Emily: I’d always been fascinated by scent - it’s this invisible thing which has the ability to instantly transport us. I’d grown up around and studied aromatherapy, but it was when I went to perfume school everything suddenly clicked. I instantly knew I wanted to bring these worlds together to create a brand dedicated to therapeutic scent. Fred’s been working as a brand and packaging designer for over twenty years so he’s the perfect in-house creative director!
What is your earliest memory of scent?
Emily: The smell of my nana’s shortbread – creamy, buttery, soft and sweet.
Fred: Growing up in Holland every New Year’s Eve you have loads of traditional baked treats - I can still smell the apple and spice.
What is it about scents, especially in the home, which make them so special?
Emily: In the home scent is the easiest way to transform the energy and a simple way to support your body and mind. When you smell something you’re actually absorbing miniscule particles of it into your body which is why we only work with active natural materials.
How do you work best, on your own or as part of a team?
Emily: I like a mix. I love to have time alone to figure things out, like when I’m starting a concept for a new scent. But I also love the learning and feeling that comes from being part of a team.
Fred: There are certainly aspects of my work that require and benefit from solitude. Time and space provide answers to problems, it’s a form of meditation. That said, dialogue is also hugely important, discussion, enquiry and feedback help steer the course of the work. I think we’ve found a pretty good balance, it’s about knowing the boundaries and working around them.
How emotionally driven is your work for you?
Emily: 100%! I can’t do something I don’t enjoy or believe in… it has to feel good.
Fred: This is certainly something that’s become a focus of my design practice, so much of design is about relationships. I work very closely with my clients to bring their projects to life and it’s hugely rewarding to see this transformation unfold.
What do you love most about your job?
Emily: The endless opportunity to learn. Perfume and aromatherapy are such vast deep worlds with history and science and endless things to learn.
Fred: Research underlies my creative process. Every client who comes to me for help requires me to get inside their business and that’s fascinating - every project is different! A huge part of design is about understanding and psychology and those behavioural aspects shape the outcome.
What do you love most about living in LA?
Emily: We’ve lived in West Hollywood for around four and a half years now. My favourite thing about LA is the people. There’s an amazing creative community here that’s really supportive and inspiring. There’s also an underlying positivity and sense that you can do anything which keeps you going on the hard days.
Fred: The mash-up is what makes Los Angeles fascinating, all sorts of everything presented side-by-side (the landscape, communities, architecture, cuisine, art, the list goes on). Once you scratch below the surface… you’re rewarded. It’s taken us a while to adjust to it - we didn’t love it at first but making some solid friends has changed everything.
How do you challenge yourself?
Emily: By allowing things the space they need to grow. When you care so much about something it can be hard to let go but it really is the only way to allow things to flourish and grow.
Fred: Experience gives you plenty to fall back on, but it can also become a point of complacency. Remaining curious, open and prepared to push beyond my own abilities leads to unexpected results that aren’t always amazing, but rewarding in so many other ways. It’s those small discoveries that lead to new and exciting things.
They us a little about your own daily routine - what does a typical day involve for you?
Emily: My day starts with a walk for coffee, then my morning ritual practices of reading, daily gratitude and meditation. After that I check my ‘to-do’ list for the week and make my list for the day. The day’s work varies a lot - one day I might be working on a perfume, visiting a local retailer, or simply packing boxes.
Fred: Our day starts off in a fairly similar way most days. If I have the time, I love getting out to the beach for an early morning surf, this is a meditative moment, giving me space to think and reconnect with nature.
What virtue do you admire most in people?
Emily: Passion coupled with tenacity.
Fred: I’m going to bundle authenticity with curiosity.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Emily: Perfume school for ‘blending with friends’.
Fred: Old books, familiar playlists and it’s going to sound like a cliché: the ocean or the hills.
How do you switch off from work - is it hard to separate work life from your private life as a couple?
Emily: Cooking dinner helps me disconnect, something about the ritual of it – the selecting, the chopping, the cooking - it has such a nice rhythm. If I have time I also love taking a salt bath with a few drops of our Calm Ritual Oil before bed to really close off the day.
Fred: Unwinding can be a struggle, especially when I’m home, getting out of the house helps, if nothing else a walk (often with my camera) before we sit down for an evening meal.
When we were just starting Bodha we (or more I) talked about it all the time because I was trying to figure so much out at once and it was such a huge learning curve. Over time we’ve found a rhythm and things seem to flow between work and life in a really nice way.
Emily, what do you most admire about Fred?
Emily: His thoughtfulness and integrity. He takes so much care with everything he does and truly wants to help each client create something timeless and beautiful.
Fred, what is Emily’s greatest talent in the workplace?
Fred: Genuine enthusiasm and passion for what Emily’s creating. I’ve watched Em go from working a job without that deep sense of connection or fulfillment to desperately searching for something with meaning… and landing on a concept that’s both fascinating and rewarding from the relationships she’s developing and the products she’s creating. I’m proud and sometimes a teeny bit envious.