Fives logo – a stylised number five


Something that makes you smile

Smelling my forest perfume, Ancients, on my lover’s skin. There’s something about the notes of wet soil and rain, fir cone, high altitude lavender mixed with the warmth of his skin that will feel like an olfactory meditation. The curious thing about fragrance muses is that you’re not certain your creation will work on the person who inspired the scent. So, I start from a sense of place, a time I want to encapsulate. On our first trip together, we hiked through Muir Woods, one of my favorite places on earth. Along the Dipsea Trail, there are ferns, lichens and mosses, and of course, the great redwoods that echo eons of silence and wisdom. This is what I wanted to distill into an experience that I could smell over and over again.

A confession

I was on that show Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego! I think it aired on Halloween so no one saw it. And no, I didn’t win—I set up all the answers for the second part of the game in the wrong order, so my competitor stole the prize. I remember feeling crestfallen and thinking that confetti is the worst.

The last thing you wrote

I’ve been alternating between nonfiction & fiction after a long spell of not writing. I wrote an essay about Ma Anand Sheela in the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country and a new chapter in my new novel-in-progress Stellar Smoke. It is the story of a perfumer who encounters an artificial intelligence created by her late mother on the grounds of the abandoned ashram where she grew up.

Your favourite city

Mexico City. I have been there several times over the last decade, and each visit reminds me of how magnetic that city is, how it pulses with art and movement.

What you’d place in a time capsule

Love letters, eyeliner, a drop of my blood.

TANAÏS (a portmanteau of Tanwi Nandini Islam, a renaming that is free of patriarchy) is the New York based author of the critically-acclaimed novel Bright Lines (Penguin 2015). While researching her debut novel, BRIGHT LINES, she studied perfumery, amassing a library of 500 fragrant raw materials, which led to the creation of Hi Wildflower, independent beauty & fragrance house.