Talking Fragrance & Fashion With Steve Calder, Founder Of Informale
Posited as an ‘antidote to fast fashion’, Informale is a Melbourne clothing label creating conscious, casual menswear that draws on vintage patterns, military staples and Italian-style tailoring. Their dedication to craftsmanship, quality materials and modern luxury makes it a sartorial complement to Lusso Collective and our approach to artisan fragrances.
Informale’s cult following on Instagram is eclipsed by that of its founder Steve Calder, whose status as a local tastemaker belies his relaxed, down-to-earth demeanour and practical approach to life.
We caught up with Steve to talk all things fragrance and introduce him to Rhizome’s ESSENTIALS collection.
How would you describe your personal approach to fragrance? Are you a devotee of one particular group of notes, or do you find yourself enjoying somewhat of a rotation?
“It’s a personal choice, isn’t it — subjective. I figured out that my personal preference in perfumes always gravitates to green and fresh, or really punchy; leather and oud and all that kind of stuff. So I’ve got two extremes: these beautiful summery, fresh, green scents and then I’ve got these crazy ones — when I walk past you, you go [inhales] — whoa, what’s that?
Nothing about your look is left to choice — it’s all exquisitely curated. How do you select a perfume for any particular day?
“It all has to work. Your mood, the weather, what you’re wearing, and how you smell — it all goes together.” He sweeps a hand from his forehead, to the window, and back to his clothing. “But for me, it always starts with how I feel. In the morning I open my cabinet, and I have all my perfumes out — I own too many — and I go, what do I feel like smelling like today?”
There’s no such thing as owning too many perfumes — they’re treasures to be worn and collected! So you’d describe yourself as a mood dresser?
“Usually it is mood-based, but I go to my wardrobe, look at my clothes, and think ‘what do I want to wear?’, and I’ll pick one thing — a particular pair of pants; or like today, it was this jacket.”
He steps back to demonstrate. It’s a striking design, selvedge denim in a 50s sporting silhouette with double seam detail.
“So, I want to wear this jacket: so then I take out the jacket, and then I build everything around that.”
You mention you have ‘too many’ perfumes in your rotation at any one time — are there any go-to options you rely on, or is every day an experiment?
“I have a couple of everyday ‘I know I smell good, I don’t need to make an impression’ kind of scents, and then I have a couple that are for if I’m going out somewhere and I want to make an impression — the powerful, punchy ones, usually. It also depends on the weather, I have more summery scents, and more wintery scents, so there’s a couple that I’ll just put away until the sun comes out.”
"Rugged, yet refined — and I think number 2 fits perfectly with that.”
And today, as we’ve taken you through the 6 scents in Rhizome’s ESSENTIALS collection, which one do you find resonates the most with your current self? You did remark on the freshness of basil and vetiver in 03, but we notice you’re leaning towards the woodier notes in 01 and 02.
“From Rhizome, when I pick a perfume to wear right now, it’s going to be based [purely] on my fit.” Today, Steve is sporting patent leather loafers with an all-Informale ensemble: neat chinos, a long-sleeved polo in Italian-woven cotton pique, and the sturdy denim jacket. The look is completed by his signature horn-rimmed glasses.
He glances at the neat row of Rhizome fragrances set up in the studio. “And I think for my fit today, it’s going to be 02. It’s a bit more punchy, more of a warm, textured, rugged kind of outfit. Rugged, yet refined — and I think number 2 fits perfectly with that.”
It’s no wonder that Steve favours 02. It’s Rhizome’s bestselling fragrance: labdanum and vanilla warmed by notes of cedar and leather, with a warmth and punchiness that mirrors the textures and tones in his look.
Nothing about your appearance is left to chance, Steve — from designing every detail in the clothes you wear, to matching your fragrance to your mood, your clothing, and the weather. It’s all considered and curated. How do you adapt this approach to choosing a fragrance for someone else?
“I think about who they are as a person, I think about my connection to them, and I also think about something that would complement them that they don’t already have, or that I think would work very well within their lifestyle.”
Who’s the first person that comes to mind if we asked you to gift a Rhizome fragrance, and why?
“For example, my father would wear something quite soft and subtle,” — he gestures to 01, a fragrance blending incense, patchouli, cumin and nutmeg — “because my mum is sensitive to strong perfumes. He needs a little help with high-end, beautiful, more considered items because he’s a busy man — so I would do the considering for him and find him something that says: hey, this is high-quality, this suits you really well, and Mum’s going to love it!”
So when you’re buying perfume for Dad, you’re actually buying perfume for Mum?
“It’s all for Mum, really!” [laughs]
The RHIZOME ESSENTIALS range, including Steve’s chosen fragrance 02, is available in Australia and New Zealand exclusively through our online boutique.
You can explore Steve’s exquisite designs at Informale.com.au or visit the Informale boutique in the Nicholas Building at 305/37 Swanston St, Melbourne.
Discover the Rhizome range.