Once again, I had the great honor of wielding the microphone for an interview with Daniel Plettenberg, co-founder of the Hamburg-based niche fragrance label Atelier PMP. The creations of the fragrance house bear pithy names such as Dreckig bleiben (in English: “Stay dirty”) or Anti Anti and have one thing in common: they carry a special message, make a statement and definitely take on difficult topics – such as political and socially critical ones.
The interview with Daniel took place quite some time ago. He was actually my first interviewee whom I interviewed live via video call rather than in writing, which was really fun for both of us. 🙂 Accordingly, the interview – once again – has become a bit longer and more detailed, which is why I now split it in the usual manner and present the first part today. But now it’s best to let our interview guest have his say in person.
Welcome to the Duft-Tagebuch, Daniel Plettenberg!
Dear Daniel, would you like to tell us how it came to founding your own niche fragrance label?
Well, I am together with Stefanie Mayr at Atelier PMP. So there are two of us, and we are two very different guys. Stefanie Mayr has had a fashion label in the middle of St. Pauli for over 20 years, which is also a bit punky. Or was very punk back then, today it’s just a great fashion label that comes from a very political corner. In the beginning, she made T-shirts that had an exciting political print. Relatively famous are two tanks facing each other, and between them is written “Until one howls”. This is the kind of thing she did to play with it a little bit. So, in that respect, you can call her a political fashion designer, if there is such a term.
And I do a lot of brand consulting, develop brands, do market research, trend analysis and things like that. At the same time, I’ve been an LGBTIQ activist for many, many years, I’m on stage and do a lot of events and things like that. So we both come from the St. Pauli environment, we’re St. Pauli plants.
And how did you then come to the subject of fragrance?
About 25 years ago, Steffi (editor’s note: Stefanie Mayr) made a fragrance with perfumer Mark Buxton and a few other people, it was called Unifaith at the time, meaning “one faith.” There were only 350 bottles of this, if I remember correctly. So very limited. Luca Turin, one of the perfume godfathers, wrote at the time that this is the best fragrance made in the last 30 years. I read that and thought: Whaaaat, here on St. Pauli? By Steffi? I’ll have to go over there and grab a bottle real quickly. But unfortunately, the perfumes were sold out long ago, and you could not get it there.
Oh, and then?
I then said that we could do a remake after all. It couldn’t be that hard. But unfortunately it was, because at that time (editor’s note: during the development of Unifaith) a lot of people were involved. There were no contracts, which is why it was all super complicated legally. Even with my positive let’s-just-do power, there was nothing I could do. Then I was totally offended for a week and thought how stupid it all was. But after a week of sulking, I went to Steffi and said to her: You know what? Then we’ll just make a new perfume. A better one.
That’s how it all started then?
That was the beginning. It was just very funny because neither of us had any money. There was only the idea that the first perfume must be called Dreckig bleiben. That was one of the sayings Steffi had printed on one of her (editor’s note: self-designed) T-shirts. The name revolves around a specific idea: what is the moment when it’s okay to stay dirty?
That’s usually when you’re with your family or with your best friends. We then expanded that idea a bit and formed our creative image around it: sitting around a campfire with your best friends. Down here on the Elbe beach. And then you just wear your old sweatpants. You drink the red wine from a mustard glass, and it doesn’t matter at all, because you are so authentic, so truly yourself, that you are allowed to “stay dirty” there.
And with this idea I then wrote – as is my job – a beautiful synopsis. Steffi and I said, then we ring times in Paris at the 10 best perfumers in the world. Because with the name Dreckig bleiben it was also clear that we can’t just take anyone (editor’s note: for development), otherwise it becomes a joke product and ends up in some drugstore as a perfume that people furtively giggle about. So if, then it had to do one of the best perfumers or not at all.
What happened next?
Then we went to Paris and knocked on several doors. To our surprise, of the ten perfumers we chose, eight immediately said that it was interesting for them and that they would implement the idea immediately. When we then said that we didn’t have a penny of money, there were still six who said that it could be done somehow.
You then decided on Mark Buxton …
Yes, Mark Buxton was the most exciting for us at that time. With all the Comme des Garçons fragrances, he just made such unusual scents and for us with this particular concept of smoke that doesn’t smell unpleasantly like smoke, it was the best fit. He then made us the perfume Dreckig bleiben and it is – I still think – sensational. An incredibly beautiful, great fragrance.
Then I got a little smart for a minute and said that we only advertise in Japan and New York. We started in 2012 with Dreckig bleiben, back then the blogging scene was a bit different. So you could just send samples somewhere (editor’s note: to a blogger) and people were grateful that there was something to report. Our advertising has caused a bit of a stir in Japan and exciting blog posts in New York.
Then it happened that New York Vogue called the German Vogue and asked what this great new fragrance from Germany was that the bloggers in New York were writing about so enthusiastically. And German Vogue, funnily enough, knew nothing about anything. This then created the situation that many people in Germany asked: Hey, who is that? Who actually does that (editor’s note: the Perfume Dreckig bleiben)? We then had a good success with our first fragrance – to this day, Dreckig bleiben is our top seller. Yes, Dreckig bleiben! That’s how it all started.
And then came Concrete Flower?
Exactly, our number two was Concrete Flower. There was the idea of creating a fragrance as immediate as graffiti. Street Art. Whether you like it or not, it’s just there and has such a presence and power of its own. The name Concrete Flower comes from the fact that it makes the concrete bloom. For this fragrance, Mark Buxton had the idea to turn up the ginger oil so high that it almost smells like varnish. It’s a great blend of Asian herbs, which then goes to herbs of Provence, and at the same time has something cool that reminds you of stone.
To be continued …