For the first of our journal entries we sit down with SSEY founder Kyle Jobes.
We explore the origins, ideas and creative processes behind the brand as well as finding inspiration through his own battle with mental health.
Let’s start from the beginning, where did the idea behind Studio SSEY come from?
I’ve been developing SSEY “the brand” over the past 18 months, however the idea came a little before.
I spent 2016 battling with my mental health, I suffered quite a bit with depression but at the time I didn’t realise it. I always associated depression with being so low that you wanted to hide away from the world, I know that’s the case for a lot of people but personally I found I could function day to day, work being my main focus. But I was always tired, always in a negative mindset, I couldn’t bear to be in the same room as other people whether that be colleagues, friends or family, I’d get so angry I couldn’t even hold a conversation. It’s strange, I have no clear memories of that period. I can’t recall a particular event, birthdays, holidays etc. I think because I felt so numb, never really present in the moment that memories didn’t form.
After 12 months of hoping things would get better I began looking into forms of help. I tried a lot of different routes, phone counselling, in person counselling, medication etc, nothing really worked for me.
The turning point came when I began my own research. I’ve always had a strong connection to sport so I began to look into how high profile athletes dealt with their own mental health issues. They talked a lot about mind maintenance and alternative forms of self care, practices which had positively impacted their wellbeing. I began incorporating some of these methods into my own routine, a lot of them were really simple. I felt a change in my mood quite quickly, getting out of bed 15 minutes earlier to go through stretching exercises, limiting screen time, focusing on improving my sleep quality, over time these little changes began to add up, my mind set started to change and I felt myself turning the corner.
If you would have told me 10 years ago i’d be lying in bed listening to a recording of the ocean to help me fall asleep I’d have laughed, but because a certain sportsman suggests it I’m open to giving it a try? This gave me the idea for SSEY, could I create a brand that is able to connect with others like myself in order to help and encourage the idea of self care?
Why did you decide to launch with a candle range?
A lot of women understand the power of scent and benefits to candle use whereas I think men are still a little dismissive. I think there’s a few reasons for this, packaging, scent and stigma being the main ones. Creating a candle range felt like the perfect test of concept, can we make an item such as a candle appealing to a male market? If we can make that initial connection through its quality, function and design then the benefits will be realised once our guy gets it home and begins to use it.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about how we live and how we use our space for multiple functions, this has never been so true as it is now. Obviously there are a lot of people working from home at the moment, eating, working, relaxing all in the same space, you can begin to feel a little claustrophobic. I think scent could be a useful tool to help people make those clear separations. You may use a specific scent during your working hours then switch to something more suited to the evening when you’re looking to relax and unwind. Over time your brain will begin to associate these scent changes as triggers, helping to reaffirm a change in mood and mindset.
You spoke earlier about the “power of scent”, could you talk a little about what these terms mean?
We started by asking ourselves how we could improve wellness through scent and how can this be done in the most natural way possible. The obvious path to go down was that of aromatherapy and the use of essential oils. Aromatherapy is said to harness the power of scent through the use of essential oils in order to cure illness. These highly concentrated oils are extracted directly from plants, fruits and resins through processes such as steam distillation. It’s an age old practice and one that up until recently has been relatively overlooked by science. Research is now beginning to prove the theory that certain smells can trigger a physical and emotional reaction. Months of research went into learning about these triggers, building up an idea of how to combine certain oils to achieve a desired effect within the body, essentials provided us with the foundation to build each fragrance around.
Whilst essential oils offered the functional benefits we were looking for they also came with a certain level of restriction in terms of the types of fragrance we were able to create. At that point the perfumer suggested the concept of hybrid oils, the blending of essential oils with plant based supporting notes. Supporting notes are made using a variety of new processing techniques designed to extract fragrance notes from excess waste leftover from a variety of industries, this results in new and unique scent molecules. The introduction of these supporting notes really opened up the possibilities when it came to the fragrance development of each candle scent.
Talk me through the development of a perfume, how were you able to translate your ideas into scent?
I think fragrance and perfume is a bit like wine, if you’re not from that world it can be quite intimidating trying to hold a conversation with someone who has that knowledge. That was one of my main worries going into the development process. However you realise quickly that it’s ok not to know the name of every oil or fragrance note, that doesn’t take away from what a scent can make you feel, once it triggers a feeling or memory you’ll be surprised how quickly you can articulate yourself. I was really lucky to find Harry, we had a great understanding from day one and he understood the direction I wanted to go in. It really helps the process when you have someone who is equally passionate about creating the best product possible.
The first stage of the creation process was quite a simple one, obviously the core of the fragrance was dictated by the essential oils required to achieve the physical effects we were looking for. The next step was to create the psychological triggers through the supporting notes, at this point I could be a lot more creative and apply my own touch to each blend. The function of the candle acted as the starting point, I’d then think back to past memories and experiences which I could relate to that function. Obviously I’d try to recall the smells but more surprisingly I’d find myself remembering things such as the temperature, light and the energy I felt at those times. For example, for the Detox candle I found myself thinking back to my first job. At 18 I worked as a kitchen porter, occasionally I’d turn up for my Saturday shift a little hungover so they would put me on polishing duties in the back room. I can still remember the metallic smell of the cutlery, the UV lights and the cold air blasting from the freezers, after an hour I’d emerge feeling clear headed and fresh. I know it doesn’t sound very glamorous but I really wanted to capture those elements in a scent.
To help get these ideas over to Harry we worked visually. I’d put together mood boards with key images, this was a great tool to help focus the development and a great way of working which suited us both. He would send me a series of testers which I would review against our shared visuals, I could then reply back to him asking for a little more “steel” or a little less “cold”, I’d know we were on the right track when the scent would trigger those memories.
Do you have a favourite scent?
I think it depends on my mood. If you asked me on a sunny day I’d say it was Energy, the smell of cut grass really hits you, it takes me back to my childhood and the school holidays. If you were to ask me during the winter I’d probably go for the Recovery, it’s loosely based on a fougére with notes of cinnamon, smell can tend to be quite subjective but this always gets a great reaction from both men and women.
Where did the name SSEY come from?
I came across the word in an old book about indigenous tribes living in the Amazon. There was a section about shamans and their medicine, Ssey was the local word given to a type of leaf said to hold certain healing powers. I felt like it was a nice fit for what SSEY is about.
How do you see SSEY developing in the near future?
SSEY is a lot more than product, I want to build a community that offers support through the sharing of ideas and practices of self care. There’s no “cure all”, what works for me may not work for you, I want SSEY to act as a platform to share those ideas, a place someone can go for both inspiration and reassurance, in turn these conversations will inspire new designs.