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A Moment with Patrick Kelly

The founder of Sigil on gender fluid fragrance, the power of alchemy, and why not appealing to everyone is a beautiful thing. In conversation with Jamie Rosen.

“The raison d’etre for Sigil is to create a bridge between old world and new…”

After collecting raw olfactory materials for a decade, Sigil founder and creative director Patrick Kelly began experimenting with fragrances for himself and his friends. Word-of-mouth and a growing passion led to the creation of Sigil in 2015, an enchanting scent collection that feels both of the moment and a harbinger for the future of fragrance. The line is gender fluid, and specifically not unisex. It is an intentional choice made to ensure anyone, whatever their identity or expression, feels welcome to play and experiment with perfume. 

“We are conditioned to think feminine is floral and masculine is wood,” says Kelly. “I just don’t think it matters that much. It’s important to get people who are on any kind of journey to just like what they like and not label it so much.” Not easy to label, but with a definitive point of view: “I don’t have an interest in soft and delicate fragrances, it’s not what we’re about,” he says. Rather, Kelly employs a range of accords that lean into a warm, sumptuous, and arboreal palette, each one with its own balance and depth. Names and stories nod to the past, while the sleek design and visual presentation are modern and clean. “The raison d’etre for Sigil is to create a bridge between old world and new,” says Kelly. “We’re all about leaning into the idea of mysticism and telling a story about alchemy and magic.”

For those new to the brand, Amor Fati is often a gateway, a scent that weighs smoky woods and incense with a resinous galbanum and subtle residue of orange blossom. It’s a bestseller beloved by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and her partner Jason Statham, and singer Mitch Grassi. The name is Latin for “love of fate.” “It’s not in a hands up, let the universe take me where I will way,” explains Kelly “It’s in a more existential sense. In order to recognize moments of joy we have to appreciate moments of difficulty and striving, celebrating the cyclical yin yang balance.” 

Amina Mundi is a subversive floral with hinoki and tobacco; Aqua Verdi, the newest, is a marine fougere, a nod to 90s cologne with an oddball edge and some teeth; Solutio is the chameleon. “People mistake it for simple,” he says of the latter. “It transforms. It has a bracing lime but warmer, animalic notes that have a natural adhesion that make it last.” 

Prima Materia, Kelly says, is the fragrance closest to his true point of view as an artist and perfumer. “It has a lot of qualities of a chypre, the oakmoss and patchouli, but some not associated with the type, like vetiver and cedar wood. “The name means the first material, or the ultimate material. It’s a reference to an intangible substance, an alchemist combining celestial and corporeal. It’s the esotericism of the brand. combining the earthly and the tangible with the incomprehensible, eliciting emotion through scent.” 

After all, it is creating something that transcends the sum of its parts that draws us all to the scents that feel like they were made for us. “That’s the whole joy of fragrance,” says Kelly. “It’s so personal. Some people don’t get it. And the people that do are obsessed.”