“The Pacific itself is so looming and crazy,” says David Moltz, D.S. & Durga’s self-taught perfumer, who grew up in the seaside town of Swampscott, Massachusetts. He first caught a glimpse of that “massive” expanse of water during a band tour through Northern California; years later, a lingering feeling of awe continues southward to Los Angeles. “These long beaches with palm trees and people lifting weights and rollerblading and shit, it’s so different than an East Coast thing,” he adds, speaking for a lot of kids raised on an exported vision of California culture. Pacific Mythic—the latest candle from D.S. & Durga, available only at its new Venice Beach storefront—evokes that outsider’s perspective. Kavi Moltz, the design brain to her husband’s nose, gave the label a jagged cliff and setting sun. As for the fragrance itself, David hewed to nature: “The air is balmy. Flowering plants and palms invite you.”
Such was the mood on opening night last month, as party guests spilled onto the sidewalk along Abbot Kinney Boulevard, old friends meeting new. Part of what makes D.S. & Durga so singular in the burgeoning fragrance world is the combination of mom-and-pop charm (the founders indeed have two kids) and an audacious sense of possibility. When scouting locations for their first boutique in 2019, they went straight to Manhattan’s Nolita—a sign of them “wanting to play with the big boys,” says Kavi. A spot in Williamsburg followed, with its fittingly high concentration of shopping bags and tattoos. Venturing all the way west to Abbot Kinney made sense for a third location. “A real LA person loves Venice Beach for what it truly is, in the same way that we all think of the East Village,” says David, alluding to the eccentric characters and young artists that historically have populated both neighborhoods. Jonathan Richman’s 1992 song, “Rooming House on Venice Beach,” comes to mind—something that hasn’t slipped past the music-obsessed founders. “That’s on the playlist for Pacific Mythic!” says David.
Braided-together references are a through line for D.S. & Durga. If The Doors, 2Pac, and Suicidal Tendencies paint the West Coast soundscape, there’s a similar mix on the visual front, informed by Kavi’s graduate studies at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. (She collaborated with the firm Woods Bagot on the Venice store design.) The ceiling, with its radiating spokes, is an homage to John Lautner’s Elrod House in Palm Springs. Touches of Douglas fir nod to a hillside home by SCI-Arc founding director Ray Kappe, which imprinted in her memory after a visit years back. “Even Gehry’s original house with raw plywood was really inspiring to me,” says Kavi. All the while, David has his nose closer to the ground, avidly sniffing whatever plant matter presents itself. This three-day wellness diary is a testament to staying present, from a phone-free dinner to morning meditation. The perfumer jokingly tosses out a quote from “F. Bueller,” the noted bon vivant who surely would have dangled an ’85 Diesel scent tag from the rearview mirror of a borrowed Ferrari. “‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around…,’” David begins, and the rest is filled in by Matthew Broderick’s imagined voice: “…once in a while you could miss it.”
Thursday, June 8
4:45 a.m. David: We took the 7:30 p.m.-er out of the apocalyptic orange skies of New York last night. I failed to sleep on the plane but crushed 30 minutes in the taxi and hit the hay at midnight. Now at 4:45 a.m. the demons of jet lag sing out.
I begin the day with my mediation practice. I follow Paramahansa Yogananda’s kriya yoga routine, usually for about 45 minutes. Meditation is a rock-solid reminder of our true nature and the nature of our mind. As K. Scarr once said, “Let’s get connected.”
5 a.m. Kavi: I do some push-ups in the room as we watch the sun rise along the Hollywood Hills. The Sunset Tower is nowhere near the new store we are in town to open, but I insist on staying here because it strikes the perfect chord of iconic and personal, and because I am loyal. My allegiance has paid off, as last night we arrived to a miniature replica of the hotel rendered in chocolate, and an inexplicable note that says, “Welcome back, Dr. Ahuja.” (The room was booked under my married name, Moltz, and, last I checked, I am not a doctor.) I realize in the clarity of the morning that they must be referring to my mother, the real Dr. Ahuja, since I am still under her phone plan, and in the modern equivalent of the White Pages, my maiden name still follows me.
6 a.m. David: Outside I hear local birds chirping. I used to have trouble traveling, and one thing that I always found comforting: Wherever you go, there are always birds that call the place home and sing you sweet songs as a balm.
I search for a couple cups of black tea with milk. Downstairs I find them. Double bagged. Lil milk. We done.
7:15 a.m. David: Outside I putter around the shrubbery of the hotel on Sunset. The flora out here is incredible. I find a bush redolent of thuja cedar that is wonderfully fruity. The ambery underbrush of California pine is very special to me. These are the kinds of observations that find their way into our perfumes.
8 a.m. Kavi: Press meetings start at our new storefront in Venice. In the car ride there, we talk about playlists for the opening weekend’s events. I suggest that we christen the space that day by playing only music from New York and California, to represent our travel from east to west. We walk into the store—my first time since it has been completed—and I’m truly floored! We worked with our friends at Woods Bagot, and I’m psyched about the blend of styles and references we achieved here in LA. It’s always nerve-wracking seeing something in person for the first time, so I am relieved. I go to buy some juice to power us through the meetings and ask a few people on our team what they want—I’ll choose for them based on their green tolerance if they give me a number from 1 to 10. My tolerance is a 10: all greens, no fruit, dangerous amount of ginger.