Heather Sielaff is a self taught perfumer that has created a line of Fragrances that transcend the modern conception of what a scent should be. What started out as a hobby for Heather has lead to OLO Fragrance a coveted brand that is carried in over 80 stores worldwide. The thing we most admire about Sielaff is her persistence to being hands on, she hand mixes all of her scents, applies her labels and some how manages to conquer all of her packaging and shipping. We love that the brands Portland roots shine through Heather’s choice of locally sourced essential oils and scents using pine, cedar, and lilac (to name a few). She has a skill that intricately combines complex scents to make something clean and simple that mixes so well to the wearers - and it only gets better with time. OLO has also done some amazing collaborations with local brands such as Bridge & Burn, Nationale and her limited edition art bottle and box series with Portland based glass artist Andy Paiko and Jason Rens. If we could explain the smell when we entered the OLO studio based out of Heather’s Northeast Portland home - we then would be doing our visit justice. Enjoy the photos and interview with Sielaff and try to imagine all the good smells!
1. Why Portland? What was it that drew you to Portland or has kept you here?
My husband and I had both grown up in very conservative surroundings and we were looking for a place with more progressive leanings. Initially we just wanted to get as far away from the South as possible. We headed to Portland because it was a bit cheaper than the other major cities. We liked that it had a large creative community. The surrounding nature was also a big draw. I've never seen anything as beautiful to me as the Oregon coast or the gorge. I feel free to be myself here.
2. What are your favorite things happening in Portland ?
Food. We have really great, inexpensive food. I forget how spoiled I am until I travel. I appreciate the quality and the care put into the menus of so many restaurants in town. You can feel the love. Love ain't frozen and microwaved.
3. How did your brand start?
OLO started as a hobby. I had co-owned a wellness center and was responsible for sourcing the essential oils we sold in the store. I had worked with essential oils on a daily basis for over a decade before I even considered making perfume. I don't know why it took me that long! Once I realized perfume could be a creative outlet for me it just blew up from there. I dreamed the name OLO and then I was selling at Nationale within six months. Everything just fell into place.
4. What has been your biggest obstacle?
Money. I started with $200 and the essential oils I had accumulated through the years. I've built the business up from there, no loans or investors. It was difficult but I just put my head down and paced myself. I believe the slow roll approach has helped the brand in a way. I didn't have the cash flow to bombard the market all at once. My client base grew along with me, they had to find me. They liked OLO even if it was small and hand made. It became part of the narrative and made OLO what it is. It was stressful at times but I wouldn't change a thing.
5. Who is your style icon(s)?
Linda Rodin. I love her white hair. I love how she's embraced aging. She wears amazing clothes and takes a very 'true to herself' approach to style. I also love her dog Winky and her products. She is my idol.
6. What are your favorite things about Portland?
I love the rain and the clouds. I don't function in hot weather and direct sunlight is not my friend. I also love how many trees there are in Portland. Give me trees, water, mountains and clouds and I'm perfectly content.
7. What neighborhood describes your style the best?
I technically live in the Kerns neighborhood and it probably does describe me best. Simple. Unassuming. I'm just doing my thing.
8. Your favorite thing about your workspace?
My cats. The way they scratch on the door, crying to get in. All day. I'm actually moving into a new workspace next month and I will miss seeing my cats during the day. Who will take their Instagram pictures?
9. 5 things you can’t live without.
My husband, my cats, tea, the ocean, pizza. I believe in that order.