“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.
2:56 p.m. David: It’s an epic day, nonstop talking and on our feet. Here are things I consumed to keep it going:
– A super hippy juice with turmeric, ginger, and orange that saved my life
– One spinach-and-cheese croissant
– Half of a pistachio croissant from Gjelina—possibly one of the top 10 of my life, wow
– Half a burrito
– A killer ice cream from Salt & Straw—lemon curd and whey
– Three Advil
3 p.m. Kavi: I stroll down Abbot Kinney Blvd. with David, taking in the star jasmine and palm trees and cactuses. We are headed back to West Hollywood to have a break at the hotel. On the way, we talk to a close friend who just lost her dog/life companion. Our hearts break because for her, it’s like losing a child.
6 p.m. Kavi: We arrive at La Dolce Vita, where we have taken over the place for our launch dinner. The restaurant has perfect vintage New York clubby vibes—it used to be a favorite of Frank Sinatra’s and has now been revived. The East-meets-West Coast theme continues. During cocktail hour we chat with our guests, some of whom we are Instagram-friendly with and some totally new. Trays of mini champagne—two sips’ worth in a flute—circle the room, and we sip and sip. The food is chef’s kiss: arancini, manicotti, polenta, lemon pasta.
Our kids are safely with my parents in New Jersey, so my phone is out of reach most of the night. I am able to be fully present and enjoy the amazing moment, which in itself is a challenge for me. We’re back at the hotel by midnight for that dreamy combination of cold white sheets, a sleep mask, and no alarm clock or children to wake us.
Friday, June 9
8 a.m. David: We slept in this morning, which was much needed. Morning meditation is warm and freeing. I look over the Hollywood Hills, spotting stands of purple jacaranda trees. I’ve always wanted to make a fume based on “True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes”—but with the consent of the Chili Peppers (hook me up if you’re reading this). It would have these purple fragrant blossoms at its heart, for sure.
9:15 a.m. David: Breakfast by the pool at the Sunset Tower under cloudy skies (which I love, as an East Coaster). Wonderful view of palm groves in the flat city lowlands. Sometimes I feel verklempt by the beauty of everything. The gifts of plants growing everywhere. Cups of tea. Toast. Like the guy watching the plastic bag in American Beauty.
9:45 a.m. Kavi: After breakfast we walk around the neighborhood and soak up the diverse architecture. LA can be so beautiful and so ugly (as can NYC). David stops every 12 feet to smell some plant or other, using the Seek app on things he’s not familiar with. I’m just happy to be walking since the rest of the day will be prepping for tonight’s big opening party.
10:15 a.m. David: Things I found on our morning walk in West Hollywood:
– Orange blossom
– Acanthus, one of the strangest smells—powdery, aldehydic sugar
– Three kinds of jasmine
– Privet hedge flowers smelling of linden
– Baldy cypress—fresh, limey terpene pods
– Spray rose
– Wild banana/giant bird of paradise, overflowing with resin
– Flowering yucca
Noon Kavi: We meet some coworkers for lunch in Venice at a very healthy California-style Mexican spot. It doesn’t quite scratch the taco itch, but surely it is a better decision to eat light before the festivities.
David leads a few of us on a mini botanical walk back to the store. We all muse about renting a bungalow in Venice one summer.
3 p.m. Kavi: At the store I have a walk-through with the contractor and architects. The topic of the hour is that a major design element has been damaged (read: destroyed) in transit, and we have to quickly put up a temporary solution while the concrete gets rebuilt in Brooklyn. I promise myself I won’t be an apologetic host, like when someone can’t take a compliment about the dinner they are serving. So I do not mention to anyone else how the store was supposed to look.
3:50 p.m. David: We’re setting up the bar and stuff for the partay tonight. Lots of cooks, so to speak, so I’m taking a neighborhood stroll: soaking in more indigenous plants that love the sun and to proliferate. The ocean air is near, which always comforts me.
I stop in a Scandinavian store because in the window I see they have black licorice. They actually have my favorite kind—I’ve only seen in one place ever! I buy a pound and quickly murder 10 pieces.
I just found a loquat tree! Imagine having that in your yard. I stumble upon the Venice Library, find some Hafez poetry, and read in the cool quiet air, bibliostyle. His words echo many things I am feeling: “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that! It lights up the whole sky.” I take a few moments to meditate before heading back.
10:04 p.m. David: The party was a success. Friends old and new came and high-fived us. Fumes were sprayed. Drinks were drunk. Shout-out to Lalo tequila who poured perfect libations. Afterwards we hung with friends and family at Gjelina for some tasty Cali pizza. It feels great to see our people in LA. We feel warmly welcomed and hope to be back soon.
11:30 p.m. Kavi: The empty birthday party fears proved to be unfounded. I felt so full of love for our incredible and hard-working team and all the people who showed up to support the opening. It was a night to remember. I go to sleep feeling fulfilled and grateful for this moment in my life.
Saturday, June 10
9:07 a.m. David: Slept well on a soft bed—something I need to change in my own life. I wake up in pain every morning from our firm bed.
I do my morning mediation and reconnect. The mind is buzzing from a smashing party last night at the store. A strong cup of black tea with milk sets me straight under foggy Hollywood skies. Today we must eat some good Mexican foodstuffs.
10 a.m. Kavi: We meet my brother and his wife in Santa Monica for brunch, though we hate brunch. Breakfast is always better at home, made exactly the way you like to make it. They are two of our favorite people though, so we spend a few hours eating and talking, then walking along the water.
2 p.m. Kavi: I need to squeeze in a proper taco and find a place nearby that has an item I find so intriguing. It’s called Chiles Toreados, and it has four kinds of chiles and a safety warning. It does not disappoint and my stomach pleasantly burns as I’m eating it.
6 p.m. Kavi: We meet our investors in Venice to show them the store and have a final toast to the Abbot Kinney opening. Afterwards we all walk to Felix. A Brooklyn friend who moved to LA years ago told us Felix has better pasta than New York restaurants. It’s the kind of statement that gets under our skin. We really want our bagels and pizza to be left alone, please. Take the sunny weather and leave those to us—thank you! Regardless, the food is great, and I order a really nice tomato-infused gin martini. This is the end of our LA story.