Nadeem Crowe is not your average scent maker. He has always been a lover of scent and the way scents evoke emotion and have the ability to transport you to a place or time. The story of Rook is unique and its roots lie in the humble beginnings of an overachiever.
“I’ve always been obsessed with scent. Scent moves me emotionally more than any other sense,” said Nadeem Crowe, perfumer for Rook Perfumes. “People go on holiday and fall in love with a place, they buy a fridge magnet to remember the trip. I buy a fragrance.”
Born in Jordan and raised in both Lincolnshire and London, Nadeem studied medicine at University College London. During his medical training, he applied to the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and trained there as an actor before returning to UCL to complete his medical degree in 2010.
When eventually signing to theatrical agents Global Artists, his agent asked him where he saw himself in 10 years. “A practicing doctor with a few West End credits under my belt,” Nadeem replied. Almost 10 years later, Nadeem has pursued those two loves, with a career in acute and emergency medicine as well as performances alongside Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard and, most recently, School of Rock in the West End.
“When I say I’m in a musical but I also practice as a doctor, people tend to reply ‘Those two careers are so different!’ But I consider both worlds to overlap more than you would first think. Both require huge amounts of dedication. Oh, and an element of performance. When people learn I also create my own scents, they automatically assume that that world is also detached from the other two. For me perfume sits comfortably in the middle. I spent years studying science and feel totally comfortable with pipettes, beakers, and weighing scales. The outcome, though, is a piece of art. Scent is very theatrical.”
Rook Perfumes was born out of heartbreak and the carcass of an old Ikea wardrobe fashioned into a home laboratory. A failed pursuit of holiday romance in Lausanne, Switzerland, led to a lonely and rainy walk around the city ending at Philippe K perfumery. Spending hours sipping coffee and sniffing raw ingredients, Nadeem realized he had a “nose” for scent, and the inspiration to create Rook was born. The three scents—Forest, Undergrowth, Rook—were all designed with Crowe’s memories in mind; the fragrances are unique and personal. Rook scents are about creating a moment. About evoking an emotion. About transporting you to a time or place.
“Originally Rook by Rook was created by me for me,” said Nadeem. “In many ways, it is my scent DNA and demonstrates what I look for in a scent when I am the customer. This scent takes inspiration from my Middle Eastern roots with its heart of agarwood. It is a scent that I once heard described as a ‘diplomat dressed up as a punk rocker.’ I think this description is perfect. The scent is a dirty/clean oxymoron. A scent has the ‘Proust’ effect on me with each of my scents transporting me to a time and place, and I can’t wait to hear the stories of how they transport others.”
The launch of Rook’s three fragrances will coincide with the opening of the pop-up exhibition Hold Your Breath presented by British photographer Rankin. In a world lost in the inauthentic and Instagram filters, the show will celebrate love in all its raw and unfiltered honesty. Hold Your Breath will explore these themes and ask the question, what does love mean now and for the future?
“I really believe we are all toddlers in this digital world—we’re all experiencing these things for the first time,” Rankin adds. “So I felt it would be interesting to turn my lens to romance and love. Like most people, I think Valentine’s Day is a sham. It’s just another way to commercialize and commodify an important part of our lives. But I’m a romantic at heart and I still believe in love for the sake of love—whoever you’re loving.”
The pop-up exhibition at Annray 110-114 Grafton Road London is open for 10 days. Running from the 13th to the 22nd of February 2020, the exhibition will include a presentation of the new series of photographs exploring the subject.
Photo: via Rook