We are excited to feature the husband and wife duo behind D.S. & Durga.
I first discovered their perfumes back in 2009, and have witnessed the brand evolve into something that feels exceptionally cool and aspirational. In a world where travel is a bit of a conundrum, their philosophy that "perfume is arm chair travel" feels timely. The ability of fragrance to transport us in a way like no other is something extraordinary, and an escape that humans have gravitated towards since the beginning of time.
I'm always fascinated by husband and wife teams working together and making it work, so I approached the questions from that perspective. Kavi is a designer and 100% mom crush cool. David, a master of fragrance. With work a part of life, and life a part of work they seem to seamlessly blend the two.
This interview is one of our favorites. Thank you both!
1 - Your 3 word bio:
Kavi - Master of Graphics
David - Fume Master Jay
2 - Tell us briefly about your journey in founding D.S. & Durga?
Kavi/David - We came at this venture as a project, not really knowing what we had in mind for it. We started it when we met and just loved the idea of making a life together, making things together. We didn’t have a plan for how it would unfold. I was working as an architect and David as a waiter and musician. So many of our friends were making things, starting “brands”, forming companies in the height of DIY Brooklyn, and we thought, sure let’s go for it. We are both pretty impulsive that way. I say “brands” because the term actually seemed like a dirty corporate board room word to me 10 years ago, and didn’t capture our specific approach. David makes our perfume and I create our packages. It’s truly hands-on and remains that way today. We love that we have learned how to run a business along the way, and I appreciate that we get to straddle a few roles.
3 - You established the brand along with your marriage and family. How does working together work for you all? And do your working styles differ?
Kavi - David is so much better at working off the cuff. Answering important emails on his phone, replying to interview questions right away, and I am much more, let me wait until my head is clear and I can focus on specifically this. Unfortunately I end up procrastinating that way and causing myself stress knowing things are piling up. I think that is also because I take on a lot of household admin – communicating with the babysitter, paying bills, etc, so I have to compartmentalize things more. Neither of us make a big fuss about separating work from life. Our life and work is a seamless fabric. We feel very fortunate to love what we do. We discuss perfume at the dinner table and our kids critique my designs. It’s life.
David - It’s working! Work life balance is an illusion these days. I’m always compiling ideas and am ready at any moment to flesh them out.
4 - What would be your advice to people in a working and romantic partnership?
Kavi - Embrace the holistic nature of it. Find separation when you can. That’s probably not easy during covid, but David and I are able to work in different locations and that helps. There is so much enrichment that can come to the relationship because of work. I often get to see David through a fresh set of eyes, which is always welcome in a long marriage! I grew up witnessing my parents discuss their joint medical practice at the dinner table and I enjoyed seeing them connect on all the different points of life as equals.
6 - I'm always curious how motherhood affects creativity. There is a lot of multitasking, and "the zone" can be easily disrupted. Can you tell me about your experience with this?
Kavi - I always feel so badly when my kids ask me for things and I am clearly distracted by my phone or email. I wonder how they will reflect on childhood, watching their parents more or less constantly be working in some capacity, especially when we are ostensibly there to do other things. I find it really helpful to leave my phone in another room when I’m hanging out with them. And a closed door, especially during covid, is a must to get any work done. That said, we hang out with our kids a lot. A lot. It’s just the priority of our lives, and as they get older, they are just turning into awesome little people with whom we like spending time. They actually love giving their input on a lot of things we do at DSD, and always get excited when they see a new design or product in the works. Without a studio of people around me right now, I’m happy to have their opinions!
7 - I know that the brand has aesthetically evolved over the years, and it's actually really refreshing for me to see. I feel like as an entrepreneur sometimes it's hard to imagine that it's OK for a brand to evolve, and that most actually do. What has this process been like for you all? You've done such an amazing job.
Kavi - Thank you! Another case of just not knowing any better. When we have changed our look in the past, it has been because it seems natural to me that anything could evolve and change over the years. The last time we majorly changed our look, in 2015, and to look how it does now, it was a real logistical nightmare – but as you grow it only gets harder. That’s why we love doing our Studio Juice series – limited edition drops every few months, a chance for us to maneuver like a very tiny brand and create a whole new look and story.
8 - I love your notion "perfume is armchair travel". As a chef, and now a skincare creator - scent is SO important to me, and really dictates a lot about my life. I feel that in a way, the 2010s in west LA lost a bit of intimacy with fragrance and everything started to smell like palo santo. I love palo santo, but it isn't the same as an elegantly crafted perfume. I've found myself in quarantine spritzing more regularly because it feels like a finishing touch - even if I'm in a sweatsuit. Maybe that's my way of traveling a little bit. It feels good. How do you feel perfume or fragrance is valuable to the human experience?
Art is valuable to the human experience whether it uses the medium of sound, image, or fragrance, etc. Scent and music are great because they are invisible. They imply worlds that you can explore in the mind without visual representation prejudicing your experience.
9 - What are some of the rituals and routines that enable you to work at your highest level of creativity?
Kavi - Electronic and new wave music, very loud, it has helped me design and be creative since I was in college. Being in a room alone (so rare!). The first thing I listen to as I start work is often the album Darklands by Jesus and Mary Chain, it’s so soothing.
David - I need private space with closed doors. I need to consume inspiration from sources like music, books, pop culture. I need time to heavily research every point of the world of the fragrance I’m working on.
10 - What is your philosophy when it comes to skincare and/or 'self-care'?
Kavi - I’m all for self-care in terms of self improvement, enlightenment. I don’t care much for pampering rituals. Self-care is being present and grounded with my work and family so I know I’m giving each my all and not flailing around. I recently stopped looking at Instagram, not sure how long it will last, but I’m happy to now fill that time with reading bits and pieces of articles and newsletters instead of scrolling through images.
David - I don’t do anything for my skin. Self-care is woven into the fabric of everyday life and must include others around you.
11 - Your top 3 life essentials.
Kavi - New Order, green chilis, face oil.
David - Humility, patience, gratitude.
10 - What did you learn from 2020 as both a business and a person?
Kavi - It was a time to adjust and pivot and that will always lead to growth, professionally and personally. I learned to slow down, enjoy being less social, and indulge in repetition.
David - You either learn through wisdom or suffering. Drastic changes are around the corner. It’s best to prepare yourself for uncertainty and to accept that fact of life.
11 - What are you excited about for 2021? Tell us anything!
Kavi - Dinner parties, fewer possibly, but I can’t wait to gather again. Entertaining is important in my culture and in our family as well. I miss seeing our team and spontaneously talking about ideas. Excited to see what’s different. It can’t and won’t go back to normal – our perspectives have changed, our priorities have changed. Who knows what regular life will be like after all this?
David - Continuing the good fight. Getting the vaccine and being able to see people inside for long hours with no masks.