WEST THIRD BRAND INTERVIEW
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Michael Probst, Founder and Creative Director of West Third Brand, sold at Taste Collection. At an early age, scent became an integral part of Michael’s life. He was fortunate to be raised in several places such as the small hippy-surfer enclave named Half Moon Bay and the cultural rich city of San Francisco, plus spending hot summers in Sonoma County on his family’s ranch. However, it was during this magical time in the vineyards of his youth, surrounded by grand redwood trees, blooming honeysuckles and apple blossoms which grew abundantly in his family’s orchard- that his mother, Jeanne’, would lift him up so that he could inhale the sweetness of the flowers surrounding him. There, his life-long love of fragrance was born.
Born to parents of French decent, albeit beatniks at the time, his childhood’s soundtrack was the rhythmic beats of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Janis Joplin and of course there was the saunter of incense wafting throughout his home. When not studying, his time was often spent exploring nature…anything and everything that kept him outside. Michael loved existing within the elements, rain or shine. He “had to feel it, touch it, and smell it,” he expresses, “I always had an appreciation of natural textures, the dimensional visuals the sunlight would cast during different parts of the day, and especially incredible olfactory layers that nature would create during those times.”
Michael’s scent portfolio continues to evolve with a variety of influences. He fondly recalled as a young boy, his grandmother, Fayette, and his frequent trips to her favorite department store, I. Magnin. “I would beeline to the perfume counter where the glamorous sales ladies would share the latest scents from Europe with me. One of my best memories was each of my mother’s friends wore a trademark scent. One lady, I distinctively remember, plus she was the sexiest lady, Mrs. Robinson…I kid you not that was her name! She always smelled faintly of cigarettes and Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium. Because of her tangled fragrance combination, it was uniquely her own.” Michael grew up in 1970s San Francisco where the city itself was a diverse mixture of high-end department stores, beatnik cafes, art galleries and antique shops each marked by a mix of bohemian patchouli, sandalwood, musk, and oriental scents. This is where he attributes his experiences for a love of deeper, more sensual and complex fragrances that are found in West Third Brand’s trademark fragrances today.
More Q & A with Taste Collection below:
Q: HOW DID THE WEST THIRD BRAND COME TO FRUITION?
A: I have an entrepreneurial spirit, I like to push myself in new creative ways and with that said after working16+ successful, rewarding years as a Creative Director for several companies where I created sub-brands, fragrances, bath and skincare goods and designer home goods for every multi-chain brand/retailer out there (Target, Anthropologie, Tommy Bahama, Crate & Barrel, West Elm, Z Gallerie, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Kohl’s, World Market, Barney’s NY). My design range is broad; to many categories, eventually I burnt out… the constant travel to factories throughout Asia, late hours, multiple timelines, etc. So 11 years ago I hung up that hat, and focused my attention on another dream of opening a wine bar and shop in Los Angeles. Yep. I had a lease pending upon both city approval and the ABC license, I even the architecture plans in hand. BUT I started to notice a shift in several markets (real estate and retail). A sinking feeling set-in and I was feeling uneasy about moving forward, to the surprise of my family and peers, I pulled the plug on the entire venture! The following week the stock market crashed (in 2008). I am thankful that I listened to my gut instincts, as they are easy to ignore, right! I would have lost my shirt However, my next thoughts were- do what you love to do… create fragrance… start a small artisan perfume company to keep busy while waiting out the recession.
Q: DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE WEST THIRD BRAND PRODUCT?
A: My most favorite W3B product/fragrance is Band of Outlaws, it is my go to fragrance. When I am not wearing Band of Outlaws, I am either wearing Vetiver X, Grit + Poise and as the days get cooler I have been wearing one of our newest fragrances – Super Musk.
Q: WHAT WAS THE LAST GIFT YOU GAVE SOMEONE?
A: The last gift I gave someone was a candle from Tatine Candles from Chicago called Kashmir. It’s one of my favs.
Q: WHAT WAS THE FIRST FRAGRANCE YOU EVER BOUGHT FOR YOURSELF?
A: Oh boy, honestly it was a small dram of patchouli oil on Haight Street in San Francisco in the early 80s! LoL. Now my first ‘real’ fragrance purchase was a scent by Jean-Claude Ellena called Rose Poivre at Takashimiya in NYC.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR OTHER INTERESTS BESIDES FINE FRAGRANCES AND NATURAL SKINCARE?
A: My interests are far and wide…and there is always something new to discover. I am very fond of the world of design, travel, history, design aesthetics, architecture, music and the arts. I do my best to showcase my interests and inspirations on our Instagram feed.
Q: FAVORITE PLACE TO TRAVEL?
A: For the most part, my favorite place to travel is to my home in Palm Springs. If I am lucky, I get to visit about every 6 weeks. In general I like any place warm, with a pool, or beach where I can wear flip flops anywhere, anytime. Recently 16 of my closest pals headed to the Nizuc Resort in Cancun for an entire week.
Q: TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE PROCESS IN WHICH YOUR PRODUCTS GET MADE.
A: My goal for W3B has been to create fragrances that are approachable, and easy-to-wear. The process in which our fragrances are born is out of intuition, imagination and most importantly influences past and present. Formulating fragrances in the classical sense in the way we do takes time, patience, endurance, and lots of nurturing…. It can take many-many attempts until the definitive scent is born.
Q: WHY AUSTIN, TX?
A: Why Austin? The Live Music Capital of the World Austin? LoL. We chose to relocate to Austin because Austin is an amazing city! It’s easy to fall in love with Austin. It’s filled with creativity in all forms, to music venues & festivals, technology, theater and the arts plus the food and restaurant scene is off the charts. Plus Austinites are friendly, easy-going, optimistic, charming, open-minded, authentic and accepting… there’s a really strong sense of community where all are welcomed.
Q: WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO SEE YOUR BRAND IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS? OR 5 YEARS?
A: The sky’s the limit! Currently we’re experiencing a moment of tremendous growth. In which we work very hard at attaining, by introducing new fragrances, product categories, and changing things up to keep the brand current. We just stepped into our 10th year and for that we are very grateful to be still doing what we love doing. Naturally we anticipate continued growth.
Q: WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE GOING INTO YOUR INDUSTRY IN 2017?
A: My advice is, be true to yourself and to your brand. And keep in mind the four Ds: Desire, Determination, Dedication and Discipline.
*Product Photography shots by Dane Tashima
*Interview by Seraphina Mallon-Breiman