You can't check into the Halcyon Hotel, at least not yet. But if you buy one of the brand's candles, set aside some time alone (or with a romantic partner), and throw on the scent's coordinating Spotify playlist as you light it, you can feel like you're there, or somewhere. At least that's currently the idea behind the experiential Los Angeles-based brand, launched earlier this year by former brand consultant and art director Kamaryn Potter.
An ex-New Yorker, Potter has worked for brands like Free People, Reformation and The Wing, but has been ruminating and working on Halcyon Hotel for years. "I always had that hotel dream of having my own space to create community experiences around that I don't think existed yet," she tells me. The idea was born out of a common dilemma she and her friends faced: living in a big metropolis, but feeling like there was nowhere to go at night that didn't feel like a scene. "I just want to go sit somewhere beautiful. There was no peaceful, nice experience," she says.
Traveling frequently for her Free People job helped push the idea further: "I loved the experiences I took away from it, even comparing the bad [hotels] to good ones, meeting people, getting to see the world in this way." She began compiling a mental list of things that worked and didn't work.
Separately from this, Potter developed a fascination with scents and began studying fragrance around eight years ago, including taking a perfume course at Pratt Institute in New York. "I also had this idea for olfactory stories," she explains. "When you smell, you smell with memories before you smell with your nasal membranes. It has more to do with your brain than your nose. I've just been fascinated with the way you can control a human's experience with a sense of smell."
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Ultimately, she ended up blending these two ideas together with the goal of creating a full storytelling experience that will take the form of an actual hotel in L.A. that people can stay in — eventually. "I can't build a hotel overnight, but I can build a brand," she explains. "I'm basically reverse-engineering the hotel with the product line," which so far consists of four $52 candles.
Potter seems to have a special talent for turning ideas, stories and "vibes" into scents. For her first, which she whimsically named Critically Acclaimed Sexual Thriller With a Strong Female Lead, Potter described it to a friend as reminiscent of "[going] to a place and it's in the Hamptons, but it's not the summer and there's this creepy woman and a fireplace..." Romantic Drama Based on Real-Life Events, another of the candles, was inspired by a photo she saw of a beautiful naked woman running through a field of flowers, so it's a "girly, floral" smell with a hit of green. "Wake up you're in love, mow the lawn," reads the candle's official description. Feel Good Romantic Dramedy [Island] is meant to evoke the moment during a post-breakup tropical vacation at which you start to feel like everything will be OK. "I call it the sexy suntan lotion smell," she says.
Each of the scents has its own Spotify playlist, which you can find on the brand's website. The idea is to help you "get away for a night" without leaving your home. Occasionally, Potter also collaborates with friends' brands on special candles; so far, that's included fashion brands Veda, Malbon Golf and Buscemi, as well as cannabis brand Sunday Goods. In keeping with the hotel theme, she calls them "guests."
Like so many budding brands, we initially discovered Halcyon Hotel on Instagram, with influencers and cool kids posting from a mysterious, dimly lit, vaguely sexual hotel-themed event a couple of weeks ago. It was the first of several IRL experiences Potter hopes to host before the hotel opens. She's also partnering with Airbnb to create "Halcyon-approved spaces" people can check into. The self-described "press-shy" brand has yet to do any interviews or marketing; all awareness has come through word of mouth and social media — it has a very vibe-y and inspiring Instagram account.
As for what's next, Potter is working on bottling her scents into roll-on oils, expanding distribution — the candles are now available on the brand's website and at Galeries Lafayette in Paris — and locking down a location for the actual, physical Halcyon Hotel. She's focused on the east side of L.A., home to hip neighborhoods like Los Feliz, Silverlake and Echo Park. "A few [properties] have come to us, but haven't been right; we're just looking for that sweet spot."
What Potter may lack in hospitality experience she seems to make up for in her adeptness at branding and setting a mood, as well as having tapped into a network of cool, influential people. While details are still scarce on what, exactly, she has planned for the business, we think it's safe to say that it won't be long before we'll all be wanting to hang out at the Halcyon Hotel. And won't it be nice to walk into at least one hotel that doesn't smell like Santal 33?