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Meet Cathleen Cardinali and Anthony Polcino of Thin Wild Mercury in Los Feliz

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cathleen Cardinali and Anthony Polcino.

Cathleen and Anthony, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
CC: Fashion is my first love and my vintage pieces are some of my favorite treasures. I’d always worked in luxury retail and was working toward a VP role when I just woke up one day and decided I wanted to something different with my life. I quit my job with the plan to just take some time and recharge and this is when Thin Wild Mercury was conceived, but first as an online vintage shop. Anthony gave me the idea for the name and with zero hesitation I said “that’s it!”. The shop was doing well, however it just wasn’t really igniting me, plus I wanted to keep all the great pieces for myself. I still don’t know why but I kept finding myself searching online for perfume schools, perfume books, stories about other perfumers. I’m not someone with a fragrance collection and I was only wearing vetiver and coriander oil as my scent. But I was intrigued by the mystery of the craft, also in love with the storytelling aspect and power of scent. I wanted to do it but I didn’t think I could.

A former boss called me one day and made an offer I couldn’t refuse and I took it, which eventually led me back into full-time career mode. About six months in I was having a little daydream at my desk when the idea for The Los Angeles Collection fell out of my pen into my notebook—it came so easy that it didn’t even feel like my idea. I told Anthony that night about my silly dream of becoming a perfumer and this idea I had for my first collection. He didn’t think it was silly and loved the idea, he was beyond encouraging and really motivated me to do what I needed to do to learn how to perfume, his support was essential in making this happen.

I began amassing oils (synthetic and naturals) to build my organ by finding little gems of information in the archives of fragrance message boards. I purchased the few books one can find on the subject. Then I mixed the most awful smelling concoctions I’ve ever held to my nose. I needed training. That’s when I found the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Chinatown. They were offering their first 11 weeks materials course ever when I found them and it felt very serendipitous. Ashley Eden Kessler was my instructor and I can say with confidence Thin Wild Mercury would not be anything had I not discovered The IAO.

From there, I just got to work on making perfumes. It took me nine months to complete my first one (Whisky, 1969). In the meantime Anthony created the artwork for the bottles and boxes and I just kept my Instagram going by posting old photos. I involved my followers in the perfumer making process in stories, asked their opinion on notes, etc. I didn’t expect to start a real company but I needed to legally to get the amount of perfumers alcohol I wanted. So, Thin Wild Mercury became a real entity. We launched to about 8k Instagram followers and friends and family and about nine months later, we were in 5 stores.

Has it been a smooth road?
What we’ve learned about operating and owning a business is that every day has its own unique set of obstacles. Entrepreneurship is problem-solving and at times it can be stressful. When all you want to do is be creative and play with smells and design campaigns, devising a comprehensive plan to scale the business isn’t super fun. But it’s necessary and at the end of the day we know it’s what we want.

Getting the perfumers alcohol was the first problem, learning the strange schedule for paying our first LLC business tax was fun because we totally missed the deadline. We took on designing a custom box when neither of us knew what we were doing at all. Time is always an issue because we both maintain our day jobs, so we operate in the mornings/nights before/after work and on our days off; right now finding time to create the new line is our biggest challenge.

Other things have been super smooth and fallen easily into place. Meeting Kristin Gallegos and having her shoot our campaign this year was so smooth and we are still obsessed with how it came out. Friends have been so forthcoming with connections and advice. We learn something new almost every day and we’ve met a lot of great people along this journey.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Thin Wild Mercury is a niche fragrance brand steeped in historical pop culture. We produce our scents in small batches free of harmful ingredients and packaged in sustainable materials. We are known for our premiere collection of four fragrances The Los Angeles Collection: Laurel Canyon, 1966; Whisky, 1969; Chateau, 1970; Zuma, 1975.

We are proud of everything we’ve done to build a company together. It’s a different kind of challenge as a couple to build and run a business together, but it ultimately has strengthened our bond and we are closer now than ever before. Thin Wild Mercury is us, true to what we are interested in and what we love and it’s given us the opportunity to connect with so many like-minded cool people we are proud to call our customers and friends. We can’t fake anything, so we don’t, and we are pretty proud of that.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
CC: Los Angeles was the inspiration for our company so being anywhere else in the first phase of our business in kind of unthinkable. To compound that, I was able to find a school 15 minutes from my apartment and I’m surrounded by creative entrepreneurs in LA always willing to share and offer support. I recommend anyone who wants to start a business to just use the resources available to them where they are, if you truly have the desire you will be able to do anything you’re dreaming about (it’s just less sexy when it’s not just a dream but your real life). There are definitely some hidden surprise expenses operating a business in Los Angeles that you only really learn about after you’ve started up but I think that kind of thing exists everywhere.

Pricing:

  • The Los Angeles Collection Sample Set: $30
  • Laurel Canyon, 1966: $50 (8ml) $165 (50ml)
  • Whisky, 1969: $50 (8ml) $165 (50ml)
  • Chateau, 1970: $50 (8ml) $165 (50ml)
  • Zuma, 1975: $50 (8ml) $165 (50ml)

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Kristen Gallegos

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