Smell is evocative—the mere whiff of lavender or baking bread can transport one back to a different decade and even make certain loved ones suddenly feel present. For Linda Rodin, the smell of powder puffs, toasted sugar, black pepper, and 1950’s lipstick—with a touch of juicy fruit and tobacco—always conjur her beloved mother, Beatrice. She created the scent Bis to capture the sensual feeling of those memories in a classic green-violet-orris scent that’s as graceful as it is complex.

In honor of Mother’s Day on May 10, Rodin created a limited edition packing of Bis featuring vintage images of her mother (pictured right), which beautifully captures decades past. Here, Rodin tells us more about the woman behind the scent and images.

The Window: Why did you decide to incorporate actual images of your mother into the packaging?
Linda Rodin:
The visuals of my mother are so unique and stunning, and I think they really reflect the scent and my scent memory. It was important to make her the visual as well as the sensual. I felt like one really needed to see her! I had so many vintage photos, and I thought why not print them? My team at Lauder worked with me to get it exactly right.

How did you choose the images? Do you have a favorite one?
It was fun but difficult. There were so many more options I could have used—I’m so lucky. We wanted a bit of a variety to show her different sides. There’s one with my dad in there too, which I really wanted to include. It’s hard to pick a favorite. The one with my dad in it too is definitely special.

Tell us about your mother.
My mother Beatrice, also known as Billie, was always gorgeous and inspired me in countless ways: to be artistic, quirky, and always to speak my mind — and to be glamorous and unique in my own style. She always was in hers.  My fragrance, Rodin Bis, is an ode to her. An ode to her style, glamour, and just who she was—elegant, smart, and wickedly witty.  I think I’ve recaptured a bit of her essence here. I know she would love and wear this perfume. It’s ’50s classy, and a deliciously interesting scent. After all, she inspired it!

The vintage fashion really shows in the images. Did you learn any fashion tips from her?
The photos range from the ’30s through the ’50s. My mom was very stylish, but probably not designer fashion or any of the nuttiness we have now. She was just always very chic and had a unique sense. I wouldn’t call it quirky, because she was very sophisticated, but it was special.

Smell is a very nostalgic thing. Are there certain smells that remind you of your mother? Do you remember what perfume she used to wear?
Well, obviously she inspired this perfume. It’s the smell of her powdered makeup, her lipstick, gum, something sweet in the oven, and cigarettes. My mother was a great cook, and I have more general memories of the house smelling so great. She also grew the most incredible pink roses, and I can still smell them. I’ve never smelled roses that amazing. My father grew divine tomatoes in the back yard, and in fifty years I haven’t had one as tasty as those. The roses and tomatoes are strong smell memories. It’s provocative and evocative. It evokes so many memories to smell something nostalgic. It can happen to you walking down the street. It’s wild how your brain works with scent.

That is my mother in bed in the mid 50s! She was glamorous even when she wasn’t feeling well, which I know she wasn’t that day.

This charming photograph was taken at The Shore Club, 1937.

Here she is enjoying a fancy lunch in New York City. She was from Long Island, where I grew up, but loved the city.

This one’s probably taken in Long Beach, New York. It was hand colored by her with crayon, which was common back then.

This is Nassau in the Bahamas taken in about 1955. It’s a very special image.

Shop The Story