NOVA’S Julia Zangrilli

By Alison Engstrom

One of the perks of living in NYC is meeting lots of people with really interesting jobs.  Take Julia Zangrilli, perfumer and founder of NOVA, an indie fragrance brand based in Brooklyn. You’ve probably spotted the brand’s retro-inspired bottles gracing the shelves of stores like Urban Outfitters and Opening Ceremony.

Julia moved to New York in 2003 to follow her passion for acting and music; however, it was a close friend that inadvertently steered her in a different direction. After brunch one day in New York’s East Village, they stumbled across a shop stocked with an array of essential oils. Julia’s friend noticed how she came to life when she smelled them, and it wasn’t long before that same friend spotted a class on the topic in New York Magazine. Julia signed up immediately.

After completing the course, she traveled to Grasse, France (the perfume capital of the world) to take an intensive session at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery. It was there that she received a certificate in raw materials.  Fast forward a few years later to 2012 when she launched her label, NOVA, which means ‘a star that increases in brightness then slowly returns to its natural state’,  much like a fragrance when spritzed on the skin.

Julia invited me into her Brooklyn home that also doubles as her fragrance studio, and shared how she begins her day, the inspiring podcasts that she has on repeat, her very first fragrance addiction, plus, insider tips on how to find your signature scent.

*Photography & Styling by Alison Engstrom 

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

I drink a big glass of room temperature water, sometimes with salt and lemon.  It gets things moving and it wakes me up.

Julia is one of the lucky Brooklynites with outdoor space.  She has an expansive ‘backyard’ where she hosts dinner parties.  

How long does it take you to get ready from start to finish?

I like showering and pampering my skin at night, because it cuts the morning routine in half.  At the start of any season, it is always a bit strange figuring out what my go-to outfits will be, and I can waste a lot of time picking one out. Once I hit a good vibe, I can be ready in 15 minutes.

What do you eat for breakfast? 

Most of the year, I’ll have a few scrambled eggs with a piece of toast, and hot coffee or tea.  I switch to iced coffee or tea in warmer months.  If I’ve had a big dinner the night before, sometimes I’ll opt for a smoothie with protein.  During the summer, I love a variety of fruit and full-fat Greek yogurt.

What’s your favorite getting-ready soundtrack? 

Like everyone I think, my mixes are constantly rotating! It totally depends on the time of year and my general mood. It also depends on what I’m ‘getting ready’ for.  If I’m getting ready to focus on work, it’s going to be some mellow electronic or lo-fi, chill female vocalists or French new wave.  If I’m getting ready to party, I’m probably listening to rap and hip hop, maybe some pop.  If I’m getting ready for a beach day, it’s probably some old surf or greaser music, indie rock or reggae/dancehall.

Julia has an amazing selection of vintage blouses, jumpsuits and jackets.  Currently crushing on her Oscar de la Renta printed blouse with the prettiest ruffled sleeves handed down to her from her mom. 

Do you workout in the morning? If so, what do you do? 

Yes, but I’ve been off the wagon for a while. The best I’ve been able to muster are long walks with my dog in the morning and trying not to sit too much during the day.  But my normal routine is barre and yoga classes at my gym with some light cardio.  I also pepper in some Ballet Beautiful DVDs at home.  If I am feeling really strong, I will add a hard hitting workout like Brooklyn Body Burn or Barry’s Boot Camp.

Included in Julia’s vintage mix – a variety of t-shirts.

I never leave home without…

Sunglasses. Currently wearing big, all black Illestevas.

Julia in her office getting ready to begin the day.  

If you could only put on one item of makeup, what would it be? 


One of her many covetable handbags, this one is from Italy

What is your favorite fragrance?

Before I started in the fragrance industry, I loved “floral oriental” fragrances – Bvlgari Jasmine Noir was the best fragrance on the planet. I really love high quality perfumes.

Julia’s newest creations, four rollerballs that are perfect for on the go application. Pictured: Mineral Musk, Green Musk, Beige Musk and White Musk.

What tips can you offer for women trying to find their signature scent?  

Go with your gut, smell everything and see which one you like best.  It is important to treat it as a nice thing to do for yourself, just like if you were getting massage. You should do it alone and take pleasure in doing so – it is a very romantic thing.

Daily uniform:

I love me a jumpsuit.  They are so comfortable, flattering and versatile.

Make a fun statement with sunglasses from Super Andy Warhol 

What is one word to describe your mornings?


Osa, the office assistant

Worst morning habit?

Getting sucked into emails before getting out of bed.

You work in a very creative field.  How do you stay inspired? 

Self care first is so key to staying open and receptive – but not lingering in the “self care bubble” for too long is just as important. I get also get inspired by engaging with the world – going to see art, books, great meals, traveling. Pod casts! Currently listening to Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell, #girlboss radio by Sophia Amoruso and The Tim Ferriss Show.