“Fragrance was such a big part of my parents’ heritage, whether it was food, perfume or incense brought with them. These cultural experiences were expressed through music, fashion and art, but never through scents .
These four BIPOC-owned fragrance brands are harnessing the power of storytelling to create both challenge and change in the perfume industry.
The olfactory inspirations of Hisam Mohammed cannot be found in the field of flowers or on the coast of sunshine in the Mediterranean Sea. “My inspiration comes from an expression of a life that rises to high-rises, often homes of people of color.” Born in Sweden to parents who were displaced from Eritrea, Mohammed high-rises in parts of the outer city of Stockholm. “These high-ragas kept a lot of families that had a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds,” he explains. “When they mixed spices, burned incense or cooked, the doors would slip through the cracks and accumulate in this special smell that could only be found in the stairs.” Those unseen locations may be located in Stockholm, but their scent stories are universal and have been given the spotlight in uniform. In 2020, Mohammed launched the brand with three vegan and cruelty-free perfume oils that you can easily keep in your pocket and reapply throughout the day — a format that pays tribute to his father, whose Nearby was a perfume-filled character, which they used to collect. “The scent was such a big part of my parents’ legacy, whether it was in food, perfume or incense brought with them,” he says. “These cultural experiences were expressed through music, fashion and art but never through scents.”
When Halifax-based co-founders Ariel Gough and Edwina Govindasamy decided to launch a fragrance brand, their first goal was to create something for Goff’s mom-inspired sensitive nose, which had a severe scent allergy. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if people with fragrance could wear it?” Belly perfume oils are based on coconut oil and are prepared without alcohol (known as an irritant). They also wanted their business to have a positive impact, donating the proceeds from their first collection in support of girls’ education in Uganda. But perhaps his most ambitious undertaking was a desire to change the way Khushboo was marketed. Moving away from the fictional world of traditional advertising, he showed real women doing real things for his second fragrance collection, called Limitless. “It exposes women who break glass ceilings in under-represented areas such as aviation, data analytics and carpentry,” says Govindasamy. One of the faces of the collection is Lydia Phillip, a glider flight instructor with Cadet Instructor Cadre, who was the first black female flight commander at the Debert Cadet Flying Training Center in Atlantic Canada. Continuing their mission to have a voice in the global conversation about fragrance, Gough and Govindasamy are currently working on a new fragrance launch later this year that focuses on health and wellness.
Chris Collins’s world
Chris Collins spent 20 years as a model at Ralph Lauren before setting his sights on fragrance. His time with the fashion house helped him learn about luxury and branding and eventually launched Chris Collins’ World in 2017. It also introduced him to Kylan Hennessy of Kylian, who became a mentor after working together on a Bespoke fragrance project. “Their fragrance sets the bar for my creations,” he says. “I wanted to create unique, powerful fragrances like them, but my own DNA was associated with them.” Part of it was using the scent to shine a light on Harlem – a place Collins called home for nearly 20 years. “Nobody ever made a connection between Harlem and the French when it smelled, and I always wondered why,” he recalls. “Then I thought, ‘A wonderful story about the cultural exchange between New York and Paris.’ Many African-American artists, poets and writers – such as Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin – left Harlem for Paris because they were more accepted there. ”The Renaissance pays tribute to the period of the collection. Collins’ brand is currently the only black-owned fragrance label available at Bergdorff Goodman and many other retailers where it is carried. “I’m not sure why,” Collins meat. “There are a lot of good brands out there, but if they are not given the opportunity to show their goods, they will never have a chance to succeed.”
When Dana Al Masri was studying at the Grass Institute of Perfumery in France, she was required to create a fragrance for her final project. After being trained in a classic French method, mostly by French perfume makers, she ended up with a fragrance that was in ancient Egypt. Since then, the rejection of conventions has become one of her defining traits as a showrunner. “I want to express new stories because ancient perfume comes from Mesopotamia,” she explains. “There are many things that have been colonized and repatriated without any understanding of the origin of the colonies. It is about sharing new stories or stories that actually exist, but are hidden, stolen or forgotten. “Montreal-based perfumers fragrance brand, Jazmin Sara emb embodies the very idea with an interdisciplinary, multi-sensory approach that combines music, art and culture. Raised in Dubai by an Egyptian mother and a Lebanese father, El Masri moved to Canada to pursue a singing career and studies and later went on to create perfumes. After creating fragrances for other companies, she gained her attention for creating her own label on her own terms. Her first collection, The Playlist , Imagines what a song would smell like if it were in odor form. Other fragrances, like Fayum, are an olfactory ode to the Middle East. “I wanted to swap negative war-torn images of my countries,” she She says. “There is a very fragrant metaphor in the Arab world. It is a big part of our rites, whereby we express ourselves in the way that we incorporate it in all our social dialogues.” Wants to illuminate those rich cultural history.