What the nose knows: The life of a perfumer
By Rose Kwamboka
4 months ago | 5 min read
What is your first memory of perfume?
I was 14 when my late mum, Grace Rose bought me a floral J’Adore by Christian Dior. She was very meticulous in training me as her eldest daughter to grow up to be prim and proper. She groomed me into deodorants, fragrances, and cleanliness. I was lucky to have a mother who never cared to buy us petroleum jelly for a moisturizer. She would invest in proper lotions and was a lover of brand names.
What inspired you to start a perfume business?
I tie this inspiration back to how my parents brought us up and that is, if you are going to set out to do something that people will benefit, do not settle for embarrassments and heap-loads of mediocrity. I wanted a fragrance that could sit well throughout the day, smell good, and be friendly to one’s nose.
What does a customer’s choice of fragrance say about them?
Fragrance business is actually quite insightful. There are clients who feel that the fragrance is too mild while others perceive it to be very strong. The ones who view it as very mild are mostly used to woody, tobacco and leather compositions of fragrances. The latter group tend to be fond of extremely mild scents which are particularly moody mists that wear off after some hours in the day.
How do you use scents in your home?
I use scents in my home to accessorise the decor and appeal of my living space. Second to my body, my house is the next body of the dwelling of my being. So in the same way my house is cleaned as my body is, I believe it is important for my house to smell fresh and be inviting.
Do you love the scent of books?
As a reader, I love the scent of both old and new books. I particularly collect books from my late grandfathers’ chests whenever I visit their respective homes and the scents transport me to the years that they spent their lives during their pilgrimages on earth.
What does your typical workday look like?
We are currently on a very aggressive path of expanding our brand presence and so my typical day involves making contacts with new distributors and ensuring that our Osmanthus eau de Parfum gets to the shelves of new outlets. I read about trends from competitors and also observe market movements. Fragrance is a very peculiar industry, especially natural ones like ours. For instance, the more shortages of sandalwood are felt, means that the price goes up and in the end our material costs can go up.
How do you help your clients use scent to stand out?
Everyone these days can formulate anything in their basement and go to the market. I think that this is worth celebrating because people are becoming more informed on the processes of making natural products. Historically, big brands rode on our collective consumer ignorance and were able to peddle mediocrity to us. It is a great step forward that the consumer is becoming more informed. What we do is that we inform our clients about what to expect in our products. We also experience the products ourselves so as to be able to better translate the experience to the client.
Say I (a woman) is preparing for a date. What scent would you recommend?
A scent is an occasional thing, an appropriate outfit for a particular occasion is. For Christians like me, we see that for the occasion of signifying the priesthood of Christ, Franckincense was presented by the Magi. Mandrake scent was used as a scent of drawing a loved mate closer (referencing to Rachel, Leah and Jacob).
For a woman going on a date, I would recommend something warm with notes of the following: vanilla, citrus, peony, rose, agrums, or ylang ylang. Choose a composition that will have you smelling like an inexplicably royal ensemble of expensive bouquet.
Your perfume is rated highly globally. What goes into rating a perfume?
Our submission to respected rating agency, Fragrantica, was intimidating, nevertheless we were very expectant of getting an excellent reception. We had to go through the labour of sending write-ups about our fragrance. It was then picked for review by one of the experts after which we had to go through a sample submission process. The results came out and we jumped in joy! We were given rating that compares us to Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Hermès and more.
What is it that makes Lheritier brand unique?
Our greatest value propositions are two: The first one is that our products are fully made in Kenya. This gives us a very powerful wow-factor because our global clients admire Kenya as an excellent and beautiful country and so, our fragrance becomes like a treasure to behold. Secondly, our products work. Our scent lasts long, skincare products work like a miracle, and our brand integrity is quite high.
What is your olfactory signature?
Olfactory signature is an atmosphere created by a business to make you remember and relate the scent to them. For example, having grown up in the US, I can remember going shopping at Providence Place Mall as a teenager and a certain store had the scent of fresh dollars sprayed through their vents. In some sort of way, that scent of new dollar-bills would make one want to spend money or aspire to spend money if they were not yet ready. My olfactory signature balances between powdery, tobacco, vanilla, peony, and osmanthus.
Do you wear perfumes beside Lheritier?
Lheritier is my go-to fragrance. If I have to wear others, I wear them after spraying Lheritier just to have a dynamic scent depending on the occasion. I love legacy brands that I can count on. My go to are typically brands done by famous jewellers like Van Cleef and Chopard. Jewellers are very meticulous when creating high level pieces that carry precious stones. They know how to translate this trade into fragrance. It depends on people again. Personally I cannot do it! My sense of smell saturates too quickly.
Any tips on how to make perfume last longer?
Spray perfume on your body after applying a body oil, then add a small layer on your clothes especially on places that give out perspiration. The body oil will infuse with the fragrance and give you a delightful floating layer of fragrance throughout the day. The most important tip is to buy a fine fragrance and stop going to degrading copies.
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