The New Perfumery in Town
Lucy Fragrances has been making its way through Instagram popularity with cleanly designed visuals that entice and intrigue the viewer. Founders of the company Edom Bekele and Senait Daniel launched Lucy Fragrances in October.
“We began by asking what we could start together. People like perfume and it’s a new industry to Ethiopia. After a year of research, asking what we liked and didn’t like about perfume, we decided to launch Lucy,” explain Edom and Senait.
The process was largely experimental, importing essential oils and scents, primarily from India, and thinking about the scents they enjoyed. Edom’s academic background in biochemistry and Senait’s experience in marketing created a perfect team to navigate this new world. Modern perfumery might be a new industry but Ethiopia has served a big role producing raw ingredients for many years.
The major export item is of course civet, usually in the form of a paste extracted from the gland of the civet, a solitary scavenger. Said to have been one of the gifts the Queen of Sheba brought to King Solomon, civet odor naturally evolves with time from deep animalistic musk to sweet floral notes and has been an important ingredient in producing perfume.
Breeding civet and extracting musk has been a controversial part of perfumery as the animal was treated unethically by farmers, with the animal kept in small cages and it’s odorous sac milked for the rest of its life. A ban on importing the mongoose-like animal or the product was put in place but was never fully implemented, and blackmarket sales worsened the conditions of farming the musk.
“There was a lot of back and forth about using musk in our product,” says Edom, explaining their decision to use civet. “We want to concentrate on more sustainable practices so we made sure the scent was ethically sourced.”
Senait, having experienced allergic reactions to multiple perfumes and body sprays, had been very selective when it comes to purchasing and applying fragrances. Lucy fragrances are hypoallergenic. The main reason people are likely to have negative reactions is due to the synthetic material in the perfume.
Since the turn of the century and the development of synthetic scents that can bind the scent to create a long lasting perfume, these materials have been a mainstay of the industry. Today, the majority of perfume brands contain a significant amount of synthetic content and one would be hard pressed to find a scent a popular brand carries completely natural and organic ingredients.
As some research states, roughly two-thirds of all fragrances used in perfumes and other scented products are made in the lab and the vast majority of top perfumes are made partially or entirely from synthetics.
There are several scents found naturally but brands like Armani, Dior, and Chanel have chosen artificial alternatives. Of course the number of natural ingredients is limited to florals, botanicals and musk while synthetic scents can be blended to create an infinite variety of scents. Synthetic perfumes typically last longer than natural fragrances due to the synthetic fixatives present in the ingredients. Synthetic compounds can also give complexity to perfume, releasing scents slowly. Many of these fragrances contain chemicals like phthalates, a group of chemicals present in a variety of fragrance oils, shampoo, deodorant, nail polish, and many other items, that have been found to be harmful.
The global market for fragrances and perfumes is projected to reach US $51 billion by the year 2022 and experts believe industry growth is largely driven by both the increased use of fragrance in personal toilette for both men and women and by the growing awareness that scents are integral to personal mood and well being.
Demand for organic and natural scents has led to the growth of small boutique perfumeries all around the world dedicated to creating new fragrances. The popularity of perfume so light it’s nearly imperceptible has somehow grown in the last 3 or 4 years, with more people desiring to smell natural and effortless while spending a large amount of money. The global scent trend has been focused on clean, fresh smells since the early 1990s and many brands have somewhat similar scent profiles where feminine perfumes feature floral and fruity profiles while masculine scents are fresh and zesty, sidelining the ostensible popularity of woody and musky.
This kind of scent dominance of course says little about the wearer when there’s little diversity provided. It can be impossible to find a personal scent in this market. While the big perfume brands source ingredients from big perfumeries that keep their process secret, smaller companies are more transparent with consumers.
Lucy Fragrances is part of the natural perfume movement, calling local perfume lovers’ attention to the ingredients used in their products. The first two perfumes Lucy launched are Evolve and Highlander, for women and men respectively, (2200 birr for 500 milligrams). Evolve is a spicy floral scent with fruity undertones. “The scent evolves depending on who wears it. It changes along with your natural scent,” explains Senait. Highlander can be described as woody, evoking the scent of bark and forests.
Evolve is a bold and warm scent from the combination of black pepper, bergamot, top scents and patchouli and civet base notes. The floral notes of rose, jasmine and clary sage give the perfume a rounded enveloping feeling.
One of the oldest uses of perfume comes from the burning of incense and aromatic herbs for religious services, often the aromatic gums, frankincense and myrrh gathered from trees. Alarms have been raised about the Frankincense trees being threatened by habitat loss and overexploitation.
Resins like incense sourced locally can be excellent sources of essential oils, cutting out the middlemen or importing ingredients and Lucy Fragrances hopes to use it in their experimentation to create new scents. An interesting use of ingredients is organic sugar cane oil to replace other artificial types of alcohol.
Edom and Senait are also working on a line of scented candles and launched their first candle, Honey Sage in December. “There’s so much to learn and explore. We want to create a small scale perfumery with a global brand and audience.”
Their products are available on their website and they are currently accepting orders.