Scent is strongly associated with memory; it has the power to transport us to a specific moment, remind us of someone special and even has the ability to capture a feeling.
The magic of scent, along with seeing a gap in the market to provide bespoke fragrances, was a motivator for Maison 21G founder, Johanna Monange.
BD spoke to the Parisienne scent designer about the advancements she has made in the industry, the use of AI in fragrance, and what her philosophy is around scent and trends.
About Maison 21G
Maison 21G is a Parisienne perfume house that allows people to tailor-make their own fragrance with the finest natural ingredients. We opened at the end of last year, and are located online, as well as a physical boutique on Sussex Street in Sydney.
I have always loved the perfume industry – I was born into it and have done this all my life, working with the best fragrance brands in the world as a scent designer and a creative director.
However, after 20 years in this glamorous world, I found that too many people had the same problems with their perfumes. They were all coming to me saying, “Johanna, all perfume smells the same!” Correct – they are all floral fruity gourmand. Or “Johanna, my perfume doesn’t last!” Correct – they’re all made with low concentrate.
Another question I was getting a lot was “how on earth can I choose a perfume?” We have gone from 500 products coming out a year to 3000 products launching each year. All perfume brands are now fighting for space and visibility, and people end up completely lost.
These are the main reasons I created Maison 21G with the highest concentrate and 33 single scents that people can mix and match to create their own high quality scent according to their intimate desires and unique personality.
We needed to reinvent high quality perfumery at an affordable price, and we need to give people the power to create their own bespoke fragrances. This is what I have done through Maison 21G.
Perfume and education
A perfume is 90% alcohol, 10% concentrate. If we keep the cost of the concentrate we keep the quality of the perfume. The cost of the concentrate is between $80-200, so many big brands go for the cheapest option when every dollar saved adds to millions. However, in decreasing the level of concentrate they decrease the quality of the perfume.
People need transparency and education - they need to understand what they like and have the power to create their own fragrances using this. It is important for people to know what message they want to communicate, and have the means to do this through fragrance. I want to help people understand the power of the ingredient - the essence.
Perfume in the digital era
The digital world and the retail world need to be better connected. So I have fantastic, highly skilled staff and a beautifully designed website. These work together for the best consumer experience.
People are able to order online, and order in small quantities to test. If people don’t like their purchase they can return it, but I have less than 1% return rate. When people know the brand, and the quality of our ingredients, they know that they can’t go wrong.
La Source bespoke machine
This was the biggest challenge of my life. A simple way to describe the machine would be to liken it to a Nespresso coffee machine. However in this case, a capsule of concentrate is inserted into La Source and alcohol is pushed through the machine and into the perfume bottle at high pressure, keeping the concentrate protected from both oxygen and light.
It took me three years to create La Source, with the most difficult part being the issue of stopping the various scents contaminating each other in the machine. There must be absolutely no remainder of a single scent once the capsule is removed, and thousands of perfumes would need to be made this way.
Further to this, many perfumeries that claim to create bespoke perfumes actually sell ready-made blends, so I needed to prove to the people that I’m really blending for them - it is important that they see the process.
You can find the La Source machine in my Sydney and Singapore stores.
Maison 21G online questionnaire
The questionnaire is very important. It allows us to see what type of personality someone has, where he or she lives, what he or she likes and more. This saves people time in selecting their ingredients, as I am able to recommend a mix of ingredients they are likely to love after profiling them.
We use AI to power our recommendation. The more people try, the more accurate we become in our recommendation - we are creating the Netflix of perfume!
The answer to this question really depends on the country and the people. In Singapore, they love mimosa (a flower that grows in the south of France), rhubarb and cannabis. In Australia, you love ocean, sandalwood, oud and tuberose.
The least popular scent is musk, and I think this may be because it is a synthetic scent (we can’t use animalic notes anymore), and people want to go back to natural scents.
Maison 21G in 2020
My biggest focus in 2020 is to succeed in leveraging the digital model through launching an online tutorial. The tutorial would take people through the exploration of their own discovery set!
Not everyone has the time or ability to come in store, so I’d like to make small discovery sets available so that people can purchase online and try out the samples in their own home, experimenting with various combinations. I want to give people the opportunity to try something new and fall in love with scent, for an affordable price. This focus on digital is especially relevant now with the confinement we’re going through due to COVID-19.
I also would like to revolutionise and reinvent the retail experience. I aim to have beautiful pop-up scent bars in malls with passionate, highly skilled sales people. The first pop up scent bar will be happening on a big scale at the QVB later this year.
Philosophy on perfume trends
There are no trends! How do you want to be this year? I don’t think trends should exist in perfume - we can’t follow each other and copy. Be empowered with your self-expression. The 2020 trend should be harmony and empowerment within your soul.
Visit Maison 21G here.