Black Fragrances Matter
A lesson the perfume industry needs to learn now
It is no secret that the beauty industry lacks diversity, but its fragrance branch should be particularly ashamed. An idea of a perfumer is still “tightly bound to Old World,” which produces “unconscious bias,” admits Gwen Gonzalez, one of few Black perfumers at Givaudan. Her fellow professional, Arielle Weinberg, the founder of a fragrance boutique Arielle Shoshana, shares this opinion. She adds bitterly that until recently, a diverse perfumer would mean “a white man from Paris,” only a train ride away from Grasse, the original cradle of perfumery.
While the numbers of perfumers from Asia and South America are growing, the fragrance industry still lacks Black-owned brands. Meanwhile, Black fragrance consumers drastically outnumber Black fragrance creators. In 2017, Black customers spent $152 million on perfumes, which makes 22.37 percent of total women's fragrance sales. The perfume market should really respond to the statistics.
Brands like Maya Njie Perfumes, Kimberly New York or World of Chris Collins, founded by Black women and men, slowly fill in the gaps. But the problem concerns both the brands and the perfumers. This is why, people like Gwen Gonzalez and Christina Christie, senior perfumer at International Flavors & Fragrances, are desperately needed. Although Christie notices that the fragrance industry is stuck in the past, she admits that “Now it's time to create a new history.” High time. Otherwise, Rihanna would have to launch a Fenty perfume line.