As a girl growing up in East Texas, Chavalia Dunlap-Mwamba, fragrance designer and owner of Texas-based perfumery brand, Pink MahogHany, spent time experimenting with pine needles, cedar, and native flora, intrigued by their scent profiles. “I developed an affinity for fragrance,” she told me over the phone. Fast forward to 2005 when Dunlap-Mwamba began researching how to create a phthalate-free fragrance of her own. After six years of development, the conscious fragrance line, Pink MahogHany, was born.
Now, as a Black fragrance designer, Dunlap-Mwamba says she’s seen an uptick in sales over the past couple of months, as momentum from the reignited Black Lives Matter movement has led people to actively seek out Black-owned businesses. Still, she says the perfume space is not crowded with people of color. “For a long time, you didn’t see Black people in fragrance ads,” says Dunlap-Mwamba. “There wasn’t a lot of representation in this space.” From the business end, she says, “a lot boils down to lineage. If you didn’t come from a family in France or Switzerland, you weren’t taken seriously. And small indie brands need resources to compete with houses like Givenchy.” But all this might be changing.
Last week, super influencer Jackie Aina launched her lifestyle brand Forvr Mood, debuting with four scented candles. Later this year, the YouTuber will foray into fragrance, which she’s called an “accessible luxury” everyone can enjoy. “It’s not what some people would expect for me,” she says in a recent Bazaar story. “…It’s not as cupcake-y and sticky sweet, like what I usually like. It’s definitely warm, a little bit of an elevated scent. It’s a little bit more grown and sexy and it’s perfect for the holidays.”
While Aina’s launches are sure to be a huge moment for the industry and Black perfumers, there are plenty of gorgeous smaller Black-owned scents already on the market—if you know where to look. Dunlap-Mwamba suggests searching the hashtag #Blackbusiness on Instagram to gain awareness of what’s out there that hasn’t yet gone mainstream. And have fun with your search. “Fragrance should be a positive thing,” she says. With this in mind, and as conscious consumerism demands are leveling up, we’ve rounded up 15 of the best Black-owned fragrances, because these scents hit all the right notes and deserve much-needed recognition.
A sweet and fruity warm-weather fragrance formulated with organic extracts and essential oils. Find decadent notes of vanilla and pineapple.
A unisex fragrance with notes of plum, cognac, and chili, blending subtle sweetness with spice. Base notes of oud make this fragrance extra luxe.
Notes of tomato leaf, leather, labdanum, orris, oud, firewood, sandalwood, musk, and amber essence make this unisex fragrance crisp and earthy.
The trio of unisex fragrances in the Travertine Spa Collection are light and fresh, hand-blended, bottled, and aged with botanical ingredients. They’re also light enough to layer.
This fresh, fruity scent blends notes of apple and peach with a splash of citron. Jasmine and honeysuckle add floral sweetness to a heady base of amber and sandalwood.
Mair is a subtle French-designed brand formulated with raw materials sourced from notable gardens and distilleries around the world. This particular offering is light, fresh, and airy with undertones of jasmine, Italian bergamot, and amber.
Nick Ricardo Collection
Marketed as a non-binary fragrance, Turbulent layers notes of amber and vanilla with pops of orange blossom and geranium.
This light yet luxe fragrance was designed to mimic the scent of clean skin infused with a subtle musk.
Earthy and rich, find a deep blend of vetiver, yuzu, bergamot, cypress, oakmoss, frankincense, cedarwood, and sweet neroli for a unisex olfactory experience.
In this fragrance, you’ll find notes of d’Anjou pear, citron, and orange that blend with jasmine, rose, and star anise mid notes. The finish is a warm amber and cedar duo.
Kimberly New York
Top notes of red candied apple make this fragrance sweet, while hints of marshmallow accord in a base of creamy sandalwood offer an earthy balance.
Ovation For Men
Ovation for Men is a fresh, clean, aromatic scent offering a blend of bergamot, cardamom, aqua, tobacco, and vetiver with hints of amber, vanilla, and leather.
The Kirk Eliott Experience
Unconditional is a unisex melange of amber, cedar, tobacco, firewood, and tangerine. Fragrance is one part of this lifestyle brand with 10% of all proceeds benefiting a variety charities.
Anu Essentials Sterling Botanical Perfume
A clean fragrance line formulated with botanicals, you’ll find notes of tuberose, cognac, and tobacco layered in a grounding base of oud and lavender in this intoxicating variation.
Blade + Bloom Aromatherapy Fragrance Oil
First Flowers features an energizing blend of neroli and rosewood essential oils with sweet floral tones of coriander and amber.