Nigerian niche fragrance designers mainly recognized abroad – Olufemi Olusola – New Telegraph
- I started my perfumery with 1300 personal collections
Olufemi Olaseinde Olusola is the CEO of Seinde Signature, an exclusive perfumery with an Experience Fragrance session. Seinde, as he is affectionately known, is one of many Nigerians the pandemic has helped turn their passion into thriving businesses. Besides the opening of two stores to sell niche perfumes, there is also the Experience Studio/Musée du Parfum, a first in Africa, where fragheads and perfume lovers could come and discover different scents in a very relaxed atmosphere. with canapes served with Champagne. Thus, Seinde Signature not only provides a channel to buy, but also an opportunity to enjoy fragrances at a very high level. Olusola who is also a perfume collector, serial entrepreneur shares with IFEOMA ONONYE in this interview why perfume is an art that connects the world, why Nigerians have yet to recognize indigenous perfume creators and how it is from a perfume lover and collector to one of the biggest niche perfume sellers in Lekki, Nigeria
When we last spoke, Seinde Signature was planning its second fragrance to take customers to Turkey. Were the winners chosen and what kind of experience would they have when they arrived in Turkey?
Our anniversary was in October and since then we have been looking to select five lucky and loyal customers to be taken to Turkey.
We already have three people left two more that we will choose in November and December for the Fragrance Experience Tour. Our second anniversary is marked Scentversary.
The catch is that if you buy any of the scents, you get a raffle ticket that would be drawn at the end of every month starting October 1 to get all five. Last year we celebrated our anniversary under the sign of the world of perfume and brought in manufacturers from America, Spain, Holland and Germany.
They all loved the experience, despite how we thought Nigeria was. They went back to their country, talked about it and everyone had fun. This year we will be two but this time we want to take people from here to the factories in Turkey.
In addition, the perfumes we have chosen have a story. The Turkey Damascus collection focuses on Syria, while you also have the collections from Russia and Istanbul. Istanbul perfumes focus on different areas of attraction in Turkey, how the smells of the region are the materials used for their perfume. We want to bring five of our customers to these regions.
Thus, they can immerse themselves in the rare original feeling of these perfumes. Scent is really an experience and people who don’t like scents may not know what you are talking about.
But when you wear it, it comes with a very big experience. Most people who create fragrances create something that encapsulates the character. There is a perfume called Eshu.
It was made by a guy in Bangkok. He’s never been to Nigeria, but if you look at his page, he says Eshu is a Yoruba trickster god from the west coast of Africa. The perfume is a trickster like Eshu, the perfume changes, creates the illusion that you are wearing sweet now, the next minute it becomes bitter and changes in the next period you wear it and that is why it has been named after Eshu.
There is another one from Romania named after Oshun Oshogbo who is a fertility god, god of love and uses flowers and others to represent this character.
These guys have never been to this country but they do extensive research. Perfume is an art, just like you have painters creating things. Creating a perfume is an art, not just smelling good. This is how we want people to start looking at perfume.
There’s Electimuss, made in London but they’re talking about the Roman god. Here you have the Nero collection which talks about the different emperors. You’ll even find flavors made with the different types of food the guy loved, like Black Caviar. You can actually smell the caviar there, as well as the different things to show the character of the god they are focusing on.
How did the passion of being a perfume collector come about?
My love for perfumes is beyond imagination. It’s not like I started selling perfumes. The business side of my journey to becoming a perfume collector started gradually.
During the pandemic, when everyone was at home, people were looking for where to pass the time. Lots of people started coming to my house during COVID, just to come and smell the scent. Then I
was free and published different scents online. So, I had a lot of people come to celebrate birthdays at my house. I would entertain with food and drink. It happened every Sunday and we usually had a full house.
So I decided to open a place where everyone can enter and smell the different collections of perfumes that I had. This is how we opened the studio. The intention was not to sell perfumes. I wanted people to get a feel for the scents and the more they came for the experience the more they wanted to buy. Some after smelling some for perfumes wanted to buy.
People who visited last would end up bringing another friend with them next time. This is how I started to become an intermediary for those who wanted to buy. Before I knew it, I was looking for a store. That’s how it became a business. Each perfume has a story.
The difference between ordinary perfume and the type of perfumes we sell is that ordinary perfumes are those made by large companies. They ask the perfumer to do it and they produce by the millions.
So every airport, every department store will have it. We sell what is called a niche. This is not done in large volume. It is done in a small volume and in most cases they use organic materials instead of synthetic materials to make them. They last better on the skin and cost a bit more.
Tell us the difference between niche perfumes and the usual designer perfumes we all know.
Over my years as a perfume collector, I have been able to figure out where to get it. It used to be that I had to carry perfume bottles in my pocket and reuse them after two or three hours, but niche perfumes are different. It lasts all day.
They are mostly made with organic materials, which makes them last longer. Regular perfumes are usually generated in the laboratory. It is a niche perfume brand that exclusively offers more than 30 brands from all over the world.
I had amassed more than 1,300 perfumes in my personal collection, which many other perfume lovers wanted to buy or purchase and developed the business idea of entering the business to be the best hold for perfumes strictly niche.
Are there niche perfumers in Nigeria?
There are many niche perfumers in Nigeria but they are not recognized. The market is more for big brands like Gucci. So niche perfume makers don’t even benefit from the doubt or even get recognition just because they don’t have a big name. We are also used to wearing foreign things and most perfumes in Nigeria are in trouble.
There is no exhibition but we have dedicated a shelf to Nigerian perfume creators. We have Catherine Umahi. Its fragrance is exclusive to Harrods in London.
Her scent is popular in London but no one recognizes her here in Nigeria. One of her perfume bottles costs $300. We did a workshop in London and she taught everyone how to make perfume. You choose your notes, create a perfume in your name and she helps you compose it.
Growing up, who would you say influenced your love of perfume?
Let me give you a little insight into how perfumes were invented. These days, ladies are doing surgery to get the desired shape. At that time they used corsets, and because the corsets were too tight, causing shortness of breath, they used lavender oil to resuscitate the ladies when they passed out. This is how they started using lavender as a perfume. This is why the Yorubas call it Lofinda. They talk about lavender oil. My dad always liked to smell good. I was born into a family where my father burned incense. He was a polygamous man with two wives. He was a civil servant, the Oyo State Superintendent of Waters. He was a very elegant and loving man. I was the only son of a family of eight and the second to last. All were sisters. At that time, if they had parties, he would put everyone in the car and drive them to the party, drop them off and ask what time he should be back.
If they said 2am, it would come back at 2am exactly. So, I drank that from him and I do that for my daughter sometimes before she got her own car. A lot of dads can’t do that for their kids. I got that from my dad and a lot of guys liked coming to our house because he had a lot of girls.
That’s the kind of man he was and he made me love perfumes. When I left school in 1979, a friend of mine traveled to America and he brought me a perfume and I wore it, it was nice and everyone loved it. From there, I started collecting perfumes. I had over 1,300 bottles of perfume.
Then I started giving away and selling some of the ones I had. Then I felt it was like a disease. Why am I buying all this? When it has no value? Then you post it and find that there are so many people who love perfumes just like you. So I told myself that I wasn’t sick after all. If I spray one, I won’t touch it again that year. But, I would vape more when I go out and get more compliments for it.
When did you buy your first perfume and do you still have the bottle since you have over 1,000 bottles that you used to start this shop?
I bought my first perfume, Calvin Klein in 1982, about 40 years ago. Then they used plastics and not bottles. And yes, I still have this brand in my store.
Apart from running your perfumery business, what other career were you in before finally settling at Seinde Signature?
I have been in other companies. I have previously worked in telecommunications. I have been in the hotel business for years. I started a laundry business. I don’t want to start naming names. I have these companies
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