Tope Omaii runs Mystique Scents, a customised perfumery in Lagos. She speaks about what drives her in this interview
What informed your decision to create customised fragrance?
The initial idea was to create my own fragrance and come back to Nigeria to retail. Then, I didn’t see it as a business. I had an epiphany while in school and I asked myself if what I was studying was what I really wanted to wake up every day to do. Looking at my dressing table with an array of perfumes, I wondered what it would cost to create a fragrance for myself. I went online, did some research and went on training courses in France for a certificate in perfumery. There was a small studio in the United Kingdom where you are allowed to create your own fragrance. My enthusiasm about creating my own fragrance made me want to go and learn more about the raw materials involved, what scent goes with what mood etc. After I got my certificates, I still didn’t think of it as a business, I was only creating for friends and families until I was bulldozed by friends to turn it into a business.
Being an innovation, what was the reception like at first?
It wasn’t very encouraging. People were wondering why they should wear my fragrance when I am not a celebrity. Nigerians can be quite snobbish to stuffs like this. So, I had to go back to the drawing board and decided to create a service, where people can create their own fragrance rather than imposing my own scents on them.
What process is involved in having a customised fragrance?
The whole process of creating a fragrance comes from three basic notes: the base note, middle and top note. You get to choose your own scent from a variety of notes after sieving the ones you like from the ones you don’t like. Coupled with a little advice, the ones you pick are then blended well together, to create a fragrance for you. The whole essence is to create a scent that is your own signature and stands you out, one that defines you.
And you think anyone would be interested in having a signature scent?
Well, yes, because your perfume is the definition of your persona. There are purpose-built fragrances which many are unfortunately, unaware of— fragrances for seduction, fragrances to give out certain vibes etc. For every kind of impression or personality, a fragrance can be created to represent it.
Was there anything about your growing up years that informed your interest in fragrance?
Growing up, I had this notion that plus sized people smell. I am big and was overly conscious of scents and the need to always smell good. So, I would always go to my parents’ dressing table for their perfume. I would spray little quantities of different kinds of perfume into a bottle to use when I get to school. Besides, I have this overwhelming gift of being able to identify scents.
What were you doing before venturing into this?
I have a master’s degree in energy studies. When I relocated to the country a few years ago, it was because my father wanted me to build my career here. He wanted me to get a job. He believed my passion for fragrance could be a part time thing. He never saw it as career path I could tread and now waste all my years in school. I got a job but I didn’t quite find fulfilment in it at all! I only stayed on the job because I needed to pay my bills. Eventually, I felt the time had come for me to take the bull by the horn.
Do you think returning to Nigeria was the best option for you?
Yes and it has been fantastic. I don’t see anywhere else I can live and be able to do this with utmost fulfilment. I have had some challenges, it has been difficult no doubt but I can’t entrust this to anyone else because I am a perfectionist. The whole essence of trying to create a brand in the class and standard that I want is the challenge that I face but I don’t think that I will have it any other way.
And has creating customised scents shaped your outlook about life?
Oh yes, because I love what I do and I am contented with it. I can wake up at night and create a fragrance for you. It is now a part of me and it improves my person. It is a team-building thing because I get to meet and know people more. I feel happy knowing that I can build a relationship with someone just by this singular process. I can tell a lot about people, it makes me more conscious of the things around me and I appreciate the different things that they bring to the table.
What other thing would you say has significantly shaped you to be who you are today?
My upbringing. Even though my parents are comfortable, we weren’t brought up to be silver spoon kids. My father is quite strict and has very high expectations of his children. That, in itself, pushes you to strive to be better than what you are. For this reason, I try to be the best in whatever I set my hands to do. Also, being the firstborn, I do have quite a bit of responsibility which I don’t take very lightly.
Where are you from?
Owan east in Edo State.
How do you unwind?
I love going to the beach. I do like open spaces. I enjoy driving. Most Sundays, I take a long drive to clear my head. I also enjoy spending time with my friends because if you allow your job to consume you, you end up being a lonely person. Moreover, there are no people to share your experiences with when you do.
Are you as passionate about fashion as you are with scents?
I try to dress well for my size but when it comes to colours, I am a bit restricted; I don’t know how to experiment with colours. But I am learning.
BY KEMI ASHEFON,NKARENYI UKONU, ANNA OKON, KEMI LAWAL