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.