Perfume revolutionary: How an ex-IFF director is redefining the consumers’ experience with fragrance

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Maison 21G is seeking to disrupt the fragrance industry. ©Maison 21G
Maison 21G is seeking to disrupt the fragrance industry. ©Maison 21G

Related tags Fragrance Singapore

Singapore-based perfumery Maison 21G is seeking to disrupt the fragrance industry by putting it back into the hands the people that buy them.

Maison 21G is a perfume house that enables consumers to create their own signature scent. Utilising Artificial Intelligence (AI) and clever engineering, it has made fragrance design accessible, sustainable and scalable.

The company was founded by CEO Johanna Monange, who has over two decades of experience under her belt working with brands such as Lancôme on blockbuster scents such as La Vie Est Belle.

In 2019, Monange left her role at IFF as its fragrance creative director for Asia to launch Maison 21G, which she believed had the potential to shake up the perfume world.

“I wanted to change the industry, but I knew I couldn’t do it from inside IFF,”​ Monange told CosmeticsDesign-Asia.

Her vision was to enable anyone to create their own perfume in total freedom by removing all intermediaries, creating transparency and bringing scent creation directly to the consumer.

“People are starting to realise its insane to pay hundreds of dollars for a bottle of perfume. Even when they do, they get crap. Now they want something that’s good value for money, something that speaks to them and fits their individuality.”

What’s your fragrance?

The idea for Maison 21G first began to take shape around seven years ago as a way to help streamline the process of creating perfumes.

“Back then, I was working on 20 projects a year with the L’Oréal Group. So, I built an exclusive collection of scents with the noses at IFF and those became my building blocks. I would bring them with me and met with marketing directors who became part of the creation process by mixing and matching the scents,” ​explained Monange.

She would also bring these ‘building blocks’ to dinner parties and help her friends create their own signature perfumes.

“A perfume sends a message about yourself – who are you, what do you like and what you want to project. I could make perfumes for my friends because I knew them and what they liked. How could I do this for millions of people? That’s why I started working with a psychologist to match personalities with different ingredients.”

By working with a psychologist, Monange discovered patterns between personalities and scents.

From that, she developed an AI-guided personality quiz to automate a process she would normally have to do in person.

This proprietary algorithm allowed Monange to take Maison 21G online.

“When I started, people told me I was crazy to try and sell perfume online. But I knew that the brand that can become successful is the brand that can combine retail and digital. All you need is five minutes to create your mix and you’ll get it delivered the day after, so why should you have to queue in a shop?”

Welcome to my home

For consumers that want a more tactile experience, Maison 21G also has a boutique located in downtown Singapore, surrounded by trendy hotels, bars and restaurants.

“I call it a maison because I’m inviting you into my home where you can smell and touch everything,’ ​said Monange.

The retail store serves as a perfumery where consumers can get a first-hand education about fragrances and discover their preferences through workshops before creating their own signature scent.

With over 33 pairable perfume essences to choose from, customers have over 800 possibilities to create their own scent.

They are aided in blending by Maison 21G’s own La Source technology, a patented machined designed by Monange.

She described the apparatus’ functions as similar to that of a Nespresso machine, which distils concentrate from its patented capsule into perfume bottles.

Consumers can take personalisation to another level by customising their bottles with advanced UV printing technology.

This innovative technology enables customers to choose any photo, design, or text to have laser printed directly onto the glass.

Consumers can return with their customised bottles to refill their favourite scents in order to promote sustainable practices.

Monange highlighted that it was important for her to reinvent the retail experience for her consumers.

“It’s so boring to go to a store have people jump on you with the latest perfume launches. For me it’s about taking care of people, getting to know them and what they like. It’s important to rethink retail, its no longer about putting a line of products on a shelf.”

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