The fragrance business in nothing to sniff at. Global sales are $27.5 billion and $5.2 billion in the U.S. alone. While you have a handful of African-American celebrities with their own scents distributed through the industry’s major players, it is rare to find an African-American perfumer. Seth Kornegay is one.
His company, Seth Kornegay, creates exotic and exclusive scents. The company was just launched this year on May 15, 2013. “As a fragrance designer and African-American luxury perfumer, I felt the time was right to launch our brand focusing on both national and global exposure,” says Kornegay. He says according to his knowledge, he is the only independently owned African-American fragrance house in the country. To that end, he says, “Hopefully my exposure will encourage more people of color to join this exciting profession.”
Kornegay self-funded the venture with his own funds and money from family members.
His scents are limited editions and utilize unique blends and each costs $365 for 1.7 ounces. There is: Orla, which he created in honor of Michelle Obama and features rose garden interspersed with notes of tuberose and African violets with Pear Williams eau de vie; men’s fragrance Homme Forte, which features alpine whiffs and amber notes accentuated with exotic Northern herbs, woody notes of armoise, and Himalayan musk; and Petra, which expands the boundaries of traditional fragrance ingredients by featuring amber notes melded with alpine freshness and the unique combination of white and dark woody notes exquisitely combined with exotic, wild Northern herbs and rare barks with high-class Islay single-malt Scotch whiskey.
Kornegay also offers speciality, custom scents.
Kornegay says he has always been intrigued by scents. “I have always been fascinated with scent. It can have an arresting effect on one's sense of being - from lighting a scented candle for aromatherapy to wearing a fine fragrance,” he explains. “Even though I have an executive business background, fashion has always been an integral part of my personal life. The fragrance you wear is equally as important as your attire, if not more so. It's very easy to remember the last time you complimented someone on their attire--although it is probably a stretch to remember your last compliment regarding someone’s captivating fragrance.”
According to Kornegay, his blends of unexpected ingredients helps him stand out from the pack. “We pride ourselves on using all natural high-quality exotic ingredients. This separates us from the rest of the perfume world, and an integral part of who we are as a fragrance house,” he points out. “For instance, in our fragrance Petra, we used Islay Scotch Whiskey to give the fragrance a layer of complexity that was so alluring we felt it best to make it unisex. Another prime example is Orla, the fragrance inspired by the First Lady, Michelle Obama. We incorporated Pear Willams eau de vie into a floral scent to create a magnificent fragrance worthy of royalty, but available to the public.”
For Kornegay, it’s the ingredients that matter most. “In general, all-natural ingredients are what separates a fine fragrance from commercially mass-marketed fragrances made from synthetics. Using exotic ingredients really allows us to bring out the artisanal depth of perfumery, stretching the bounds of the craft to new heights,” he says. “For me, the art of high perfumery demands the best natural ingredients on the planet. I will not produce a fragrance I would not personally wear--or give to a woman I love.”
Sales have succeeded what he expected for the first year. “We are very pleased to date. Sales in Asia and the Middle East have outpaced domestic sales by two to one,” says Kornegay. “In addressing price, as you know, our products are eau de parfum--which is extremely expensive. We are, however, introducing an eau du toilette version of these fragrances that will be under $200 and a 30ml roll-on version for around $100. This is to diversify our clientele as I firmly believe fine fragrance is for everyone, not just the wealthy,” notes Kornegay.
This first year, the perfumer says he is using it to learn first-hand aspects of the industry. “Our goal for this year is to grow slowly and understand all the nuances of our consumers so that we can not only meet--but exceed their needs and expectations. For the remainder of this year, I want to analyze data and trends. In addition to this, I am in the lab creating wonderful fragrances for our new line and a line of scented candles coming this fall,” says Kornegay.
Kornegay is excited about the ports ahead. “Developing my own fragrance house gives us the latitude and freedom to create what we want--not what's dictated,” he says. “That freedom and individuality is required to service a niche market that demands exclusivity, exceptional quality and luxury.”