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How Scent of Africa is building a reputation in the global perfumery market

Perfumery has yet to explore Africa, an emerging continent full of promise, which is now attracting the fashion industry and slowly opening up to niche fragrance brands. Scent of Africa, the first African fragrance house to go resolutely up-market, expresses this potential through a luxurious, modern range.

"Through Scent of Africa, I wanted to pay tribute to Africa and its people," explains Tanal Ghandour, the brand’s founder. Having lived in West Africa for 40 years, his dream was to celebrate the continent’s generosity, to convey the strong sense of belonging, unique to the continent, and shared by its people. At a time when Africa is slowly opening up to niche perfumery - with the entry of brands such as Creed, Amouage and Mémo - the success of Scent of Africa testifies to its rise on the global perfumery scene.

A hymn to African heritage and terroirs

Africa has a thousand stories to tell, just like its olfactory terroirs, which Scent of Africa aims to highlight. Black pepper and vanilla from Madagascar, ginger from Nigeria, incense from Somalia, geranium and jasmine from Egypt... these raw materials are all well known to the perfume industry. While others are more rarely used, such as buchu leaves, from South Africa, whose minty, fruity, and sulphurous overtones could conjure up blackcurrant buds. A palette of iconic ingredients that form the backbone of the brand’s first collection, Eternal Legends. A range that aims to be accessible, in a market where the big brands are extremely popular.

Ultimately, however, Scent of Africa wants to explore more complex olfactory territories. Spices, African cuisine... This potential offers creative possibilities, and the brand is expected to unveil a second, more sophisticated collection in 2025, with a strong focus on African ingredients. A "niche" range, in short, that could also appeal to the more mature Western markets.

A cultural bias between avant-garde and tradition

The brand has taken a cultural approach, by supporting events such as the Paris Fashion Week last September. Indeed, local craftsmanship and Afrofuturism - the wind of creativity blowing through the world of fashion - brought to life by daring designers, are winning over fashion houses. Like the Chanel fashion show held in Dakar in December 2022. This dynamism is very present in the region’s major cities - Lagos in Nigeria, Dakar in Senegal - and the brand aims to embody it through its trendy products.

Because Scent of Africa aims to be a brand rooted in its time, nourished by the creativity of a young and dynamic population. "Today, we’re witnessing an explosion of localities," points out Stéphanie Gazel, the brand’s Creative Director. "Beauty is no longer just a Western phenomenon, it can also be Korean, Chinese, Arab or African."

A gendered olfactory cloakroom

The brand’s first collection leaves room for diversity, to adapt to moods and contexts. The brand therefore favours several olfactory universes, chiselled by the leading fragrance houses. Eternal Legends explores African mythology, paying tribute to local divinities in a gendered range that expresses assertive femininity and masculinity.

Driven by heady fragrances - a key marker in African culture - the collection is built around duos for men and women, the first of which, Rakh and Nefee, was launched in March 2022. Women’s fragrances are dominated by floral and fruity accords. Like Laïka, the brand’s best-seller, a fruity floral accord by Nathalie Cetto (Givaudan), featuring orange blossom refreshed with pomegranate and buchu leaves, on a creamy gourmand base. Then there is Nefee (Delphine Lebeau, IFF), in which tuberose, with a twist of red fruits, blends with amber notes in a sensual setting. The opulent trail offers definite freshness, like the floral bouquet with marine notes in Bellua, a nod to island Africa (Nelly Hachem-Ruiz & Delphine Lebeau, IFF).

For men, the spicy, peppery notes are quite prominent. In a play of Hot and Cold by Olivier Pescheux (Givaudan), Rakh combines the biting freshness of pepper and pink berries, spiked with cloves, on a dry woody background. Hagé (Jordi Fernandez, Givaudan), with its strong black pepper note, is set against an amber, woody and leathery base. Bellua’s masculine counterpart, Bezi, also features marine notes on a woody, mineral base (Olivier Pescheux & Jacques Huclier, Givaudan).

At the end of April, Scent of Africa will launch a new duo, Fik, a tribute to the God of Heaven by Nelly Hachem-Ruiz (IFF) and Gleti, Goddess of the Moon (Julien Rasquinet).

Today, the brand has developed mainly in Africa, where it reaches an audience of Millennials and trendsetters. The challenge for 2024 is the United States, a high-potential market for Scent of Africa. The brand will launch a second, more sophisticated range in 2025, the right timing to set foot in Europe.

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