Meet Chavalia Mwamba, Perfumer and Owner of Pink MahogHany, a Texan-based fragrance house. Discover how sniffing couch cushions at the age of 5 sparked her fascination in the wonderful world of aromas and how beta testing her fragrances on skin becomes the tipping point of fragrance completion.
Q: You have a fun brand name. What is the story behind it?
Pink represents to me the more feminine aspect of perfumery, and mahogany represents the more masculine aspect. With the two words combined, I wanted to communicate subtly that PM is for everyone. The extra capitalized “H” in MahogHany simply represents ‘fragrances for both Him and Her.’
Q: What was the hardest part about starting your business? What obstacles did you face and how did you conquer them?
The hardest part about starting Pink MahogHany was finding a healthy balance between working my full-time job as a music teacher/weekend musician and self-paced studying of perfumery and chemistry. I endured many sleepless nights prepping orders and samples for events, but I capitalized on the summers and holiday breaks to leverage my time.
Q: How long have you been interested in scent and perfume? How did you become a perfumer?
Scent has always been of high intrigue for me. As a young child (around the age of 5 or so), I would hide downstairs at home when I heard the doorbell and would not come back to the living room until my family’s guests had departed. I would immediately sniff the couch cushions and chair seats and the overall aroma traces left and tell my mom who’d been there.
My aunt and uncle thought it was hilarious that I was able to correctly identify each person by their scent, so they nicknamed me a professional sniffer.
I realized then that everyone had a signature scent – whether enhanced by perfume or just their natural body chemistry. This was so fascinating to me, and once I turned 9 or 10, my mom upgraded my signature scent from Johnson & Johnson’s baby lotion to her nearly empty perfume bottles. I was quite ahead of my time – wearing Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door as a young girl!
My fascination with the power of fragrance grew into an insatiable curiosity. I wanted to know more about who (or what) created various scents. I spent a lot of time outdoors and was able to evaluate nature’s aroma quite often. Whenever my mother went to the mall or a store where there was a fragrance counter, she already knew where to find me once she was done shopping.
As my palate gravitated from mainstream fragrances to more exclusive finds, I began more research into how perfumes and fine fragrances are composed and began targeted study in that direction. In 2008 I began my procurement of aroma materials, and in 2011, I’d created the first completed Eau de Parfum from the PM collection [French Cuffs].
Q: How do you know when a fragrance you’re working on is finished? How long does it take you to create it from start to finish?
I consider a fragrance finished when the thoughts and angle I had in conception are effectively communicated through the wearer’s skin. For instance, if my goal is to create a flirtatious conversation between the wearer and those who smell the wearer, and the result is affirmative in my beta testing, I know the fragrance is complete.
I do, however try not to over-analyze or overthink completion, because just as a songwriter, I sometimes have a tendency to want to go back and “re-write” a certain part of the fragrant song. Most of the time, I’m able to successfully convey my olfactory thoughts and feelings in a couple months. I don’t have the desire to release everything I work on to the public, though. Sometimes, it’s just for me to get an idea out of my head, so I’m able to move on to the next. I have over 60 ideas right now that I’ve not even touched yet.
Q: Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
I am a classically trained pianist who sang 1 st Soprano opera in high school and 2 nd soprano in college! My speaking voice, however, is quite misleading, lending itself to a strong 2 nd alto (lol)
It’s always baffled people how someone so petite such as myself can possess such a “mature” voice, and when I was younger, I could fool my mom’s friends over the phone. Fun times!
Q: What do you want someone who wears your fragrance to know about you and your brand?
I treat all my creations as an art form, and each wearer is the canvas, but the aroma that’s emitted is the unspoken, yet highly understood language.
Q: How has your style evolved since you first began creating fragrances?
When I first began creating, I was working from pre-existing formulae and accords and aroma materials provided from premium suppliers; now I incorporate my own tinctures and accord blends. I also feel more liberal in my creativity; I used to think that the only right way to create a fragrance was to have a certain ratio of top, middle and base notes but have since broken away from being so strict regarding ratios and allow my nose to guide me more than being traditionally correct.
Q: What are some of your hobbies? What do you do to unwind?
When I’m not doing extreme cardio by running after my twin 4-year-old boys, I love to sight-see (as long as there’s good food and sparkling water available), I enjoy reading as well as practicing music on the organ.
Q: Of all of your fragrances, is there one that stands out as your favorite? If so, why? If not, why?
Pas Encore Nommé is actually my favorite because I’m not a gravitater to sweet perfumes, but PEN is one that I will actually wear! It’s fruity-gourmand but with an adult twist.
Q: What are you most proud of with your brand or your fragrance compositions?
I’m proud to let others know that I create and formulate all compositions and use organic Perfumer’s alcohol.
Q: If you could describe Pink MahogHany in 3 words, what would they be?
Unique. Addictive. Intriguing.
Q: What’s next for you and Pink MahogHany?
I’m in the process of working with businesses to provide custom commercial scenting options. I’m very excited!
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