We had a chance to chat with the lovely Zernell Gillie of his namesake brand, Zernell Gillie Fragrances this month. With a calm, fun, and peaceful demeanor, he shared his journey from deejay to record label to fashion brand owner to his most scented venture - creating a fragrance brand during the pandemic. Read on to find out what's next for the man behind music in a bottle.
Meet Zernell Gillie, Creative Director and CEO of Zernell Gillie Fragrances !
I started deejaying at my high school Farragut’s gym parties in Chicago. They were called sock hops because you couldn’t wear shoes in the gym, where the parties were held. They didn’t want us scratching up the gym floors.
Q: It’s apparent that music is a huge part of your life! How does music influence you in your personal and professional life now?
Personally, I listen to music all day, most days. Whether it’s on my computer, in my car, with my wife. Professionally, besides deejaying at clubs and parties all over the globe, music influenced me to start a record label (Grimy! Edits), an apparel line (Grimy!), and now fragrances (Zernell Gillie Fragrances).
Q: Tell us what it is like being a Deejay. Where can we find you Deejaying these days?
I love being a deejay. I get to meet all kinds of people and make them feel good through music. All over, actually. Most recently, I’ve been playing a series called Let’s Dance at the Aster Hotel Hollywood every month. That’s been really fun.
During the pandemic there were no deejay gigs as all the clubs were closed, so I was sitting at home and I started wearing perfumes and they lifted my spirits, just like music does. My wife was like why are you wearing perfume? I told her it made me feel good and it started the journey for my line. If it makes me feel good and I’ve always been a big fan of fragrance and scents. I was like I could do this. Maybe I could help someone feel good with a fragrance of my own and then the concept came -- music-inspired fragrance line.
Q: With Disco being your first fragrance, would you say that you are inspired by the disco genre of music the most?
Disco was the first release from my line because it was the first genre of music I learned to deejay with.
I chose the first three because it connected to the first genres of music that I loved and listening to a lot. Disco, like I said, was the first love, such as the group “First Choice”, and the late 80’s Techno from Detroit and songs like “String of Life” inspired the second fragrance. Hip-Hop is inspired by the early 90’s and Nas, Biggie, and Wu-Tang.
Q: What future plans do you have for Zernell Gillie?
Currently, working on the next fragrance releases, got some new music dropping on my label, and working to take my company and brand to the next level.
Q: Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
I was adopted when I was 4 years old. I deejayed in a tiny Blues bar on the westside of Chicago in the early 90’s. I am a cigar aficionado.
Q: As a new small business owner of a fragrance company, what challenges are you facing?
Expanding, importing, and capital.
Q: In the same regard, what do you find to be rewarding?
People loving my fragrance line and taking the time to make content. I love when that happens.
Q: Outside of Zernell Gillie and music, what other creative outlets do you have?
Those two things keep me pretty busy, along with my family
Q: Where do you consider your happy place?
Home, with my family, and in a deejay booth.
Q: What is your favorite word?
Q: What is your least favorite word?
Q: What turns you on?
Q: What turns you off?
Q: What’s your favorite note?
Q: What’s your least favorite note?
Q: What are you smelling right now?
Working with some notes & accords for the next upcoming releases. Fig, Coffee, and Oud.
Q: If you could describe your brand in 3 words, what would they be?
Unique. Authentic. High-Quality.
Q: Is there anything else you want our readers (or us) to know?
Music is life.
Photo credits: Zernell Gillie Fragrances
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