By: C. Shardae Jobson
The below Spotlight was the bio I wrote for an interviewee I had the pleasure of speaking with for my Zoe Report article, Black Women & Fragrance: A Love Story, published December 2021!
I thought it would be cool to share not just some background information on the interviewees separately, but also their quotes in full! This article was a challenge and joy to write, so be sure to check it out after reading about Walker!
I’ve got one more “Black Women & Fragrance” interviewee bio to share! Stick around!
Kimberly Walker, founder of KIMBERLY New York
Described as a “Creative niche fragrance house,” sustainable KIMBERLY New York (KNY) was founded by Kimberly Walker and debuted with its first Eau de Parfum, Artsy, in 2016. Via email, Walker shared that it remains a top seller when asked which of her perfumes tugged at her heartstrings the most.
“Artsy will forever be my pride and joy,” Walker wrote. “And it was the first scent I ever created. My absolute fave!”
Born in Jamaica, and raised in both St. Petersburg, Florida, and New York City, before she became a self-taught perfumer, Walker was a luxury fragrance sales manager at a department store. However, during that time, not once did she have the opportunity to sell or discover a fragrance line by a black creator.
Still, she was able to be a part of a real coterie of perfume fans at her place of employment, and that included clients and shoppers alike. “Working in the fragrance department absolutely created a sense of community, “Walker emailed. “Fragrance lovers find joy in discussing notes and comparing newness to old faves. It felt good to converse with others who shared my passion for scents.” Walker also gained insight on what her fellow fragrance-obsessed felt was desired and missing on the perfume counter.
“While working in luxury fragrance sales, clients would regularly say things like –
“‘I like it, but it smells just like …’” or “‘Everything just smells the same. ”’ I agreed. The market needed NEW. Popular fragrance houses were being run by the same small group of people, and the lack of diversity showed an obvious lack of creativity.”
Thus, clients had to make do with what Walker could offer at the time. But her time in the industry sparked a flame to her hidden entrepreneurial spirit and in 2016, KNY launched with its first perfume and ongoing best-seller Artsy.
Nine fragrances have followed in Artsy’s footsteps, and Walker’s Jamaican heritage, next to Gotham City and Floridian local cultures are all imbued in her work.
“My Jamaican heritage definitely brought my love of spice and aromatics. Ingredients like allspice or “pimento,” as Jamaicans call it, along with fragrant herbs like thyme and mint consistently wafted from my mother’s kitchen,” Walker writes. She was born in the parish of St. Ann.
“[Also], spending years in NYC exposed me to such an abundance of diversity and niche fragrances [once sold at now defunct] Henri Bendel and Barney’s. And Florida gave me the opportunity to slow down, stop, and literally smell the roses. All three places expanded my ideas on fragrance.”
Walker is appreciative that her brave step into perfumery has been a part of a changing landscape for more perfumers of color. She believes, “Diversity introduces new perspectives, tastes and wholly enhances the user experience,” and that “Black, female perfumers bring newness, fresh ideas and represent the tastes and olfactory preferences of other black women.”
KNY’s Diaspora, for example, was declared as a new favorite by one of Walker’s customers “Because it reminded her so much of a pear scent worn by her mother with a modern twist.” To Walker, such a sentiment speaks to the larger, emotional attachment Black women and girls have with scents.
“Black women connect strongly to scents worn by matriarchal figures in their family. Black women are a whole mood! We love to take charge of our beauty routines and traditions and share our favorite finds with other women in our lives.”
For more, please check out my article, in which this interview was a part of, exclusively on The Zoe Report!