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! The article was a challenge and joy to write, and this is the last mini-bio of all the interviewees! Links to the other three are below!
Mair Emenogu, founder of MAIR
Mair Emenogu is a bit of a perfumer outlier.
And not just as a Black female but because she got into creating MAIR while “Working up the corporate ladder” at an engineering firm and admittedly not aspiring to be an entrepreneur (yet). Perfume hasn’t been a years-long fixation.
But for Emenogu, based out of Houston, Texas, it’s become the most unlikely journey and a welcomed one that marries her ambitious nature with her no longer hidden creative outlet. The spark that started it all was when an executive commented that her signature would be prime for a fragrance.
“MAIR is an extension of my lifestyle, of myself,” Emengou says when asked what inspired the brand’s romantic aesthetic. Debuting in 2015, two perfumes have been released so far: Remember When and Peony Silk. “The people that know me personally will say, ‘Yep!’ This is who she is and what I’m allowing you to see.”
Currently, MAIR is the only Black-owned fragrance brand sold at Macy’s, after months of communicating with a buyer, applying for and going through the accelerator program, and, of course, patience. “I remember when they first told me I was going to be sold there. Macy’s has so many years of history and during the holiday time, I would always wake up and watch the parade. It’s just surreal to be a part of Macy’s legacy. It’s something I’ll always have.”
Emenogu adds, “And the goal starting out was that this was not going to be a backyard brand. I’m not doing this to be small. I’m doing this to compete with the legacy brands. Period!”
Prior to knowing that her target consumers would be fans of “Soft, light” scents on the skin, it was during MAIR’s nascency that she intrepidly vetted Houston locals about their dreams and thoughts on what would make up the ideal perfume.
“So I would choose random days and go to The Galleria, which is our largest mall, and just walk up to random people and sit at the bar and have conversations with people about perfume. What did they want? What do you wear? What do you like? MAIR is inspired by me but influenced by the customer.” Emenogu is already getting requests to produce just as long-lasting but “heavier” variants in her burgeoning line.
As a creator and businesswoman in fragrance now, Emenogu’s also super discerning of the responsibility of her position as another ceiling breaker in a homogenized industry.
“The response from people of color has been warm and definitely one of shock,” she says.
I’ll tell you, [most] are shocked when they find out I’m the one who created the line. It reinforces the idea that representation matters. [And] in every instance, you can see the hope! It’s like, ‘She can do it!’ [and then they go on to think], ‘Maybe it’s not perfume I want to do… maybe it’s owning a trucking company, or whatever it is. [But] I can do it!’”
Her lovingly referred to “tribe” of fellow Black perfumers are additional sources of inspiration and include Chris Classic of Savoir Faire and Shawn Crenshaw of Ovation.
“Again, it’s surreal because it’s like, wow, we’re really doing this! We’re really pushing the needle and making noise about black perfumers. We’re doing it and doing well and happen to be black. We’re setting the precedent of doing it well. It’s a vibe.”
For more, please check out my article, in which this interview was a part of, exclusively on The Zoe Report!