Thursday 27 June 2019

VANILJ by Maya Njie

With the seemingly constant stream of new perfume companies launching on an almost daily basis, I often find myself thinking, “Is it really possible for a new brand to present themselves in a way that feels original and interesting?” Everything has been done before, in one way or another, but sometimes it’s actually a hark back to the past that provides a springboard in the present. Maya Njie has launched her own perfume company and is the perfect example of how someone can combine a personal history with a passion for creation. With a celluloid inspiration transformed into scent, it’s time for Maya Njie to take centre stage.

Authors are encouraged to write about what they know and, to some extent, the same can be said for perfumers. Having a deep connection with your subject can often result in extraordinary creations, and Maya Njie is living proof of this. When she launched her company back in 2016 it came off the back of actually creating for a number of years. It was the response from co-workers and strangers to her private bends that made her realise that a future may lie in a different direction. This self-taught perfumer discovered that she had a gift for translating images into fragrance.

Maya was born in Sweden but moved to London where she studied at the University of Arts. Her passion was for photography and design but, alongside this, she started to explore how scent could also play a part in the overall visual experience. Armed with an old family photograph album that contained images from a time before she was even born, Maya Njie started to gather ingredients that would allow her to present these captured moments to a wider audience. Perfecting her blends required trial, error, and a lot of patience but, by combining “nature and science,” her collection of five fragrances was born.

Every picture has a colour palette, by that I mean the primary colours that make up its overall tone. What Maya did was to break the pictures down into their individual six shades and then use this visual representation to rebuild it as a fragrance. Now, obviously there is so much more to it than just attributing an aroma to a colour but I feel that this novel approach is partly responsible for the collection’s decidedly androgynous feel. Maya Njie has created an olfactory visual without any confines of gender. It’s incredibly difficult to choose a favourite from the range but, for me, the star has got to be Vanilj.

Having any reference to vanilla in a title would usually send me running for the hills but Maya Njie has controlled it to perfection. Used here it adds an evocatively boozy quality to the combination of vibrant cardamom and earthy patchouli. There’s almost a peaty note that comes through alongside the crisp cedarwood but it’s skillfully wrapped in a wonderfully delicate musk that adds a feeling of volume to the scent. Even though amber is listed in the notes, don’t think that you’re going to get an overbearing perfume. Vanilj is perfectly proportioned elegance with muted tones at its heart. An incredible first collection, I cannot wait to see what comes next.

Vanilj is available from Maya Njie's website at priced at £15 for 7.5ml and £85 for 50ml. [Sample provided by Maya Njie]

[Photograph of Maya Njie © Maya Njie Perfume]

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