Recently, Raw Spirit Fragrances' CEO and founder, Joyce Lanigan, presented a speech on fragrance ("The Perfect Scent: From Nodes to Tones") at the Create + Cultivate / Darling Magazine event in Los Angeles. She described herself as an "accidental fragrancier", a curious notion since Joyce has been instrumental in the development of the Raw Spirit scents. So we asked her to explain…
JL: Yes, it has been absolutely accidental, but a very happy accident at that and such a long way from where I started! When I started my career I was so determined to be a serious "businesswoman" that I choose very serious companies to work with. I started in banking and then moved into the tech sector, then mining and then into a corporate law firm. I've been a global Nomad all of my adult life, travelling extensively for work and living all over the world including long stints in Australia and Asia. I loved the travel, but the work was all very serious and I was seriously bored! Actually, I wasn't bored, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing in my life, but I just couldn't figure out what.
So how did you get here?
JL: Believe it or not this all started when I was working for a commercial law firm in Perth, Western Australia. One of the partners kept suggesting that I meet a friend of his who had this art collection that he needed some advice on from a business development and marketing perspective. I was not interested as it all sounded very fluffy, but as it turns out I couldn't have been more wrong.
When I finally gave in and met with (Nomad Founder) Russell (James) and saw the work that he'd created in the Nomad Two Worlds art collection it really resonated with me. In particular the beautiful multi-media piece "The Apology", which was based on the Australian Prime Minister's apology to the Indigenous people of Australia. I'd been living in Australia for more than a decade and I'd seen first hand the incredible injustice and imbalance between the Indigenous and non-indigenous communities, so this hopeful, forward looking, positive energy that was "Nomad" really struck a cord with me. I started by just advising Russell, but I'd been bitten by the Nomad bug and in April 2011, I jumped ship and joined Russell and Nomad Two Worlds became a socially conscious business.
We began to evolve the art collection into a business and realized there was a broader opportunity for partnering with the communities we were working with, to help bring them opportunities through more than just the paintings. When one of our artists and a key member of the Nyoongar community, Richard Walley, asked us to help him create and bring to market a commercial fragrance made from an extract with cultural significance, we jumped at the chance. I naively thought "how hard can that be!". What a steep learning curve that turned out to be, but two years later, Raw Spirit - Fire Tree was born. That was just the beginning and we have had great support along the way from so many people. Amazingly, here we are now with a line of beautiful, fine fragrances under the brand name Raw Spirit. Each fragrance has its own distinct personality and a lot of soul!
Your favorite thing so far about the "designing fragrances" process?
JL: I'm still learning the language of fragrance. Having not come from that background, I admittedly don't have a full range of "technical" terms to describe what we want to create. So, when we give our briefs on what we want a new fragrance to smell like, I have to do it in my own words and with Russell's pictures - like Desert Blush to me was that moment in the Australian desert when the sun is setting and the sky is a gorgeous scarlet blush and the red dirt softens to a deep pink. The Outback has such a distinct feel and smell at that time of day - I really wanted to capture that in a bottle. To have those words and picture boards then handed back to me, in a smell that has exactly captured what I was trying to articulate, created by one of the top "noses" in the world, Harry Fremont [of fragrance house Firmenich], is just an incredible feeling. It's still the best part of the process to me. It is both an art and a science and as complex as any musical score.
Your biggest challenge?
JL: The biggest challenge right now is distribution. It's a little hard to sell a "smell" online, but we've gotten great press and we're getting into new stores every day.
What are you most looking forward to now?
JL: Our upcoming Raw Spirit Native American collaborations.