The overwhelming worldwide commercialization of the fragrance business has led to a prevailing interest in brand, look and ‘personality’, with every proverbial Tom, Dick and Harry ‘launching’ their own fragrance. It may be in poor spirit to suggest that most personalities likely know as much about creating a fragrance as my old Grandma – (less, in fact, as she did hand make rather exquisite lavender bags!) – but in truth, the essence of the product – its smell – seems often to be the least significant factor.
Not so in the case of the fragrances lovingly and painstakingly crafted by Master Perfumer Tammy Frazer, who, along with her sister, Jenny, owns Frazer Parfum, a bespoke perfume house based here in Cape Town.
Tammy spent a significant amount of time in the banking sector in Australia, and completed a Masters in Communication; upon her return to South Africa she felt drawn towards doing something that she felt real passion for; it is no accident that what has evolved is a business that pays more than lip service to the outstanding natural beauty and abundance of raw materials on offer in this breathtaking country, and in particular in the Cape.
Frazer Parfum was established in 2008. Whilst the segue from banking to bespoke scent may appear unexpectedly dramatic, it is not so surprising. The sisters’ father worked for Givaudan. Both are qualified make-up artists; and in a wonderfully heady twist, their grandfather, Graham Wulff, was a chemist who formulated Oil of Ulay, and then taught himself to fly so that he could spread the word of this – now iconic – product, which was itself made from a byproduct of a chemical process at Bayer, where he worked at the time.
Tammy and Jenny are assiduously and tastefully making serious inroads in the emulous world of perfume. Their product is impeccable, truly divine, in terms both of the process by which it is created, using natural methodology, and also the way in which it is presented. Tammy spent time in Grasse, France, the veritable epicentre of perfume creation, where she learnt from true masters (including, fascinatingly, an evolutionary behavior-researcher), via a process of networking, questioning and simple observation.
Tammy is a quintessential natural perfumer, using her inherent olfactory talents to layer heavenly raw ingredients as diverse as cedarwood, jasmine, petitgrain, cedarwood, basil, coriander, violet, mint, (to name a mere handful), creating a finished product characterised by subtly discernible top, middle and bottom notes.
It was essential, from day one, that Frazer Parfum be genuinely sustainable. This is being achieved through synergy between using raw ingredients, which come directly from our African land and are responsibly farmed, and engaging growers and local entrepreneurs at different stages in the process. In the sisters’ own words, “we believe keeping rare perfume raw materials in vogue will promote the previous nature of their existence and educate people on responsible practice”. Tammy has travelled extensively throughout Africa; one shining example of the true sustainability of the business is the relationship established with the Mezembite Forest Centre in Mozambique. Beautiful African Hardwoods are grown and every bit of harvested wood is used; the land is managed by locals who are the direct beneficiaries of a business that is also ecologically robust. They are creating exquisite wooden compacts made of African Blackwood, containing solid fragrance.
This epitomises another notable aspect of this truly unique company, and one which Tammy and Jenny seek to espouse as far as possible – not only are you purchasing a finely sourced, blended and honed scent but you will also acquire a piece of African art, in the vessel of presentation. Whether a Blackwood compact, a divine glass bottle or a delicately moulded candle holder, you will want to display and gaze upon it, as if it were a rare and special work of art, (as indeed it is!) Taking the scent as art motif even further, Tammy produced a ‘scent portraiture’ series, creating fragrances based on well known South Africans, which was presented at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.
Tammy crafts unique and personal perfumes, either for individual clients, or as part of Frazer Parfum’s own unique collections, (Chapter and African), using nothing less than alchemy to achieve exquisite blends that can embody a person, a brand or a place. Clients have included boutique hotels such as Nira Alpina in St Moritz and Shanti Maurice in Mauritius; skincare brands like EcoCert Organic Skincare; and luxury brands including Livingstone Safari and Bottega Family Wines.
The star of this peerless company is in the ascendant, but, rather unusually in our fickle world, it is not via gimmick, social media or popularization, but rather by adhering to painstaking methodology, pure ingredients, raw talent, grace and genius.
Article by Carrie Turner, HR & Relationship Manager at Engel & Völkers Cape Town