THE PERFUMER, THE PASSION and a PARENT
An Intimate Chat with Charna Ethier
Articles and reviews have been written about Charna Ethier indicating she is a very talented perfumer, but she is more. Charna is a ‘Rising Star’.
Charna is the “nose” and founder of PROVIDENCE PERFUME COMPANY in Providence, Rhode Island. This perfumery is one of the finest companies of natural botanical perfumes and NOW body products.
It is not the size of the box that matters but the contents within it. Those samples were just an example of what Charna creates. Charna creates on a grand scale and her passion for perfumes peeked at a young age but it only intensified when she had an opportunity to work for large corporations like Aveda.
Now that Charna has her own natural perfumery, she has another task to conquer and that is being a mother of two young children.
My article is titled, ‘The Perfumer, the Passion and a Parent’ because Charna is handling all three requirements supremely. Yes there have been daunting moments but those moments only enhanced Charna’s rise to stardom.
THE REVIEW/THE JOURNEY
My samples box consisted of five fragrances from the LUXE collection and one from the CLASSIC collection. The first is Osmanthus Oolong (LUXE) on Monday the fruits and hint of powder are the two items that I noticed immediately. It has an aristocratic quality that reminds me of emperors with the tangy teas and smooth consistency that last for hours.
FRAGRANT NOTES: green, red and black tea, Japanese osmanthus flower, apricot leather, powder
COCOA TUBEROSE (LUXE) on Tuesday I was smothered with the essence of chocolate and covered with buttery concoctions of tuberose that blended into exotic worlds that simply smelled divine. This is a master blend of the world’s finest ingredients.
FRAGRANT NOTES: dark African cocoa, white tuberose, tonka, vetiver, wormwood
MUSK NOUVEAU (LUXE) on Wednesday I went outright bodacious! This unisex fragrance kept me energized with the sweetness of jasmine, the age of patchouli and the richness of coffee. These tantalizing scents kept me entertained all evening as the “social butterfly”.
FRAGRANT NOTES: angelica, aged patchouli, oud, champaca, jasmine, coffee, sherry, black pepper
LEI FLOWER (LUXE) on Thursday I mellowed out after my exotic bliss from Tuesday and Wednesday. I took in the sweet sounds and scents of the faraway. I laid back and thought of tropical scenes and covered in pink sand.
FRAGRANT NOTES: coconut, frangipani flower, citrus
GINGER LILY (CLASSIC) Happy Friday! This is a journey I will never forget. I close out with a thank you gift of zesty favorites and a dark note of amber that goes on sexy but never shy with ylang ylang standing by for him and her.
FRAGRANT NOTES: ginger lily, bitter orange, amber, mango, clove, ylang ylang
Charna’s rise in popularity certainly has not taken a toll on her warm and sincere demeanor and (also being so pretty). I truly have been inspired by her devotion to the craft of natural perfumery and being a loving mother.
We both have a devotion to perfume and being a mother and for this I am grateful for Charna sharing her most private moments with me in being ‘The Perfumer, the Passion and a Parent’.
Thank you Charna for your time. It is an honor to speak with you. Charna, before I ask questions about the perfume collection, I want to know what made you get into natural perfumery?
I think it's in my blood! Some of my earliest memories are of working in the garden with my Mother, helping her plant seeds and weed. Growing up, my parents could only be described as "hippies." We lived in rural New Hampshire, on a farm (read commune) in a town called Unity. I'm not kidding! My brother and I spent most of our childhood outside. I remember rubbing blackberries on my lips to make "lipstick" and my mother and I used to peel limes and add the peelings to alcohol to make homemade "cologne." We would put our homemade lime cologne in the refrigerator and splash it on the backs of our necks during the summer to cool off. As a child, the most exotic, exciting person I could imagine was the Avon Lady. While I never met this mysterious Avon lady, I devoured the Avon catalogs I found at doctor's offices and imagined what sort of cosmopolitan life the Avon lady must have surrounded by lipsticks and perfume galore. I realized quickly the farm life was not going to be for me . . . I craved glitz and glamour.
Fast forward thirty years and here I am! I've spent years working in the retail beauty business. One of my first jobs as a teenager was at the perfume counter at Macy's which I found incredibly glamorous at the time. After working for Aveda for a number of years I decided to venture out on my own creating my own line of natural perfumes, and Providence Perfume Co. was born. I never considered not working with naturals.
So far, how has the journey been for you since starting Providence Perfume Company?
It's been great! Don't get me wrong, I've hit some serious speedbumps along the way. I'm no mathematician, or scientist and both of these areas are an important part of being a perfumer. I've learned to study, weigh, and notate: things that my creative personality would rather not do.
Charna, how enriching has it been to work with perfume blogs?
Working with perfume blogs has been incredible. I often have Sally Field at the Oscars moments when reading reviews, a sort of incredulous feeling of "You like me? You really, really like me!" and of course the opposite can be true as well. As an indie perfumer the exposure I'm given by blog writers is enormous and gratifying. I don't have a big advertising budget and I owe a great deal of the publicity Providence Perfume Co. has received to perfume blogs. I love that many of the fragrance blogs are willing to give the little guy a chance.
I know you have two children who are the same ages as mine. How do you handle raising small children and operating a successful business?
Vodka! Just kidding. It's a juggling act. I feel very lucky that I am able to spend time with my children. My studio is in house, so I spend many late night hours blending perfumes after putting the kids to bed. I also have the "golden hours" as I like to call them from about 12:30-2:30 p.m. available to pack and ship orders while the kids are napping.
Charna, you have received rave reviews about Providence Perfume Company. I want to focus on the Luxe Line for a moment. Why do you refer it as the 'Luxe Line'?
I created the "Luxe Line" as a way to differentiate between the more classically composed perfumes in the "Classic Collection" and those perfumes that are more complicated compositions, utilizing exotic and often costly botanicals.
Could you tell me what inspired you to create the luxe line one by one?
I've always loved the scent of tea, so creating Osmanthus Oolong was something I knew I wanted to do from the beginning. Real osmanthus is breathtaking and beautiful, yet so few have gotten to experience it's aroma in a perfume.
I LOVE tuberose, and my preference is toward the buttery, creamy type tuberose versus the strong white floral aroma of some tuberose. Once I located the perfect buttery tuberose I knew I wanted to create a gourmand type perfume based around this tuberose. I bumped up the tuberose with a small amount of butter CO2 and added liberal amounts of cocoa, wormwood, vetiver and amber. The result was a surprisingly unisex gourmand tuberose scent with a woody sweet pipe tobacco drydown.
Lei Flower is fruity, sweet and tropical based on the frangipani flower. Frangipani is such a pretty floral aroma that smells nothing like those mass produced "Plumeria" scented body sprays. Fruity notes can be difficult to create with naturals, so I bolstered the blend with tinctures of toasted coconut and strawberries I created.
Charna, I have a sample of Ginger Lily from the Classic Collection. This gorgeous fragrance is a unisex. Are natural raw materials more incline to be considered neutral or unisex than non natural perfumes?
Good question and thank you. I think that what occurs that may drive our scent classification is scent memories and marketing. While smelling Youth Dew may remind you of your grandmother, smelling natural aromas like a lily or grass or vetiver may remind you of easter, or mowing the lawn or a trip to Haiti. I've learned to not try to classify my perfumes as feminine or masculine. I created Tabac Citron with men in mind and I would guess that 90% of my sales of Tabac Citron are to women! I find Osmanthus Oolong a sweet, feminine floral but men purchase and wear this, so what do I know? So I guess that's a yes and no reply.
Lastly, Charna, I believe you added a new product (body oil) to Providence Perfume Company, could you tell me about it?
A labor of love. I've been working on launching a line of scented bath and body oils for close to a year now. I've finally launched them and I'm very proud. I spent a good deal of time finding the perfect blend of oils that hydrated well but did not leave the skin greasy. Then worked on creating the aroma blends which I describe as deceptively simple. While "Wild Lime Leaf" may smell like kaffir limes, it took some trial and error of blending juniper, Mexican lime, combava petitgrain and violet leaf to get the perfect smelling "lime." I was able to source vintage milk glass bottles to house the body oils which pleased me as they serve a dual purpose: the milk glass protects the essential oils from degrading due to light and heat exposure and they're repurposed and eco friendly.
Thank you so much, Charna it was indeed a pleasure and much success on your endeavors.
Thank you Felicia.