Frazer Parfum is a perfume house in Cape Town owned by master perfumer Tammy Frazer, specialising in handmade natural fragrances. Tammy personally sources the raw materials for each of her perfumes, all of which are hand-made by Tammy herself in her Rose Street factory. She moved into the factory about a year ago, and recently opened her first ever retail shop here too.
Frazer Parfum’s permanent collections include Chapters and the freshly launched African Collection, both bottled in beautifully hand-blown glass bottles by local glass artist David Reade. Her fragrances are also available as solid perfumes, set in hand gathered organic beeswax and packaged in hand carved sustainable African Blackwood cases which are illustrated on by Heather Moore. She also makes scented body butters and candles and Tammy regularly teams up with L’Mad and local artists to create scarves that complement her fragrances.
We paid a visit to Tammy’s factory and retail shop to get a behind the scenes glimpse into a day in the life of a perfumer.
When and how did you become interested in creating perfume?
I’ve always been interested in smell and if I look back I can remember my life through my scent journey and map it through perfume. From being a little girl watching the conveyer belt of fragrance pass by my nose at Givaudan to being given my first coming of age perfume by a boy. My dad was a huge influence because it was his world.
What was the first perfume you remember making?
My first perfume was called Cassia, which is a cinnamon bark note. It was paired with jasmine and nutmeg and vanilla and sandalwood. I created this in 2007 and still have a large bottle of it that I use to prove that perfume, if kept properly, doesn’t decay.
Tell us about the philosophy behind your perfumes, and why this is important to you.
It is a decision about quality, to work only with natural perfume and raw materials. In the beginning I compared synthetic tuberose with the flower extract and they were two different worlds. The natural raw material odour quality was voluptuous and dense and layered. The synthetic derivative was chemical and thin and too sweet. I decided never to compromise on quality.
Take us through your creative process.
I find raw material, like the Omumbiri Resin from Namibia, then set up a visit with someone there. I travel to the source and learn about the plant, harvesting it, the distillation and the social conditions. Through this journey (and taking lots of photographs) I start to come up with a theme, an idea and the creativity is translated through the perfume composition.
Tell us about Frazer Parfum’s humble beginning and how the brand has grown. What inspired you to go bigger?
I started in my lounge, gave up my job and threw myself wholeheartedly into being a perfumer. It’s been seven years now. In 2008 I rented a small lab in Bree Street and last year I moved into a factory. I’ve just opened a shop now too. Look, there are as many issues (if not more) in growing a business as there are in starting one. Cash flow is a huge hurdle and there is only so much of me to go around in every 24-hr period. But I would not swop my life for anything. I am shaping my future and with that providing jobs, supporting farmers and showcasing what Africa has to the rest of the world.
What has been your favourite project thus far?
I loved working on a signature fragrance for a hotel in Mauritius. It was a full execution project and I did the signature fragrance, a book on the journey, PR and marketing of the scent logo worldwide, distribution and training of housekeeping to scent the hotel too. I learnt a lot. This year my word is ART and I’m focusing on art projects.
How did you choose the space that now hosts the new Frazer Parfum factory and shop?
The space used to be a bakery, I wanted to be in town and accessible to my clients. It not only had a factory but also the street front so it was a good decision. The space inspires but also motivates me because I see the future of my factory being filled with staff and manufacturing machinery. Every day it is a reminder to grow.
How does one train to be a perfumer?
There are quite a few perfume schools, but none that focus on natural raw materials. So I am self taught.
Which perfume are you wearing right now, and which is your personal favourite?
I’m loving rose and sandalwood at the moment. I love tuberoses and I can’t get enough of the sweetness.
Any projects, collaborations or new ranges we can look forward to?
Yes! I’ve been working with artist Jonathan Freemantle on a project that will show later this year at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg, but that’s all I can say on it for now!
How do you hope to grow Frazer Parfum in the future?
The future will be about a spray bottle. At the moment I have a hand blown glass flacon for oil perfumes and the solid perfumes set in beeswax. So the next interpretation of the brand will be through atomization. I cant wait to make formulas for this distribution method.