Though Black consumers spend millions on women’s fragrances each year (roughly $151 million in 2017, according to Nielsen1), we have had a meager presence in the space as founders. But, this is beginning to change. And Brianna Arps is ready to diversify the industry via her clean, luxury fragrance label Moodeaux and bring other Black-owned fragrance brands to the forefront with her.
There’s nothing average about Moodeaux’s approach to fragrance, from the brand’s toxin-free formulation philosophy to its overall mission to promote self-care. This positioning instantly sets it apart from its traditional counterparts. But to fully understand Moodeaux’s ethos, you have to understand Arps’ state of mind in 2018. At the time, she was coming to terms with being laid off from her editorial position. The trying experience took a toll on her emotionally, but it also encouraged her to take inventory of her passions.
“I took a moment to figure out something I could do for myself to get my mind off of trying to get another job,” Arps says. “I thought about the things I use for self-care and the beauty items I couldn’t live without, and it was fragrance. Then, it dawned on me to start a fragrance line.”
The Moodeaux Difference
Arps became a kitchen cosmetic chemist of sorts, playing around with different scents and oils to get a feel for perfume formulation. She also enrolled in the School For Aromatic Studies to deepen her fragrance knowledge.
She embarked on her brand-building journey with some foresight as to what she wanted to create but turned directly to the consumer via surveys and social listening to gather more feedback on what they desired from a fragrance. It became clear that Moodeaux needed to address two issues that have long plagued the fragrance industry: toxic ingredients and scent longevity.
According to a 2017 study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, women of color are exposed to more toxic beauty products than other groups.2 And when it comes to perfume, ingredients like phthalates (which have been linked to everything from genetic damage to reduced fertility and even cancer3) are commonly present in formulas. With Moodeaux, the scents are made strictly with natural, fortifying ingredients and are free of alcohol, dyes, and water.
To address scent longevity, Moodeaux has taken an innovative fragrance-meets-skincare approach. “Fragrance is primarily alcohol, and when you spray alcohol on the skin, it just evaporates,” Arps says. “We take the more traditional Eastern approach to perfume and rely on oils to help carry the product through and make it last longer. 30% of the product’s composition is pure fragrance oil, which is the highest you can have in a fragrance.” Moodeaux also adheres to International Fragrance Association (IFRA) standards, which promote the safest fragrance practices.
All of these intentional steps culminated in the brand’s debut skin scent, Worthy. Arps describes it as a citrus, floral, and woodsy blend. The fragrance’s name correlates with Moodeaux’s mission to promote self-care and is the affirming message Arps needed three years ago. “In 2018, I didn’t feel worthy. Trying to find another job and prove yourself to people is a very dehumanizing experience. It can feel like you aren’t worth it. I want women—Black women, in particular—to know that they’re worthy. As Black women, we often hear the opposite. So, whenever they’re down or in need of a self-care moment, they can spray us on their skin and instantly know that they’re worth it.”
Worthy is available in two size options: a 2-ml. size for $10 and a Grab-Then-Go kit with a 10-ml. travel-size pen and spritz atomizer for $65. Worthy is currently sans secondary packaging, and instead Moodeaux’s travel-size pen is housed in a reusable pouch. “Sustainability is something that’s always been the top of my mind,” Arps notes. “Why spend thousands of dollars on paper [and packaging] that people are just going to throw away? I wanted to create something they can reuse and take with them.”
Preparing to Launch
Getting Moodeaux ready for its aunch was a three-year process that demanded Arps draw upon her years of experience in beauty journalism and marketing. She invested about $15,000 of her own money into the business. At 2021’s virtual Essence Festival, she won $25,000 from a pitch competition sponsored by New Voices Foundation and Pull Up for Change’s Impact Fund. “With the money that we won, I’ll be hiring a few different individuals to work for Moodeaux,” Arps says. “Now that there’s capital outside of my own personal funds, I’m excited to go full-speed ahead.”
Arps was also a member of Tower 28’s 2021 Clean Beauty Summer School, which supports the growth of majority BIPOC-owned small clean beauty businesses through education and mentorship opportunities.
Building a Movement
With the growing number of eyes fixated on Moodeaux, Arps hopes to draw attention to the importance of Black perfumers and Black-owned fragrance brands. In tandem with Moodeaux, Arps is launching Black in Fragrance. The collective body exists to support Black people in the fragrance industry. “I’m building a board of founders that will use our experiences and pour it back into the market,” she says. After launching the organization, Arps hopes to continue a monthly grant program that helps aspiring Black perfumers get their ideas off the ground.
“I don’t want to keep having this conversation about the lack of Black perfumers,” Arps says, “Black in Fragrance will make them visible and make it so that we are seen and respected in the industry as well.”