In Their Shoes - With Maya Njie
We first discovered Maya Njie’s beautiful scents while wandering the aisles in Liberty London.
There’s an intoxicating narrative to her perfumes with inspiration taken from her Swedish and West African heritage. Her first scents were inspired by old 1970’s family photographs from Sweden and Gambia, from a time before she was born. Bottling the feelings that those images stirred, Maya’s perfumes are connected to a sense of nostalgia but with a contemporary twist.
Over to Maya to tell us more...
You have an artistic background, having studied at the University of Arts in London. During that time you started to experiment with scent as an art form - how did that exploration come about.
Scent was really an extension of my photography practice and screen printing work which were both of course very visually led. I had a real curiosity for exploring and experimenting with multi-sensory art and expression and that led me into the world of olfaction.
Tell us then how it moved from experimental explorations to your covetable brand?
In the beginning it felt like a really personal story and any scents I made were just part of my own collection of perfumes to wear. After graduating from university I was based as front of house at an arts hub in Hackney and it was there that I made many connections with people wanting me to bottle it for them. Soon I started receiving almost daily enquiries from friends and people at work asking if they could buy more. It spurred me on to start the business at my kitchen table in 2016. I have grown organically ever since by taking on new premises and part time staff. We are now a small team and still do fill and label by hand from my studio on Rivington Street in Shoreditch.
What inspires the scents you create? And how has that expanded over the years?
For my first scents I looked back at old 1970’s family photographs from Sweden and Gambia that depicted a time before I was born. It was all there, really - I found the style, interiors, colourways and composition of these photos super inspiring and set out to translate them through scent design. The perfumes are connected to memory and nostalgia, but are very contemporary in their execution.
Tell us a bit about the process of mixing a new scent?
When I explore new formulas I work with a selection of ingredients that I have chosen for that particular brief. It can be as loose or as regimented as I want it to be. The ingredients are pre diluted in alcohol usually and it’s all about trying out different combinations within the framework that you have set yourself. It often takes many trials, and patience is required in order for the formulas to mature. You then revisit them, assess and tweak - and so the story goes until you reach where you wish to be.
What are the main notes that inspire your blends?
I like and take inspiration from so many different notes but if I had to narrow it down I would say Cedarwood is a staple for me, I also love Musk, Patchouli and Leathery notes. In terms of lighter notes I love Bergamot, Iris and Neroli - there are too many to mention.
What are some of the most popular fragrances in your range?
That sense of nostalgia continues across your packaging. Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind that?
I chose a dark green for my outer packaging as it’s probably my favourite colour, it’s so pleasing to me to wear and look at and it works really well with the timeless gold emboss type font – a classic contemporary in my eyes. The box lining is different for each scent where the chosen colour has been lifted from the photo and palette that inspired it.
What are the scents of summer for you?
Hmm.. it would be the smell of blooming Jasmine which I find intoxicating. You can’t really beat it when you smell it in the wild. I don’t tend to wear it much, but do appreciate it’s magic when it blooms and catches you off guard whilst out and about. The same goes for Honey Suckle. I also associate the smell of freshly chopped dill, pickled cucumber and chives with summer – that’s the Swede in me!
And finally, how do you style your Salties?
So far my favourite way of wearing my Claret Shark sandals have been with a loose pair of trousers - some days with a grey sock to match and some days barefoot – they work well either way and bring a nice bit of colour to the day.
Thanks Maya for joining us for an In Their Shoes.
You can find more of Maya’s beautifully scented world here.