Scent has always been the black sheep of the five senses. In fact, in a 2011 survey, 53 percent of millennials said they’d rather give up their sense of smell than their tech devices! What a shame that would be, as it turns out that scent is integral to memory, well-being and happiness, something Aroma Architect Farah Abassi has known since she was a child.
“I was always infatuated with fragrance,” Abassi, the founder of Aroma360 said. “As a kid, I named my cat Gucci after my Mom’s perfume.”
Scent is finally getting its place in the sun, being named one of the top wellness trends of 2019 by the Global Wellness Institute. The reason scent is so powerful is it is the only sense that bypasses processing by the cognitive part of our brains and goes directly to the emotional side of the brain. This is why a certain scent immediately makes you think of your Grandma, or a favorite vacation, and can instantly make you smile and change your mood.
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The reason scent is so powerful is it is the only sense that bypasses processing by the cognitive part of our brains and goes directly to the emotional side of the brain.
Abassi, a former child ballerina who danced for the National Ballet Company of Toronto, expanded on her natural affinity for scent with her first job working for a mom-and-pop wellness shop that did custom-blended essential oils.
“For me, it was all about hearing about how these oils positively affected our customers’ lives,” said Abassi. “That is what I focus on today—the psychological benefits and influences scent has on an emotional level.”
After a brief stint in finance, Abassi realized banking wasn’t her passion and landed a marketing job with Sunset World Hotels in Mexico. It was there that the seeds for Aroma360 were planted, as Abassi saw how different scents influenced guests.
Today, Abassi has clients in more than 22 countries and has worked with iconic brands like The Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Ferrari and Lexus to develop signature scents that match the brand.
The process can take several months or even up to a year, as she works to uncover what the brand stands for, how the brand wants its customers to feel, and how the brand wants its clients to remember it. She then translates all those things into a scent.
“Take a car brand; there is a difference between a Honda and a Ferrari,” explained Abassi. “The Honda brand is lighter, younger and about freedom, whereas the Ferrari is about excitement and luxury. My job is to take those adjectives and make a scent that matches that experience.”
To create the signature fragrance, Abassi starts with an overall theme like woodsy or citrus and then plays around with the individual notes. It’s like composing a symphony of scent.
Just like corporations have a brand theme, individual homes also have a theme, and Abassi works with private clients to develop a signature scent for the home as well.
“I look at their décor, the lighting, the textures in the home and ask how they want their family and guests to feel in their home,” she said. “When you go home, all the elements have to be cohesive, including the smell.”
In the last several years, Aroma360’s consumer division has skyrocketed. Abassi attributes this to people viewing their home as a sanctuary. A custom-designed home scent starts at $2,500, and that scent can then be used in candles or sprays that the homeowner can give as gifts to guests. For individuals who don’t want to go the custom route, Aroma360 has a catalog of Library Scents available in diffusers and candles.
Abassi adds about six new scents each quarter to the library, so she’s constantly sniffing out new scents.
“A lot of my inspiration comes from travel,” she said. “For example the spice markets I visited in the Middle East, or how in Lebanon you can smell a tomato in nature from four feet away. Inspiration is everywhere in both people and places.”
While Abassi is very sensitive to scent; she wants people to focus on the way the smell makes them feel, rather than trying to dissect the individual notes in the fragrance.
It’s not surprising that a connoisseur of smell can’t name her favorite scent.
“They’re all my favorite,” she said with a laugh. “For me scent is about how I’m feeling on a specific day; it’s not one size fits all.”
Abassi explains that her home in New York has a very woodsy scent, emphasizing elegance, depth and character, whereas her home in Miami has a bright, light, citrusy aroma.
Last month, Aroma360 launched its first retail store in Miami. It is designed to be experiential, with the opportunity to smell and blend on site. And this summer several lines of co-branded candles will debut.
“Scent is very often overlooked, but it’s a huge part of a space,” Abassi said. “The more you incorporate scent, the more you can control how you feel and make anything more memorable.”