Fragrance is the most misunderstood of all luxuries. It’s compelling that fragrance can even be called a luxury at all since scent moves us in so many ways. A scent has the power to incriminate: police dogs are trained to seek out criminals’scents at a crime scene. A scent can engulf us: the heady fragrance of a lover can sway our emotions. A scent can transcend: just one whiff of something familiar can make one recall memories of days or events gone by. A scent can stimulate: studies show that certain kitchen smells such as chocolate or vanilla can make hunger strike. But why is the sense of smell so powerful?
Once any fragrance is smelled, it affects parts of the brain linked to memory, stimulation, and, most of all, emotion. Emotion and sensory perception are what make odor such a powerful tool. No one knows exactly why a particular smell leads to specific perceptions (like identifying an unpleasant body odor with an unpleasant event). One thing is for sure: fragrance has the power to stir us deep within and its effect is just as compelling as its cause. It was precisely this powerful lure of scent that led Jonathan Steadman to create Obeah, a fragrance company based in New York. Steadman was born and raised in New Orleans but has called New York home for almost a decade. What began as a company that specialized in customized home fragrances evolved into a brand that actively seeks to understand the very nature of scent and why it is so pivotal.
Obeah is not just the traditional shop where colognes and perfumes are purchased. Instead, it is a time, space, and memory continuum fusing the essence of the pulse that runs deep in both New Orleans and New York. The shop is filled with the exoticism of faraway lands where Obeah’s ingredients are gathered as well as respect and appreciation for each and every customer that sets foot inside their doors. It is the individuality of each person that hearkened Steadman to create an aroma based on what each person desires for themselves and/or their homes. These can be based on any number of factors: mood, productivity, etc. Scents like frankincense and myrrh, which Steadman prefers for his home, are inviting.
The creation of colognes at Obeah is in and of itself a stimulating and sensual process. Each fragrance that is available to purchase begins with an inspiration then it evolves into actually building an impression. Only after something of a story is determined does the actual blending of ingredients take place. Chords and notes build and become a harmonic expression and burst to life! Obeah goes beyond simply creating a scent, it is an engulfing and entrancing experience.
It is this experience that stimulates people and the reason that perfumes and colognes have stood the test of time while continually engaging us. Perhaps the extent of how much a perfume stimulates is due to our basic animalistic nature. All animals are creatures of instinct and smell is directly related to physicality. It is our physical nature that adores or abhors any scent. It is our physical nature that is attracted to the lure of perfume or cologne. If something lures us in and grabs at our very existence then it cannot be deemed a luxury, it must be an essential part of all of us.