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The Scents of Adventure

An exclusive interview with Agata Karolina, the woman creating poetry out of perfume at House of Gozdawa- an all-natural and brilliantly African perfumery.

Q: What made you start House of Gozdawa? What is your background and how did this translate to perfume?

House of Gozdawa began from the desire to share the incredible biodiversity of African botanics, through investigating and celebrating the plethora of scents across the continent. The African continent was not considered as a player in the field with regards to fine fragrances. I was incredibly surprised how little of our botanicals were being used for their scent profile, flavours yes, scent – very, very little. My passion for travel and nature, hand in hand with this reality combined to birth the brand. My background is in design curation, project initiation and material research. After my Masters in the Netherlands I worked on projects across Europe, Taiwan and Southern Africa for several years before deciding to move back to RSA to pursue the creation of African botanical inspired perfumes.

Q: What makes HoG different from any other perfume brands?

The brand was created to respect, pursue, and celebrate African botanical ingredients, using them to tell a story of place. We focus on geographic location and biodiversity to create our scents. We’re creating real stories of travel, of history, of experience and inviting you to explore it for yourself. Our scents are rooted in responsibility, from the sourcing of our ingredients to the way in which we represent each place from which we create scents. The stories are fantastical and fun, but each one is rooted in reality and lived experience.

Q: How do you go about creating unique scents with HoG? 

We begin with location and what is growing there. Travelling for scent is a very unique way in which to perceive a place, it’s not only about your nose, it’s about sensations of all types. The sensation on your tongue of new flavour combinations in relativity to where you are and whom you’re with. The observations of what occurs around you as well as the behaviour of light, the feeling of nature and how these combinations can be captured to represent the essence of a place.

Q: Some combinations for the 2022 year ahead? 

I’ve been focusing on warm, dry fragrances reminiscent of desert landscapes, hot sands and exotic nights, as well as cool and complex scents of sea scapes, fresh oxygen filled air and resinous shrubs.

Q: How do you make use of natural ingredients? What type of local ingredients are often used? 

All of our products are based on the use of natural ingredients. I consider them to be more challenging and interesting to work with than their synthetic counterparts. They are by chemical nature far more complex, (note there are many natural chemicals too ie: salt) which leads to very unexpected varieties and results. We make use of a multitude of fynbos ingredients, from African Wormwood, Cape Snowbush, Blue Mountain Sage to Confetti Bush and Imphepho. Indigenous scents offer an entirely new world of fragrance and ideas.

Q: Where can we find some of your products and scents across SA? 

Our products are available online through our webshop, as well as our local online retailer. The Local Edit, international online retailer: Plain Tiger, or alternatively at boutiques across SA. Maison Mara, AKJP Collective, Pezula Interiors and Always Welcome, among others.

Q; What iconic scents do you feel our readers need to try (and how were they inspired?) 

Guilty Pleasures, our latest fragrance is a whirlwind fantastical trip on the coastline of Madagascar to the island of Nosy Be. I create fragrances based on geographical locations visited and experienced. By utilising the flora of a location, coupled with the first hand experience of culture, cuisine and the overall feeling, memories are created of a space and place which anyone can now visit. You’re transported with me to the morning moments where electric green tree geckos stare you down with their googly eyes whilst unashamedly helping themselves to your fruit salad. The day trip when you appeased your lust for all items of the woven grass variety and stuffed your linen pockets with vanilla pods and spices so that their fragrance oozes onto your skin, mixing with the day’s sunscreen and perspiration. The fragrance is more than mere notes of plants, it is an experience of travel, of imagination and a déjà vu you will set yourself up to have.

Q: You’re not just about perfumes… What do you offer for linens and house scents, soaps, etc.? How popular are these? 

The brand is divided into two lines, Fine Fragrances (our perfumes) and Botanical Integrity which is our living and lifestyle line. These lines are constructed differently, our botanical integrity lines are created to enhance and enrich the living surroundings and everyday behaviours of our clients. Our Botanical Integrity line has become incredibly popular, with our soaps consistently selling out, as well as our candles and incense coming in at a quick third. Our soaps, known as our Shard Collection, as their shapes have been inspired by boulders fallen from the mountain, strung onto silken rope to be shaped by your body; our linen scent, Chela Nights, particularly purposed for sleep, created with research into neurological effects of different oils and how they assist the body to ease into rest. Our candles Fire On the Mountain, Some Serious Juju and Expedition to Botany Bay, each tell a story of a place. Their fragrances are also found in our soaps and incense lines. Lastly, as previously mentioned, our incense lines are created with zero synthetic fragrances or burning aids, only using the finest Frankincense powder and ground Sandalwood. You escape into the world of Anno Domini – echos of ancient Cathedrals, their marble and granite worn by time. Expedition To Botany Bay, a Eucalyptus incense inspired not by the sharp camphor scent of fresh eucalyptus oil, but the soft warm and lightly wooded fragrance which eucalyptus holds in the heat or when the leaves of bunches have dried, evoking summer winds and sun-kissed skin.

Q: What makes Extrait de Parfum different from Eau de Parfum? 

The differentiation between all perfume subheaders, cologne, eau de toilette, eau de parfum, and those you have mentioned, is the percentage of perfume oil which is contained within your bottle. Eau de parfum is 15-20% aromatic oil, Parfum or Extrait de Parfum is from 15-40%. The large percentage gap in the EXP is due to the types of aromatics being utilised in the fragrance. If the scent is constructed with a large array of very bold and lasting notes, then the lower percentage is utilised as a higher value. It will not necessarily be beneficial, it could in fact destroy the experience and longevity of the scent (each aromatic carries its own unique behavioural characteristics) where when working with lighter aromatics, such as citrus and soft greens or certain florals, the percentage will lean to a higher side to ensure that the full behaviour and spectrum of those notes are present for the desired longevity created for the fragrance.

Q: What can we expect to see next from this gorgeous brand? 

I’m incredibly excited to be launching three new fragrances soon, which have been a few years in the making. Travels across the African continent, from sea to valley to never ending desert, as well as a new series of fragranced interior pieces created to celebrate the Art of Scent in the home. We have just launched our latest series of candles, created as the iconic look for the brand, 0.5kg of perfumed hand-poured wax in original artisan made porcelain vessels, which embodies the history, aesthetic and elegance of the brand, each of which have been mastercrafted in South Africa. My aim is to showcase our consistent and elegant products that can easily stand beside their international counterparts and give voice to the unique and exclusive botanics we have access to on our continent.