I have to take my hat off to Skins Cosmetics. In South Africa they’ve bought a revolution in the local beauty market by creating an emporium that sells an exclusively curated selection of niche & artisan fragrances from around the world. The selection at Skins will resonate with a particular kind of person, one who has risen above the mainstream and wants originality & exclusivity. They have stores at the V&A in Cape Town, Sandton City, Menlyn in Pretoria & Gateway in Durban.
A great example of a niche fragrance brand available at Skins is Aqualis. And what’s REALLY exciting is this brand’s strong South African link.
Aqualis was founded by Steyn Grobler, a South African who has made London his base. Steyn worked with some of the top, niche fragrance brands before starting Aqualis in 2015.
Aqualis aims to create modern, intriguing fragrances of extraordinary quality to enhance one’s life. The names of some of the Aqualis scents are sure to put a smile on your face. There’s Blom (his mother was a florist), Namaqualand, Brenton (as in Brenton On Sea – where his parents live), Kruger and Kalahari, to name a few.
What was the first fragrance in the Aqualis line?
Coda was the first. Coda means the final notes in a musical piece, or the final movement of a dance. With Coda, I wanted to create a fragrance that’s a finishing touch to an outfit. Coda is therefore a very sensual scent with notes of resins and florals. It’s one of our best sellers.
What, in your opinion, makes for a successful scent?
I base my creations on a few key foundations:
The first is quality – a big focus for me – so I give our perfumers carte Blanche when it comes to budget. They get to use all the materials they’re usually not allowed to, because of budget constraints. This is why they LOVE working on my briefs. We also use very high concentrations of oil to ensure Aqualis fragrances have good longevity.
Secondly, a fragrance has to have balance, and we rework ours until they are perfectly balanced. The sillage is therefore ever present, but soft at the same time. It’s tricky but is an essential part of the creation for me.
The fragrance industry is littered with copies of best sellers, that’s why it’s so important to create unique scents. It’s all been done before, so I’m always checking the market to ensure I haven’t inadvertently copied something.
A strong, powerful narrative is so important – at Aqualis, we sell stories, not fragrance. When people smell my fragrances, I want them to understand the name & concept. I spend a lot of time the names to the fragrance and don’t just produce scent after scent with salacious names that really don’t make sense.
To conclude a successful scent ensures a balance of quality and concentration, coupled with uniqueness and a strong narrative.
Which is your favourite Aqualis fragrance and why?
Utopia, because I have a sweet tooth and love Gourmand fragrances. The perfumer, Jean Charles Mignon instantly got what I wanted to achieve with it. I’ve been wearing it for the last 3 years.
What are your 3 favourite smells?
Benzoin is my favourite in perfumery because it’s soft, sensual and sweet.
Iris is a favourite because it’s made over the course of 4-5 years, and the resulting absolute is a fragrance all on its own.
Finally – and I’m going to be very honest here – I love the smell of petrol stations. The scent cuts through your nose, but somehow leaves a sweetness that is as nauseating as it is intoxicating. It’s confusing but wonderful.
What do you think will be the single biggest trend in fragrance going forward?
Sustainability. The whole industry is focusing on that. We’ll see more rebranding and changing of packaging across brands in the next few years. Fragrances have to be sustainable, and all the major players are already vertically integrating their supply chains to ensure good quality oils, while taking care of the communities that produce them.
Steyn very kindly gifted me a bottle of Aqualis Namaqualand.
As the name suggests, Namaqualand is inspired by one of the most unique locations in South Africa. It’s described as a transformative, evolutionary perfume that signifies a catalytic moment when the arid, unforgiving landscape suddenly bursts into life for one month of the year.
It opens with crisp, dewy citrus notes of mandarin and bergamot. As the scent develops, the floral notes become evident. There’s jasmine sambac, orange blossom and vibrant Tuberose absolute. The dry down is rich and earthy and includes an intense blend of noble woods, vanilla and musk.
Namaqualand is a reminder that even in the most unlikely circumstances, there is always an opportunity to bloom – all one needs is perseverance.
Discover Aqualis in stores and online now, exclusive to Skins Cosmetics.