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MEET ANGEL CHEUNG, THE HONG KONG PERFUMER WHO'S MASTERED THE STORYTELLING POWER OF FRAGRANCE
Words by: HELEN YU
Photos by: AFFA CHAN (except the last one)
There is a movement happening in beauty right now where brands old and new are turning their attention to delivering more personalised products and experiences. More than ever, as beauty lovers, we’re celebrating our individuality and acknowledging the bespoke beauty concept that niche brands offer—whether it’s enjoying a fun lipstick making workshop, ordering customised products tailored to our skincare concerns, or having our signature scents created in a workshop that enabled us to express uniqueness..”
One of the pioneers in this movement is Angel Cheung, a Hong Kong beauty entrepreneur and fragrance expert. With over ten years of expertise under her belt, Cheung has been a mainstay among Asian beauty leaders in the world of scent, who strongly believes perfume has the power to evoke emotional connections and tell meaningful stories.
“I created my own fragrance label Intime Artisan de Parfum because I want to educate the masses about perfumes, and give people an opportunity to explore and embrace their individuality through bespoke perfumes,” she spoke with steely confidence. “There has been a move away from mass-produced scents towards bespoke blends, and my brand is part of this revolution to spotlight this modern perfumery concept in the beauty space.”
Ahead, we speak to Cheung about the story behind launching her fragrance label, her scent branding business and what trends we can look forward to in the perfume industry. She also shares with us her personal tips on how to find our signature scents.
“Tell us about your background. How did you find your way into the perfumery space? What inspired to start your own brand?"
I have been working in the marketing field since graduation and I never thought I’d have my own perfumery business. But with constant exposure to different types of businesses including fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and luxury beauty products and services, I gradually discovered I loved learning about skincare, cosmetics, and especially perfumes.
Frankly, I wasn’t very much interested in perfumes when I was a kid. One of my earliest memories with fragrance is the scent of my mother. She liked to add a few drops of Florida water to the shower gels or body lotions.
My venture into the perfumery space all started when I was studying a course about aromatherapy. In 2015, I flew to the world’s famous perfume capital, Grasse, to learn about olfactory compositions by attending lessons and visiting local perfumeries. The storytelling power of perfume really fascinates me, and I want to know how it can act as a catalyst to conjure up emotions and memories across time. I later expanded my passion to new professional ambitions, and that is how Intime Artisan de Parfum was born. I felt really excited about sharing my knowledge and insight on niche perfumes, with the hope of offering people the opportunity to explore this new and unique beauty concept.
“ Can you tell us more about the scent branding business you do? "
I’m always passionate about listening to my clients’ concerns. I want to create and help them discover unique scents that speak to them, beyond just crowd-pleasing products. While crafting bespoke perfumes for customers based on an individual’s personality has been a core part of my business, I also specialise in developing scents for brands across different industries.
As a scented storyteller, I study the brands' identities carefully, utilise my marketing knowledge, look at the ingredients, and do research on fragrance compositions to create a scent that echoes with the brands’ values.
A successful olfactory project will not only help build powerful connections with customers and trigger more positive emotional responses associated with the brand, but it also strengthens brand equity and prompts customers to evaluate the products as being of better quality. And thus, boosting customer loyalty and sales volume.
“ You previously created a bespoke scent for The Peninsula Hong Kong’s guest room amenity collection to exemplify the hotel’s rich history and legendary status. Can you walk us through the creative process while designing this scent?"
i was so honoured to be invited to collaborate with such an iconic hotel group. The project was carried out on an international level, which included perfume experts from around the world to create scents for the group’s hotels in different locations.
Creating a scent that can truthfully reflect the brand identity as The Grand Dame of the Far East and represent its location in Hong Kong, was no easy task because people know about the hotel so well. The inspiration for the uni-sex scent is closely linked to the history of the incense industry in old Hong Kong which is also how the city was named. I wanted to reconnect with Hong Kong’s heritage and create a scent that will help the hotel guests to unwind and enjoy their stay in the hotel thoroughly. Therefore, I chose agarwood—the most premium incense—as the key ingredient of the fragrance and mixed it with amber and jasmine flower for a scent that’s warm and relaxing to draw people in, without being too overpowering.
“ Perfume is an excellent way to express your personality and style. While product personalisation isn’t a new thing, we’ve been seeing a rise in the demand for bespoke perfume in recent years. In your opinion, what has caused niche perfume so popular?"
The perfume industry has long been dominated by big brands which often win customers’ hearts with fancy packaging and luxury advertising. People didn’t think carefully about whether the scents they chose are suitable for them or not, but things have significantly changed over the last few years. Beauty lovers these days are no longer seeking to mirror a universal look, and we have seen a spike in demand for niche and bespoke perfumes that can express the wearer’s personality and style.
The rise of digital platforms and greater access to the internet have fuelled the popularity of niche perfumes. Brands with smaller marketing budgets have more advertising options to increase exposure, meaning consumers are given more product options to diversify their fragrance wardrobes too. People these days are looking for something more than just a luxury perfume that can give them higher self-esteem—a formula that cannot easily be replicated for anyone else, but one that’s uniquely their own.
“What trends do you forecast in the perfume industry in the next five years? "
I think big brands will continue to dominate and define the trends in the perfume industry. But with the arrival of more niche fragrance brands, which gives consumers more options and a more personalised shopping experience, the winning formula for launching successful fragrance campaigns will be changed with a greater emphasis on creative marketing concepts, instead of relying on packaging design.
The appeal of perfumes from luxury brands is undeniable, and their presence will continue to remain prevalent in the industry with a loyal customer base. Though niche perfume brands might not be able to provide consumers with emotional satisfaction as luxury labels do, they still have a great potential to grow, supported by the growing demand for bespoke products of millennials and Gen Z, who are looking to differentiate themselves from the mainstream and express their individuality. People want to be able to define themselves freely, and niche perfumes will certainly enjoy a surge in popularity among consumers in the coming years.
“ Can you share a few tips on how to find our signature scent? "
Your scent says a lot about you and can affect how others perceive you, so be sure to choose wisely. Choosing a signature fragrance can take a while, as it is a process of understanding your personality—inner and outer self. When you spray on the scent, it should feel not only that this scent is who you are, but who you want to be.
Spend some time experimenting with different types of perfumes before making a decision. When searching for your scent, look at your lifestyle and personality to narrow down your options. The scent you choose can also depend on mood and occasion, and it’s totally okay to have more than one signature scent.
“ What is the correct way to apply perfume? How to make it last longer? "
Before learning the tricks to apply perfume, people need to distinguish between different types of scents: parfum, eau de parfum, eau de toilette, and eau de cologne—each comes in varying concentrations of fragrance oils. For example, parfum has a higher concentration of fragrance oil than eau de toilette and eau de toilette, which means it carries a stronger scent and can last longer. Most of the luxury perfumes on the market usually come in high concentration too.
For perfumes with high concentrations, it’s best to apply them directly to the skin as body heat will help emit the scent better. To make your scent last longer, you should also target the warmest of your body with thin skin, that is, the pulse points of the neck, inner elbows and wrists. How long the scent lasts is dependent on how dry your skin is, and that’s the reason why everything smells stronger in summer than in winter.
It’s also important to note that every fragrance smells different on every person. Your skin type and the amount of acidity in your skin will affect how the ingredients react with your body chemistry, too.
“What are your thoughts on scents and seasons? Do you change your fragrance seasonally? "
People often choose fragrances according to the seasons and mood, for example, opting for something fruity and floral for summer and the vibrant mood it associates with; and wearing woody scents during the colder months. But I’d rather associate scents with emotions and memories.
I love wearing my Dare Eau de Parfum which features fresh, cool minty notes in winter as it brings back my favourite skiing memories in Niseko.
“Is there a motto that you always strive to live by? Can you share some words of inspiration for those who are aspiring to become perfume experts? "
Walk the ice, take risks and work from your gut no matter what anyone else says. There are no shortcuts to success, and if perfumery is your passion, follow it and be prepared to work hard. Not everyone’s born with talented noses, but one is born with the potential to develop blending techniques and achieve their own career goals in the field. Be brave, be creative, and believe in possibilities.
“What's next for Intime Artisan de Parfum? Are you working on any new exciting projects?"
I will continue to host bespoke perfume workshops and launch more fragrances to expand my current product lineup. The latest release is the Journey of Love collection, which features six chapters of love with different scents created to represent a woman's emotions in different stages of love.
A car fragrance project is also in the works. I’ve been sourcing premium ingredients and experimenting with different combinations to create pleasant scents that will significantly enhance customers’ driving experience. It’s currently in soft launch for VIPs and I can’t wait for you to try it.
And of course, I will motivate myself to work on more scent branding projects to help businesses create their olfactory logo and strengthen their brand image!