Tammy Frazer
Tammy Frazer
Image: Sarah Nankin

Some may say the luxury industry is a victim of its own success. In a consumption-driven world, luxury items have become so mainstream and accessible that they have gone a long way towards losing their exclusivity.

It’s no wonder then that many high-end companies are turning to craftsmanship and traditional production methods as a way to distinguish their brands. Consumers, too, are beginning to see the value of how much time and passion went into the creation of a product, and how much skill was required to conceive that item.

The South African creative landscape is no exception. We speak to eight local companies and designers whose hands-on approach to production is spearheading the craft revival. These makers are creating unique, authentic, tactile, and sustainable products, with which the buyer cannot help but experience a personal relationship. They are defining craft as the new luxury.

Working on a perfume is like working on a painting. You could keep going forever, but eventually you have to let it go

"I never thought I would end up in the beauty industry,” says perfumer Tammy Frazer, despite having grown up surrounded by cosmetics, in the family that invented Oil of Olay. Beauty was clearly in her blood though, as 11 years ago she left a corporate job in banking to create her own natural fragrance line, Frazer Parfum.

Frazer’s product range is three-pronged, consisting of her own retail collection, tailor-made scents for individuals, and bespoke fragrances for resorts and brands. Her perfumes can be found around the world and have been worn by the likes of Cindy Crawford, John Malkovich, and Ellen Pompeo.

Each scent is created through a complex creative process. The journey a long and intimate one, and sees Frazer distil the essence of her subject into a bottle. For the perfumer, different scents are characters in her creative work. “There are so many memories that go with each one; so many different things I know about each of them. That, for me, makes them almost like friends.“

The process, in which she is self-taught, is equal parts science and creativity, with the ingredients allowing for endless possibilities, and requiring deep knowledge of their properties. “I love that the process is so unknown,” she says. “Scent is an elusive thing you can’t quite put your finger on.” Depending on who the end user will be, inspiration comes in very different ways, but for Frazer, the focus is always on the integrity of the raw materials, which she sources from plants around the world.

Frazer finds that spending time in a lab mixing fragrances requires incredible attention to detail. “You have to be able to see the minutiae of things, to recognise all those subtle nuances of a person with whom you’re communicating through scent,” she says, explaining that adding one tiny drop of a scent can completely transform a fragrance. “Working on a perfume is like working on a painting. You could keep going forever, but eventually you have to let it go.” frazerparfum.com

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