Many scent enthusiasts believe in the power of scent, but INARA is taking this potential to new heights. A French-Lebanese and female-owned enterprise, the brand is looking to change how we utilize fragrance in our everyday lives, as expressed in their motto “Awaken Your Nose & Empower Your Health.”
75% of daily emotions are affected by smell, with scent making it 100 times more likely to remember something in comparison to sight, sound, or touch. Recent years have seen the rise of functional fragrance, but the worlds of aromatherapy or aromachology and fine fragrance had previously remained separate. INARA fuses the two. Through a convergence of music, scent, meditation, and neuroscience, the brand offers a scent and sound meditation experience, purchased in tandem, ranging from violin and flute sounds to tribal drums, percussion, and indigenous chants.
The brand's pilot fragrance, INARA’s handcrafted, was designed to evoke emotional calm through citrus and woody notes like bergamot, sandalwood, and vetiver. Handmade with local artisans in Mexico, it is sold with an accompanying 10-minute track by violinist Andrei Matorin. The latest collection, the Metamorfosis Parfums Collection, was developed with IFF’s BRAINEMOTIONS tool, analyzing the neurological impact of 230 fragrance ingredients through functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI).
Customers choose a scent from the categories of grounding, sensuality, empowerment, self-expression, intuition, and awakening. Each fragrance, created by perfumer Mackenzie Reilly, comes with a 10-minute-at-home sound meditation to activate the scent's emotional association in the brain. Neuroscience not only influences the construction of the scents, but the frequencies of the meditation/sound journeys as well. The pairings are based on the concept of scent association. Users are encouraged to listen to the audio experience as they wear the scent for the first time. From this moment onwards, they can smell or wear this fragrance whenever they wish to reactivate the memory of this specific emotion.
The duo behind this enterprise are fragrance development expert Elsa Bustamante and product developer Youmna Aoukar. Bustamante’s professional roots were in the spheres of IFF, Coty, Interparfums, and Revlon fragrances, but inspired by the incorporation of scent into her meditation practice, as well as her independence ambitions, led to her founding INARA. "I realized that I wanted to create my own thing and that I was not excited by these corporations. At the same time, I was having a spiritual awakening. Scent really was instrumental in my journey because it was the tool that enabled me to find calm, peace, and grounding," she says.
“We believe that it's much easier to transform when you take pleasure in the process and are inside a community that is inclusive and supportive.”
By Elsa Bustamante, co-founder, INARA
Upon leaving her job at Revlon, Bustamante travelled to Tulum, Mexico, where she had the epiphany to take a break from the “rat race of New York City.” Returning back to the city, she started a coaching program and began working with scent at different venues, focusing on the link between scent and well-being. Bustamante connected with Youmna Aoukar, whose extensive experience in design and product lead work at tech start-ups proved indispensable at Burning Man Festival in 2019. The chance to do a joint hotel residency in Mexico presented itself and the duo was able to start beta-testing ideas around scent, sound, and meditation. Thus began the idea for a fragrance line, which they pitched to IFF, promptly beginning work on the collection. “The starting point was the storytelling of each scent. I was inspired by the chakras in terms of choosing which emotion which scent evokes, but I really wanted to move away from the New Age angle, because we're trying to talk to people that may not at all be on a spiritual path,” Bustamante explains.
In the past, aromatherapeutic scents were often fairly simple structures, with a blending of a few essential oils, some alcohol, and not much else. For INARA’s founders, it was essential to create a simultaneously effective yet aesthetically pleasing product.“You want to make the scent good for meditation purposes, but also a beautiful scent that you would want to wear for your own enjoyment. We were trying to move away from aromatherapy,” Bustamante states.
They will launch a crowdfunding campaign in 2022 to help get their idea off the ground. “Crowdfunding is a great way to have proof of concept, gather a lot of feedback from customers, and build a worldwide INARA community,” she adds. Future ambitions include developing a corresponding app and educational platform, alongside an online community of olfactive experts, scientists, wellness experts, musicians, and creative entrepreneurs. Customers will also be able to subscribe to monthly membership options. Ultimately, the founders behind INARA hope to create an open dialogue for all, using scents as the basis for a wider evolution. “The broader vision is to have people connected through this journey. We’re not just a one-stop shop—we want to be continuously involved in your life. We believe that it's much easier to transform when you take pleasure in the process and are inside a community that is inclusive and supportive,” Bustamante enthuses.
On the subject of personal journeys, INARA’s co-founder has found the entrepreneurial path a challenging, but rewarding experience. “It is the ultimate spiritual experiment because there is no security at all. It's about faith in what your vision is. It’s bridging so many different worlds together and adding complexity: working with different countries, different languages, different expertise,” she explains. With a new winter collection currently underway, the efforts behind INARA show no signs of slowing down, but amidst it all, the idiom of “stop and smell the roses” continues to ring true.
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