[dropcap size=small]A[/dropcap]rtisans are making their mark in the fabric of Singapore’s entrepreneurial endeavours, but of all the crafts, fewer than five are perfumers. 2016 sees the launch of SIX by former management associate Jason Lee – we speak to him to find out what drives him to create in a space that is still off the beaten track.

1. What challenges are unique to a Singaporean aiming to launch his own fragrance line?

When people talk about fragrances, places like Paris and New York come into their minds. However, the scene is changing. People are beginning to embrace artisanal private labels that are locally made.

 In the retail space, rental costs remain high despite a slow down in the overall economy, so that’s a challenge.

2. What sets your fragrances apart from what’s already on the market?

We focus on the stories / inspirations behind each variant, shying away from the conventional (marketing) with sensual models or using celebrity faces. The main ingredients behind each variant invoke the essence of its story, aiming to give user an experience that’s immersive and of self-discovery. (See question 6 for an example.)

3. How did you gain your confidence in this area? What made you certain the brand would succeed in a competitive market, especially when the Singapore market is so small?

I created a pair of perfumes for my wedding last year as favours for my guests. The positive feedback and post-wedding enquiries gave me the confidence to take the plunge. Each brand, if its marketing is done right, should be able to carve out its own niche in the market. Expansion overseas is also a possibility in future.

4. Describe the 3 most common threads your naysayers would bring up, and how you deal with them.

#1: “How (are you going) to make money? Market is so saturated. “

The market may seem saturated, however, it is up to (oneself) to continue to discover blue oceans – “new markets out of present markets”.

#2: “You are very “brave”, wasn’t your son was born just 4 months ago?”

I make this “brave” decision now, so that when I’m 60, I won’t look back and regret in silence.

We work from 23 to about 60 years old, for 5 out of 7 days a week, sometimes more, for an average of (more than 10) hours per day. The mortality rate for males is about 80 years. Close to half your life is spent working. What is the deeper meaning to our work besides making money? I’d rather be pursuing my passion and creating a legacy.

#3: “You are working 24/7, do you have time for yourself or for your family?”

If you tell yourself you have time, you’ll have time. Otherwise, you are always out of time. With proper planning and time management, you can have time for everything.

5. Was it ever a childhood dream to be a perfumer? Is that what led you to Givaudan?

It was my childhood dream to create a brand, fragrance or otherwise, that I could be proud of, something that inspires others.

No, it wasn’t.

I had actually embarked on my first entrepreneurial journey upon graduation, which didn’t work out well – I actually got cheated of my investment capital. Having to earn back what I had lost, I had to take on a job. An advertisement in a career website for a Management Associate in the cosmetics industry is what led me to Givaudan.

I didn’t (even) know that it was for a job at Givaudan as it was not stated in the ad.

Jason Lee 1

6. Finally, describe the 2 most difficult-to-create scents, and include details of how hard it was to get them just right.

1724 PUKA and 27°F BIEI – both took several reworks. Especially the latter, as it was important to create that balance between the dainty core of lavender and green tea to correctly depict the zen feel in Hokkaido. The key ingredients are thus lavender and green tea, for which Biei in Hokkaido is famous (lush lavender fields). This coupled with the orderly system and polite people, puts one in a relaxed (zen) mood.

The first three fragrances of a planned sixed were launched earlier this year, and are available for online purchase here. Our take? 1724 PUKA for all-day wear, and 123 TRIBECA for an after-sports spritz. Both lean towards the zesty and refreshing.