Firsts is a series of conversations where women share moments that aren’t always talked about, in the hope that they inspire, encourage, and comfort. This week we’re sharing a conversation with Maya Njie.
Born in Sweden, Maya Njie (pronounced Maia En-jai), lives and works in London on her eponymous perfume range. With a background in design and photography, for Maya, perfume is another medium that can be used to express her creative vision. Here she shares the firsts that led to her creating one of the most stylish, nostalgic fragrance brands out there.
The first time I… realized that fragrance was a powerful influence was when I was a child. I felt like smelling someone’s perfume gave me a feeling that fragrance could transport me somewhere else. I also realized how a fragrance can make you warm to someone more – or less – depending on what they are wearing.
The first time I… decided to create my own perfume line, I felt like I’d found a missing puzzle piece. Even though I had never really considered it as a profession before, once I started blending I was hooked.
The first time I… created my own scent, I felt like I had found my calling. Venturing into the olfactory world was a new way of expressing creativity for me; one that I had never experienced before. To then be able to combine it with other mediums was both exciting and rewarding for me.
The first time I… moved to London from Sweden, I was 19 and scared of the big city and a new language, but at the same time, I was very happy to have left my hometown. I was a bag of mixed emotions for sure. I soon settled in and have just celebrated living here for 20 years.
The first time I… felt challenged in my work, was when I started sourcing packaging for my scents. It was difficult to find suitable bottles in smaller quantities without compromising on standards. I have been lucky to meet people within different industries who work with smaller companies and support their growth with attainable minimums, which has taught me a lot.
The first time I… got a ‘yes’ from a retailer, I felt a sense of achievement. I knew that my friends and family liked what I did, but it was great to get an outsider’s commitment.
The first time I… felt like, ‘yes this is what I was made for’ was when I made my first scent: Nordic Cedar. This was a couple of years before I set up my business and it took many trials and versions before I settled. It’s the scent I wear the most; a firm staple in my day-to-day life.
The first time I… realized that beauty is something that women are measured by, I was about 12 or 13 years old. This was when I started feeling self-conscious about my image, it was an awkward time in my life. Not long after, my best girlfriends and I learned about feminism and gender roles. We stopped taking shit from boys there and then, and it made a big impact on how I looked at society.
The first time I… felt beautiful was when I went to the Gambia as a child and had my hair braided. I didn’t know many people in my hometown that could do it, so I seized the opportunity whenever I could. Back in those days I loved the feeling of long hair beyond my shoulders and gravity working its magic as I skipped along the road.
Photography: Charisse Kenion
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