Your Next Signature Scent

The Making of an Original Fragrance: Clean, Modern, Natural

Meet Abel founder Frances Shoemack, who wants to transform your fragrance profile with one of her uncompromising unisex scents.

By Heather Dunhill October 10, 2019

Abel fragrance.

It's unclear when, but somewhere in the last decade I became highly sensitive to synthetic perfume. Not only what others wore, but my own collection of scents as well. It was a serious disappointment to let go of my favorites and the classics that had elegantly adorned my vanity for as long as I can remember. So I set out to find perfumers who were dedicated to creating clean, modern, natural scents that wouldn’t send my sinuses into a massive tizzy.

Abel founder Frances Shoemack

Enter Abel, which was concepted and founded in Amsterdam by a former winemaker and New Zealander Frances Shoemack. It makes perfect sense that she had an affinity for scent. Pair that with her holistic philosophy plus a desire to find a beautiful fragrance with 100% natural ingredients..and, voilà! Shoemack teamed up with Sao Paulo-based master perfumer Isaac Sinclair to create natural, unisex perfumes that are modern, long-lasting, and blend with our natural body chemistry. As the line's tagline says: Abel lives on your skin, until it fades away.

Well, you know me. I opted to go straight to the source—Frances herself—to learn more about my latest scent obsession. But before I go, two things to share. First, you can try a discovery set here in a lovely box filled with seven sample vials that come with a 20 percent off coupon on your next purchase. Or, pop out to Shore on St. Armands Circle to try it locally.

With that, here’s the innovative and chic Frances to tell us more.

Abel fragrances

Image: Courtesy Photo 

How did you evolve into a perfumer?

I’m not actually a perfumer! I work very closely with Isaac Sinclair, our master perfumer. When I was first starting out, more than eight years ago, I realized that if we were to take on the traditional perfume game and prove that you could create 100 percent natural perfumes that perform alongside the world’s best, then you have to work with the best, and within the constraints of the industry. At that moment, I made the decision not to create the fragrances myself, but to find a master perfumer to work with. And while anyone can make a perfume (just as anyone can paint a picture), there are less than 100 master perfumers in the world. Not only do you have to be given an elusive spot to train, but if you are lucky enough to get a place in one of the major fragrance houses, it then takes many years—decades, really—to become a classically trained perfumer. If I’d decided to train myself, I’d still be training!

What message do you want to send with the Abel brand and name?

Our mission has always been clear: to prove to the world that you can create natural perfume without the compromises—both from a scent profile, but also aesthetically and environmentally. In doing so, we hope to inspire other businesses and our wearers to seek out, support and create products with the same aspirations. 

Tell us something you could not have predicted when you began.

So many things! I think being new to the industry, and with a healthy dose of naiveté, was a blessing in disguise! I remember thinking, when we launched our first perfume, that the hardest part was behind me. Little did I know! I think a business is a never-ending series of problem-solving, and luckily, I love that.

When I began, eight years ago, the global political climate was also very different. When I was first talking about natural perfume, people were curious, but also very flippant—"why should I care?" The change in attitude over the last couple of years is amazing. People care. The environmental marches of the last few weeks have proven that. Abel started from a very personal place: I wanted a natural perfume I could fall in love with, but it’s resonating in a way I could never have predicted.

There are so many opinions on this: what is the best way to apply a scent and where?

I think there are so many opinions because it’s so subjective! My tips would be:

To get the most beauty out of the fragrance, apply on pulse points, where the blood is closest to the skin. The heat of your body will make the scent radiate. Natural perfume evolves a lot on skin, so it’s really important to try it on skin first.

Always apply on moisturized skin so that it absorbs more slowly and lasts longer.

If you want to smell nice for others, apply behind your ear lobes—but beware, your own nose will become accustomed to the scent quickly and stop smelling it.

If you want to enjoy the fragrance yourself, apply to your wrists, so that you can smell it during the day.

To make the fragrance last the longest, apply to clothes or hair; these fibers will absorb the scent more slowly, making it last longer. 

How do you feel about layering perfume? Any tips for giving it a go?

Layering is a fun, easy way to make your scent more personal and inject a little creative flair into your scent experience. There are no rules—that’s the beauty of being creative with it!—but my favorite way to layer is one fragrance on skin (I’ll always choose the fragrance that opens up the most on skin, like our Green Cedar scent, and a different fragrance on hair or clothes. This way the fragrances intermingle, but you still get the unique experience of each scent.  

Who or what makes you laugh?

My three-year-old son, Arthur! He’s got a wicked sense of humor, and even when he’s being very naughty, I generally can’t help but smile.

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