How 1 Woman Set Out to Change the Face of the Fragrance Industry
Too often, the best beauty stories go Untold, solely based on a person's skin color, religion, gender expression, disability, or socioeconomic status. Here, we're passing the mic to some of the most ambitious and talented voices in the industry, so they can share, in their own words, the remarkable story of how they came to be — and how they're using beauty to change the world for the better. Up next: Brianna Arps, founder and CEO of fragrance brand Moodeaux.
I'm that kid who grew up playing around in my grandmother's vintage perfume cabinet, messing with my mother's lipstick, and getting into their jewelry boxes. Being around really strong women who took pride in their appearances and self-care routines growing up really helped me identify the role that beauty could play in everyday life. Watching them also helped me to create some of my own routines as well.
Four years ago, after being laid off from a role in the editorial sector, I decided to start my own journey with my fragrance company, Moodeaux.
That was a really dark time in my life, and I had no idea what I was going to do. I was living my dream life as an editor in New York City after graduating with a journalism degree, so that role was like a career pinnacle for me. After it got taken away, I fell into a really deep slump and had to rely on those same self-care routines and memories from my childhood to get me through.
Anyone who's lost their job knows that interviewing can be a very dehumanizing process. Having to get up and get dressed every day to prove your worth while not knowing what your future could look like, over and over again, was a very draining process. On the days that I didn't have anything to do, I always made sure to get up, take a shower, and spray some perfume on. That was one of the rituals that got me through that extremely dark period; it was how I manifested within myself and made myself feel good while everything around me felt like it was crumbling.
After that experience, I started researching the scientific connection between fragrance and mood. I wanted to know how it was possible that smelling a scent could instantly transport you to another place or time in your life. During my research, I realized that there aren't a lot of Black-owned fragrance houses. I decided this was something that I wanted to explore, so I leaned into the process — and as they say, the rest was history.
There are a few experiences that have shaped my journey with Moodeaux. I've always had a dual focus in marketing and beauty. In college, I had internships at a few beauty startups that have turned into full-fledged companies, and I also have so many friends who are founders in their own rights, so I had a network that I could tap into. After being laid off, I also landed at another beauty company called The Lip Bar and got to see firsthand what it takes to run a successful beauty business as I spent a lot of time with the founder, Melissa Butler.
To go back to Moodeaux, I came up with the name after finding out that another brand had filed a trademark for the original name: Moody Beauty. After crying for a few hours over the fact that I essentially lost a few thousand dollars only to end up with nothing — I now tell beauty entrepreneurs to always get legal figured out before getting into the fun, creative part of building a business because it can save you a lot of rejection and money — I went back to brainstorming. I knew I wanted to stick with the word "mood," so I built the name based on that: "Eaux" was a play on "eau de parfum" or "eau de toilette," so I put those two together and got "Moodeaux" and it stuck.
It was important to me to be a clean brand because there are so many reports that show that many of the cosmetics marketed toward women of color are chock-full of unnecessary ingredients. That boils down to how the industry may view us, and I wanted to turn that around. We don't need endocrine disruptors, we don't need alcohol, we don't need water. We wanted to focus on plant-powered botanicals that can help lock in the scent as well as moisturize the skin. So Moodeaux is really more than just a fragrance company; we're really a hybrid in the way that we select our ingredients and formulate our scents for people to experience the best of both worlds.
I want to continue to open up doors for Black perfumers. Why is it when Black kids are growing up, they're not thinking, "I can be a cosmetic chemist and make perfumes"?
The idea behind the brand is really more than just spraying on perfume — it's about changing mindsets and improving moods. We want to become a premiere fragrance destination for people who are looking to flaunt how they feel. When you look at a traditional perfume ad or if you're watching TV and you see a commercial about a perfume, it's all about how you can attract something. We are rarely talking about the things we can manifest within ourselves. We think about when you wake up in the morning and you're getting dressed, what do you want to feel? What is the vibe that you want to put forth out in the world? How can you be the best version of yourself? That's our goal.
In the future, I want to continue to open up doors for Black perfumers. Why is it when Black kids are growing up, they're not thinking, "I can be a cosmetic chemist and make perfumes"? Why is that career trajectory not normalized as an option for us? So something that I launched alongside Moodeaux was a service component called Black In Fragrance. We really want to use this initiative to be able to provide the support, resources, and cash to those who have big dreams and want to break into the fragrance industry. When I started, I couldn't find a person whose trajectory I could emulate, so both Moodeaux and Black In Fragrance are here to fill those gaps and make beauty better by making better beauty — for everyone.