Guided by her nose, Ruby Brown has imagined a world where the senses reign, offering the very best in luxury perfume.
For the past decade, the young Montréal entrepreneur Ruby Brown has been introducing people to the evocative power of incredible fragrances. While Quebec and Canada have recently started to carve out a space in the ultraniche luxury perfume market, the perfume industry is still largely dominated by France and Italy.
A former model, Brown travelled the world when she was still quite young, retiring from the profession at an age when most people are still thinking of school. “I enjoyed a lot of freedom and became very independent at a young age, which has influenced the entrepreneur that I am today. I had a passion for making perfume and set my sights on doing business in Quebec, wanting to add a certain sophistication. I started out small with Essence Workshops, helping participants make their own perfume.” As the business grew, Brown launched her eponymous brand offering a wide variety of products and began working with big companies that wanted to offer their clientele a signature perfume. “We stand out for the uniqueness of our perfumes and their quality,” notes Brown, who likes to point to the link between fashion and perfume. “There is a direct parallel with fashion. For me, perfume sends a message, just like wearing a jacket or three-piece suit can give you a little confidence boost. Of course, you don’t wear the same thing to work on a Monday morning as you would at a Thursday evening happy hour!”
Perfume can indeed become a powerful means of communication. While most people share more or less the same olfactory tendencies, our sensitivity depends on how much attention we pay to it. Of the five senses, the sense of smell is too often neglected. “It is the sense most closely associated with memory,” explains Brown. “Walk into any hotel lobby today and there will be a scent, but people don’t notice it. And yet, our olfactory memory will remember and be transported to the same location the next time it encounters that scent.”
Montréal has a certain scent, as do Paris and London, and although some perfumes have been developed to complement these cities, Brown chose the first in this list—her hometown—as her base of operations for other reasons. “Montréal has been part of my brand’s DNA from the very start because the city is creative, open, free, and vibrant—values that are important to me and my business.” Another key factor is Montréal’s growing awareness of ecoresponsibility, shared by Brown, which has prompted her to blend both synthetic and natural elements in her products and eliminate overpackaging. “People often assume that natural essences are good and that synthetic ones are bad. It’s probably one of the biggest myths in the perfume industry. The truth is, synthetic materials enable us to work with a broader range of scents while having a smaller impact on the environment. Harvesting sandalwood or oud involves destroying entire forests in India and North Africa. Synthetic materials, smart packaging, ecological refills—all of our decisions are made with an awareness of how they affect the earth and the environment, and whether they reflect good workmanship. In fact, it is a challenge to show consumers that the company’s products are both high-end and ecological.”
Perfume making is an art and a science that has led Brown to work with the biggest brands having both local and international reputations. “These partnerships with major global brands are probably the most wonderful unexpected consequences of my career,” she confesses. Among her projects are a scented candle for Cirque du Soleil, the Simons department store’s first-ever fragrance line and, most recently, a scent featuring fig accents, which she adores, for Canadian luxury swimwear brand SHAN.
While perfume making is an important part of Brown’s life, the art of living and interpersonal relations have become her true passions. She continues to lead her made-to-measure perfume workshops with the same enthusiasm. “I love people. I’m passionate about the world and those in it. I love traveling, meeting people, and being open to others. For me, happiness is a full table and a house filled with family and friends. I don’t know if you can call it a passion, but it’s the way I live and it gives me joy.” Brown enjoys simple pleasures like spending time with loved ones, whether it is her daughter, her boyfriend, or her sisters, playing a game of Scrabble, a glass of wine in hand and a Hemp & Amber candle glowing softly in the background. She also delights in talking about her daughter. “My daughter is my greatest pride; she brings me joy each and every day. Here I am talking about people again! My friends and family make me happy.” If a cozy atmosphere, meals, family, and comfort all sound like some of the principles of hygge, the Danish lifestyle focussed on well-being, it would seem that Brown is a big fan.
Though she dreams of taking her business around the world, she keeps herself energized by being fully present in the moment and surrounding herself with loved ones. Just like her perfumes, she achieves balance by using her head, her hands, and her heart.