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Life and Work with Dana El Masri

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dana El Masri.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I came to Montreal at 18 in the hopes of going into sound production and making music.

After graduating, I spent a lot of time reading because the economic crisis had just hit and there were no jobs in my ‘field.’

A friend gave me Tom Robbins’ ‘Jitterbug Perfume’ which I fell in love with and found the characters, particularly the perfumers, fascinating. My strong scent memory came rushing back and something clicked. I followed that up with ‘The Alchemist’ which was all about seeing the signs. Once I finished these books, I realized I wanted to become a perfumer.

Growing up in the Middle East and being Lebanese/Egyptian has deeply impacted my sense of smell and how I relate to scents. This background reiterated my sacred journey and my purpose.

From there, I applied to a perfume institute in Grasse, France, succeeded in my year and instead of working for the large conglomerates, I decided to come back to Montreal to start my own perfume brand. I created Jazmin Saraï in 2014, inspired by the connections between scent, sound, and culture.
Now, I am an independent perfumer, I run the business and I have created scents for companies all over the United States by working for Joya Studio in Brooklyn, I make scents for local brands in Montreal and collaborate with artists from all over, in multiple mediums.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Never!
Getting into the perfume industry is no easy feat, especially when starting as an ‘unknown’ like I did.
Creating a business and maintaining it has been challenging. As an emotional artist, I find it hard to be creative and then share my work in a so-called ‘non-artistic’ way, it has taught me so much on attachment.

As a woman of colour, there still isn’t much representation in my field. This pushes me more. It’s important to have different narratives, ones which are not orientalized like some themes in the perfume industry.

Running a business as a woman has its own issues as well; being underestimated, being sexualized, all of it – things that most women face on a regular basis.

I would say just keep going (I say this to myself too!) – if you can dream it, you can achieve it. Do what you love, don’t let people distract you from your goals, your own beliefs, and your ultimate mission.

Please tell us about your work.
I am classically trained perfumer. I create perfumes for my brand, Jazmin Saraï. Bespoke perfumes for individuals, perfumes and scented products for brands as well as scent/olfactory art installations.
My specialty is in fine fragrance (perfumes, body oils) and functional fragrance (candles, lotions, etc..)

I would say I am most known for my olfactory writing and for my perfumes. Sometimes, I am also known as a vocalist, as I have created a few songs and collaborate with other musicians.

I am most proud to be an Arab woman, changing the discourse in a luxury industry that was created and dominated by (predominantly) Caucasian males, and breaking through a notoriously secretive and competitive industry.

What sets me apart from others is that I am a well-rounded artist. I have experience in many fields which gives me an edge and I so happen to be extremely passionate about what I do. This informs the way I share art and knowledge with others.

Do you think there are structural or other barriers impeding the emergence of more female leaders?
As women, we claim to support one another but many of us have a hard time seeing another woman win, without assuming that means we are losing. There is room for everyone to grow together.

Perception is also a barrier – women, no matter what they do, or how good they are at something – always seem to deal with prejudice in contexts of power. If you’re strong and assertive, you’re ‘bossy’ – or what I deal with in terms of my ’emotionality’ – most people, mainly men, have told me to not get ‘all woman and emotional’ in a given situation.

Pricing:

  • Jazmin Sarai Perfumes 50ml – ranges from 90-105 USD
  • Jazmin Sarai Perfumes 10ml (travel sizes) – range from 30-50 USD
  • Bespoke Perfume for Individuals – 200 USD +
  • Bespoke for brands – 5000 USD +

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Personal photo – Kevin Alcalde, Bottle photos (Nar and How You Love) – Captured by Gicquel, Group bottle photos – Dana El Masri, Pauline Loctin

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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