In recent years, a handful of Texans have taken on the mass perfume industry by creating indie fragrance houses. These small businesses, dotted across the state, are crafting bold fragrances inspired by everything from the Southwest to TV dramas from the nineties.
Cofounder Dennon Couron started Boyd’s of Texas in 2016 as a beauty-
focused retailer, but when he learned customers loved its bars of soap mainly because of their scent, he pivoted. The company relaunched about a year later as an indie fragrance house, now based in a studio in San Antonio’s Southtown. Boyd’s produces unisex eau de parfums using natural essences that pay homage to the state; Yellow Rose, for example, blends Egyptian rose with Texas cedar. “A vast majority of the popular U.S.-based indie fragrances really fit into one of two categories: L.A. and New York,” Couron says. “There was an opportunity to become known as a third-wave fragrance brand, to be a callout to the Southwest.”
Former music teacher Chavalia Dunlap-Mwamba released her debut line of scents in 2011, making her one of the first Black female perfumers in Texas. Among the most popular Pink MahogHany options she creates out of her Longview studio is Pas Encore Nommé, a blend of ripened pineapple and vanilla. “I think about fragrances like art,” she says. “When we purchase art, we take time to make sure it fits our aesthetic and the feel that we’re looking for.”
Since leaving her advertising career in 2015 to make fragrances full time, Claire Baxter has produced hundreds of scents. She’s influenced by the literature and lore surrounding the Salem Witch Trials, which began in 1692 (thus the name of her company). Baxter’s Halloween collections sell particularly well: this year, she’s designed five offerings inspired by the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “Everybody has that one fragrance memory, that one thing they smell that transports them,” Baxter says. “It’s the closest thing to magic that people can experience.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2022 of Texas Monthly with the headline “On the Nose.” Subscribe today.