JP Staff (The Jakarta Post)
Sun, July 3, 2022
Kemayu offers soulful perfume creations by infusing Indonesian herbs and spices to their variants, resulting in fragrances that tell a unique story.
As the pandemic forced people to spend more time at home, many discovered that home fragrances were not only there to freshen up spaces; they could also help set different types of moods.
One local perfumery brand that started during the pandemic is Kemayu, which roughly translates to “coquettish” in English.
Vica Mardika Wong, Kemayu’s founder, believes that each scent has a different soul and story to tell. She found that locally made room fragrances were either too expensive or were not good enough in quality. With those concerns, Vica built Kemayu, which offers reed diffusers made from the original Indonesian carrier oil.
Launched in 2017, Kemayu offers a diverse range of fragrances, from sweet to musky. While most brands choose digital platforms to optimize sales, Kemayu decided to market its products in several offline stores.
“Kemayu started in social media and e-commerce platforms before my husband encouraged me to open up the first store in Pondok Indah Mall, [South Jakarta], two years ago,” Vica shared.
“He thinks experience is the key to marketing home-fragrance products, such as reed diffusers. [Users] can have a direct experience by smelling each fragrance and getting a feel for them.”
While some use reed diffusers to freshen up their rooms with a specific fragrance, Kemayu aims to give its products an Indonesian touch while also attempting to create products that elicit nostalgic memories.
Unique aroma: Championing Indonesian ingredients, Kemayu believes that each scent has a different soul and story to tell. (Courtesy of Kemayu) (Courtesy of Kemayu/Courtesy of Kemayu)
Most of Kemayu’s products are based on notable Indonesian herbs and spices such as ylang-ylang (cananga tree), jasmine, Javanese rose, clove and tobacco. The oils are reasonably accessible, and Kemayu has no problem sourcing its raw materials.
According to Vica, the challenging part is rather when she has to mix different fragrances that can fit into each variant’s name.
Kemayu has a catchy and visionary name for each variant, such as embun pagi (morning dew), filosofi cinta (philosophy of love), mekar (bloom) and ombak pantai (ocean waves).
Apart from those names, Kemayu has a dedicated poem for each product that describes its fragrance notes. Vica is the one behind these pretty words, such as one inscribed in the front of its store at Mal Pondok Indah 2, South Jakarta.
“Jika semesta hanya tentang aroma rindu / Rindu yang selalu membawaku ke dalam hati sanubarimu,” it said, which translates into “If the universe is only about the scent of longing, [it would be the] longing that always takes me into your heart.”
The brand also offers long-lasting reed diffusers. Adnin Wirjodisoemo, 28, is one of its customers from Bandung who was impressed with the reed diffuser that she purchased.
“The thing that surprised me the most was that the reed diffuser could last a month, and the fragrance was always [there] in my living room,” she said.
Adnin also added that she has tried purchasing several local reed diffusers, but she has not found one that can last longer with a more long-lasting fragrance than Kemayu.
“From what I checked on their Instagram, they have many unique signature fragrances such as ibu Pertiwi [mother Earth], secangkir teh manis [a cup of sweetened tea], es kelapa [iced coconut water] and gadis kemayu [coquettish girl],” said Adnin, who is adamant that Kemayu mixes its fragrances to copy the similar aromas that surround Indonesians in their daily lives.
Currently, Kemayu has 33 fragrance collections and tries to launch a new fragrance every two months.
“At first I was confused about which reed diffuser variant from Kemayu because they have so many variants but there was no description of the fragrance [as I bought it online].
“I decided to send a message to the sales administrator and finally decided to go for the ilalang-ilalang variant,” said Adnin. She remains in love with the ilalang-ilalang variant that she describes as “lemongrass mixed with citrus and a touch of sugary sweetness that is juicy and fresh giving a clean and aromatic impression”.
The fragrance’s soul
Vica’s belief that “every perfume has a soul and a story behind it” led her to create Kemayu, where she wanted to invite customers to reminisce about the memories behind each fragrance and create a beautiful experience out of it.
For instance, Vica created ombak pantai while picturing the harmony of the ocean and the greeneries. This variant has middle notes of jasmine, rose and frangipani — types of white flowers that usually fall on top of seawater.
Besides ombak pantai, there is also asmara and cinta pertama, which translate to “romance” and “first love” respectively. With asmara, Kemayu seeks to depict a fiery romance with saffron, spices, amber wood and ambergris as its first notes.
Cinta pertama, meanwhile, attempts to reflect the “sweetness” of a typical first love as it employs the scent of sweet raspberry, pineapple and mango as well as the aroma of a silk finish lipstick.
“Perfume is the art that makes memory speak. All the fragrances behind Kemayu are linked with the fragments of memories of my life,” she said. “I want to share my stories and soul with the world. I want to sell a perfume inspired by the beauty of Indonesia and invite them [customers] to relive the memories.”