After the success of Maison 21G's flagship at Duxton Hill, its French founder Johanna Monange launched the second boutique in Ion Orchard in August. We find out what are the most popular scent combinations among her Singaporean clientele, which fragrances she would recommend for those of us who live in this humid city and more

Identifying the perfect scent for you requires time and effort. As we spend more time exposing and activating our olfactory system, we learn which scents suit us the best as well as what we enjoy smelling the most. From perfumes with fruity scents to floral undernotes, there is surely something for all of us. But what if you want to create a scent that is uniquely yours? Some fragrance houses have now provided the option for customers to put together their very own bespoke perfume, and one of these boutiques is none other than Maison 21G

The perfumery house offers customers the experience of creating a customised blend of scents according to their personal preferences. It starts with an artificial intelligence-powered personality quiz that guides you towards finding your favourite perfume ingredients and ends with a bespoke fragrance bottle of your own. These questionnaires allow the brand to make a specific “personality-based” scent recommendation to customers. If they're unsatisfied with the scent, they can return the perfume within a week of using it. But according to Maison 21G, less than one per cent of their clientele have done this. 

The premise of Maison 21G was the desire to "encapsulate the scent of your soul" in a bottle, according to founder Johanna Monange, who debuted her first boutique in Duxton Hill back in 2019. She explained that in 1907, The New York Times had published a report stating that the human soul weighs exactly 21 grams. Thus, Monange wanted "21G" in the brand name to represent the idea of every soul to have his or her own scent. Additionally, it also marks the amount of perfume concentrate used in their creations.

We speak to Monange to find out more about her brand, what are the most popular scents among Singaporeans as well as the best perfumes to use for those living in a hot and humid climate such as Singapore.

Why did you choose to open Maison 21G in Singapore?

Johanna Monange (JM) I have been living in Asia for many years, I used to live in China and I have been in Singapore for over 7 years now. I used to work at IFF here in Singapore and I have learned a lot of fragrance in Asia. As Singapore is my home, it just made sense for me to open our flagship store here, especially in beautiful Duxton Road. But of course, I want to keep the French touch and combine my heritage with my current home. I feel like a global citizen anyway. 

Customers have to fill in a questionnaire before they create their own scent. Why did you choose this method? Has it been helpful?

JM There's some complex thinking behind the development of the scent personalities that we determine as part of that quiz. We worked with a very skilled psychologist who has done studies on scents and personalities before to develop the five scent personalities we use and he worked with our head of IT to develop the AI that works behind our personality quiz. We think it is the best way to determine how someone perceives scents, what matters to them in life and what they want to use their perfume for. And that is why our scent recommendations are pretty accurate because we get to know the customer through our quiz. 

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Tell us what motivated you to start this perfumery brand? 

JM After 20 years in the glamorous world of fragrance, I found that too many people had the same problems with their perfumes. They were all coming to me saying, 'Johanna, all perfume smells the same to me, how to find something different!' Correct—they are all floral or fruity. Or 'Johanna, my perfume doesn’t last, it fades very fast, I have headaches when I enter a department store selling perfume all together!' Correct—they’re all made with low concentration and they contain less and less natural ingredients and a lot of synthetic sweet molecules.

Another question I was getting a lot was 'How on Earth can I choose a new perfume, I want something that fits me, can you help me to choose a new one among the thousands of them?'. Indeed, we have gone from 500 products coming out a year in the ‘70s to 5,000 products launching each year with tons of flankers. These are the main reasons I created Maison 21G, and that's to answer all these pains! I want to get closer to our consumers and help to discover what they really like and put back a soul in this industry. I want to empower each person to mix and match high-quality natural ingredients to create their own unique scent according to their preference, intimate desires and unique personality. And you don’t need to be incredibly rich to have this privilege. Everyone deserves a little luxury and quality to feel more confident and seductive in their life, this is the mission I have given to myself and my team.

You have had experience working for a conglomerate like L’Oreal and was involved in the creation of perfumes by Lancome, Armani, YSL and more. How does your brand stand apart from them, aside from the personalisation? 

JM Many points, actually. All our scents have a certain level of biodegradable and recyclable carbons. It required more work in development and this is something we put as a special extra at Maison 21G. All our scents are 90 per cent biodegradable, so it is a first in the perfume industry. Our perfumes contain 21 per cent of perfume concentrate which is also [among] the highest in the industry, which gives the consumer higher quality and longer-lasting scents. We are also 100 per cent preservative-free as our perfumes are freshly made in front of you. They don’t have to stay stocked on shelves for months like all the other brands! 

What are the most popular scent combinations among Singaporean customers?

JM Some of our bestseller solo scents are Sage and Ocean, so two very light and fresh scents. I also know that Mimosa, Muguet and Rhubarb (which was most unexpected because rhubarb is a very European food) are the most favourite scents of Singaporean women.

What scents do you recommend for Singaporeans, since the weather is constantly hot and humid here? 

JM The climate is important for how perfume makes people feel. In a hot, humid country like Singapore you want to feel fresh, in a cold country you would be looking for a more comforting, warming scent. Light and fresh notes such as frangipani (which we can see growing everywhere here) or sage are most suitable for this climate. 

Can you share what are your favourite scents and why?

JM It is hard for me to choose my favourite scent. But I do really like Mimosa as it reminds me of my mother. 

When is your favourite time to put on some perfume? Day, night, all-day?

JM To be honest, I wear perfume most times of the day. Always a different scent depending on the occasion. In the morning before I come to work, I put on something fresh such as Ocean or Sage; if I have a big business meeting, then I choose something bolder such as Tuberose or Tonka. It really depends on what my day looks like. 

You have a new store in Ion Orchard. Tell us what to expect there and what’s different or new about the boutique?

JM I simply love the location and I think we were very lucky to get such a great location in B2, with all the other great beauty brands just around the corner from our boutique. 

Your perfumes are made with up to 90 per cent biodegradable ingredients and you offer eco-friendly reusable packaging. Why did you choose to include sustainability as an integral part of the brand’s vision? 

JM Consumers are looking for quality at an affordable price, an educational experience, connection and transparency, sustainability with real authentic experience. The consumer should be at the heart of our enterprise and not the brand. It was, therefore, most important to me to put the consumers’ needs first. I am very transparent about the ingredients we are using; I ensure they are clean fragrances without any 'nasties'. This is one key step to a sustainable business. In addition, I do believe consumers are increasingly looking to support brands that care about the environment and the planet. We are not using big factories to make our perfumes because we make them by hand, so this reduces our production cost and emissions and we can give back to the consumer. Our sustainable packaging, as mentioned, is just another step towards being more sustainable, not just simply for the sake of packaging as big corporations would do.