Black-owned and smelling unthinkably good is what MOODEAUX and Black in Fragrance™ stand for. There is something about putting on your favorite scent that elevates a look and mood entirely. Brianna Arps understands this well.

Arps launched MOODEAUX, a Black-woman-owned, vegan, clean, natural, self-funded brand to champion ‘longer-lasting, skin-nurturing eau de parfums backed by science’. MOODEAUX positions itself as “made for the unapologetically outspoken rebel inside us all.” It is doing everything possible to usher Black business owners into the spotlight in fragrance industries.

Black in Fragrance
Courtesy oof MOODEAUX

21Ninety: We’re interested in your fragrance secrets! What scents and smells are you most drawn to right now? 

Brianna Arps: I love (and I do mean LOVE) a round, cozy gourmand fragrance that contrasts with either a hint of fresh florals or fruity, citrusy notes. If it fits the description, I’ll try it without hesitation! Most of my go-to’s these days smell like MOODEAUX’s debut scent “Worthy,” which impacts a delicious sheer warmth, perfect year-round — not to mention, it’s buildable and layerable based on personal preference. Our sophomore scent “PunkStar” — a.k.a the leather jacket of your scent wardrobe — falls under the same fragrance family as well. Overall, though, I’m definitely someone who’s drawn to smells that accessorize my mood and help me flaunt how I feel at any given moment!

21N: What has been your overall experience launching a fragrance brand as a Black woman?

Arps: Launching MOODEAUX has been the greatest, most rewarding undertaking of my life. Seriously. There’s no feeling comparable to the joy of seeing a far-fetched idea transform into reality. This is especially true when that idea was birthed from adversity. Being an “accidental entrepreneur,” I honestly didn’t believe I had the guts to venture out into startup land until I was laid off from my role as an editor at a women’s media outlet in October 2018.

The whole ordeal took me by complete surprise, shaking me to my core and turning my world upside down overnight. Before I could begin to process everything, the universe confronted me with a harsh ultimatum: Either forge on tepidly with my career/fate in someone else’s hands or regain control by stepping out on faith to build something I could call my own.

The decision, alongside adjusting to my new normal, weighed heavily on me. I was depressed and just thinking about the future required too much effort. Eventually, as a lifelong beauty lover, I found refuge in my favorite accessory: fragrance. This is given the well-documented, transformative effects on mood. Refuge quickly grew into an infatuation with understanding the scientific connection between scent, memory, and emotion. Noting a disparity in mainstream attention/support towards Black-owned fragrance labels, MOODEAUX felt like such a “no-brainer.”

I had faith that God, plus my background, experience, and skill set would open doors. This equipped me with the patience, tenacity, and grit to see plans through. In October 2021, we opened the online doors to our website, and have been going steady ever since.

Inspiration and nurturing the community of Black perfumers

21N: What inspired you to launch Black in Fragrance™ and MOODEAUX?

Arps: Our ongoing Black In Fragrance™ project is one we unveiled the same day as MOODEAUX’s launch on October 1, 2021. Both ventures are filling an unmet need within the fragrance industry. This stems from a historical lack of diversity and representation — not to mention, widespread access to education and resources. 

I find inspiration everywhere but it’s my fascination with people, and the experience of emotion as a fundamental part of human consciousness (not my quote, but a good one) that drives us most. We serve a very specific audience, one with a disdain for mainstream ideals and an attraction toward anything that goes against the grain. Our MOODIES are noticeably outspoken and determined to become the change they wish to see in their worlds. Beauty isn’t just beauty. It represents a form of urgent activism towards finding a greater purpose and evolving past cultural stereotypes. So, on our end, fragrance can’t just be fragrance either. Everything MOODEAUX does is rooted in honoring a myriad of unique and unapologetic perspectives first and foremost. MOODEAUX helps others discover, reinvent and express themselves second. 

21N: That’s such a refreshing perspective to offer the community of Black creators at large. In what ways does Black in Fragrance support Black entrepreneurs?

Arps: Black In Fragrance™, which will be relaunching, is building a global ecosystem of support among industry professionals, consumers, retailers, and media outlets — each who pledge to do their part in leveling the playing field for Black perfumers and creatives with entrepreneurial pursuits. As its founding label, MOODEAUX leads the effort, providing community outreach, peer mentorship, and occasional funding primarily raised from limited-edition merch. Community outreach includes identifying emerging voices and making them aware of our eagerness to assist and collaborate, while virtual meetups, pitch seminars, and knowledge sharing all fall under peer mentorship.

21N: How has MOODEUAX changed or expanded your ideas about Black-owned fragrance brands?

Arps: Black folks really enjoy smelling good. In fact, statistics show Black consumers in the U.S. outspend their white counterparts on fragrance by a hefty margin. Likewise, Black folks have held occupations as perfumers and fragrance entrepreneurs for ages! Yet, collectively, we (along with the industry at-large) have been slower to label ourselves as such. Think about it: I bet you know someone into either concocting fragrant body/home oil blends or selling them. Or, someone making candles or gifting them; experimenting with various diffuser technologies or sharing insight on how to create your own; etc.

Perfumery and other STEM-related studies only appear “out of reach,” because we aren’t necessarily accustomed to seeing us maintain successful careers in these fields. Founding MOODEAUX has made these points even more apparent, motivating me to exemplify Black excellence in the best way possible.