Jennifer McKay Newton of DefineMe Fragrances
Profile: I grew up in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. For most of my childhood I attended the Lasalle Language Academy. Not only did Lasalle give me a chance to be immersed in French, but as a fifth grader I had the opportunity to travel to Paris. This sparked a lifelong passion for exploring the world.
Jennifer Age 3
A few years later, when I was fourteen, I ignited my passion for perfume. One day while perusing the fragrance department in Marshall Fields, I noticed a bottle of ‘Paris’ by Yves Saint Laurent. For some reason I couldn’t pass it up. I was captivated by every aspect of it. The bottle, the packaging, the fragrance, but most of all, by how it transported me. This was my first bottle of perfume and I became absolutely obsessed with it. Memories and feelings from my trip to Paris came flooding back to me every time I opened it. I felt glamorous and so… “OOO LA LA!”. The emotional connection to that fragrance has fueled a deep fascination with scents and a hidden desire to create my own fragrances that has never left me.
Growing up the middle child of a family torn apart by divorce was a struggle. Nothing I did, or wanted, in life came easily. Every success came only after struggle and a multitude of failures. As I reflect back I realize that this was a blessing. It has resulted in a strong sense of self, strength and an unrelenting desire to help empower women. This is the purpose of DefineMe and why I’m so passionate about the ‘DefineMe Dollar’ program. For every bottle sold $1 goes to a non-profit partner such as ‘Girls Inc’ and now I’m excited to announce we’ll be partnering with ‘She’s The First’, helping women become the first in their family to receive an education.
The Butterfuly symbolizes metamorphosis and is essential to the brand's messgae
I’ve always been a creative soul with a love for art, architecture and design. This led to my first career; interior design. In 2009, I took a leap of faith and became an entrepreneur, launching a successful product company, ‘Pure Designs for Living’. It was during this time, while creating an organic candle line, that I found the courage to finally create my fragrance collection. "If I can create candle scents that have intention, why not create fragrances that can positively affect people as well?”, I thought. I knew, both from personal experience and scientifically, that there’s a cognitive connection between scent and emotion. This would be my path to help empower women.
My process goes something like this. I choose a purpose, personality, name and signature for each fragrance, which I believe breathes life into it. I work to not get stuck on any single note or idea, stay open to what feels and smells right and keep in mind how they will blend with the other scents. I decided against using the chemical additive Dypropylene Glycol as a base and instead chose Fractionated Coconut oil, a natural product with antioxidant properties. Sometimes the result clearly represents the ideas I started with but sometimes it turns out like nothing I would have expected. I blend, experiment and play with combinations until I feel the scent exemplifies the personality and intention. Finally I ask, is this how I want to smell?
This experience has turned out to be one of the most creative, inspiring and challenging journeys I could have imagined! We currently offer five scents with unique personalities; Audry, Clara, Harper, Payton and Sofia Isabel. Every bottle represents mold-breaking, barrier crushing women that speak to different qualities we strive for; being confident, strong, free-spirited, loving, grateful, passionate and fearless.
On American Perfumery: I have a deep and profound respect and admiration for the long, rich tradition of perfume and the artisans that have, and continue to, create amazing scents across the world. For me, being an American perfumer and especially one from California means freedom. While respecting the tradition, I somehow felt unencumbered by it. I was able to create from a place of innocence and purity with no one to tell me it was right or wrong. I’m incredibly grateful to have been accepted by the American fragrance community as it shows openness to: new ideas, self expression and innovation.
Favorite American Artist: My favorite American Artist is photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965). In the 1930’s and 40’s she humanized and documented the plight of the poor and forgotten, migrant workers, farmers and Japanese Americans sent to internment camps. In 2003, I was visiting an exhibit of her work in Florence, Italy, when I came across a photograph titled “Migrant Mother”. Her ability to capture a women’s soul in a photograph has given me lasting admiration for her work.
–Jennifer McKay Newton, Founder of DefineMe Fragrances
Katy Knuth of Rebel Intuitive, Jennifer and Becky Sheloske of Rebel Intuitive at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball
Editor’s Note: We first learned of Jennifer when she spoke at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball October 25, 2015,Emerging Artists Uncorked October 25, 2015
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