Amna Al Habtoor has been fascinated by fragrance her whole life. Inspired by the scent worn by her late mother and the memories and emotions that fragrance evokes in her mind, the UAE-born entrepreneur set about creating her own business that captures these moments and bottles them to be reminded of them forever. Her first scent was created as part of her wedding day.
A perfume that would capture that moment and remind her of the special day forever. Realising her love for fragrance, Amna decided that it was more than just a passion and she left the family business to set about fulfilling her own dreams by opening her own perfume business. Arcadia by Amna was born in 2015 with a line of scents that conjure up memories and emotions. With a collection of dynamic fine fragrances, Arcadia sustains purity. Each fragrance is made cruelty-free, paraben-free, chemical-free, using the highest quality ingredients.
Earlier this year, Arcadia by Amna opened its first flagship store in Dubai allowing clients to really immerse themselves in the Arcadia experience and lifestyle for the first time. The store opening has been coupled with a line of limited edition fragrances that capture the moment we are in right now. While this has been a turbulent year in many ways, Amna has taken it as an opportunity to reassess and plan for the future. We discover what’s next on her journey and what we can expect to see from the brand moving forward.
This year has been a strange one for all – what is something you have learnt during this period?
This year so far has definitely been a struggle, especially during lockdown. My main takeaway is how I learnt to be content with being alone, without the distractions of everyday life that kept me occupied before the pandemic.
How did you spend your time during the lockdown?
I spent a lot of time with my family and home-schooling my two older children. Baking was something that kept me busy too, like most people around the world!
Are there any changes you have made within the company during this time that you think are for the better? And is there anything you believe you will do differently moving forward?
We utilised this time to look back and reflect on what our future plans should be and what we should launch next. We have very exciting plans in the works! Before the pandemic, Arcadia has always adopted a more flexible working approach, whether it was with timings or working from home, so that’s a policy that’s here to stay!
You recently opened a store in Dubai what can you tell us about that?
Arcadia’s flagship store officially opened in March this year. The store showcases our full offering, with all ten scents from our debut collection, Edition 1 and the Edition 2 collection, as well as several limited-edition fragrances. To coincide with the store launch, we created an exclusive Limited Edition fragrance called “Bounded” to bookmark this big step in our journey. The opening of our flagship store in Dubai not only reinforces our goal to be recognised as one of the leading perfumeries in the region but also reiterates our long- term expansion plans both regionally and internationally.
Take us back to the beginning – what was your initial idea behind Arcadia By Amna and what were the challenges you faced at the start of your journey?
My love for fragrances is inspired by the memories of my late mother, peace be upon her. This passion grew more with time and fuelled me to start experimenting with my own mixtures that made me reminisce meaningful moments in my life. I loved the idea of bookmarking a significant time in life and being able to return to it with a familiar aroma. I first took a leap of faith when I created a fragrance to capture the moment of my wedding and distributed it to all my guests as a memento. This fragrance, Infinity, is now part of Arcadia’s collection.
Of course, having passion needs to be accompanied with the know-how, so I did several perfumery courses in London and New York. The biggest challenge for me at the start of my journey was to believe in myself and in my passion and leave the family business to pursue the vision I had for Arcadia.
How important do you think it is for men and women to have fragrance in their lives?
Simply put, long after one has forgotten what another wore, the memory of their perfume lingers.
Your fragrances are unisex – how do you think the industry has changed in terms of having fragrances that are more versatile for men and women?
All of our fragrances are unisex as we wanted to create scents free from societal and gender norms. Our collection aims to focus solely on memories, nostalgia and emotions rather than femininity and masculinity. I think this shift in approach, especially when it comes to gender norms, is something we are seeing across the spectrum, so why not when it comes to perfumery?
What are your thoughts on fragrance layering?
Creating perfumes based on layering is unique to Arab culture and tradition. We always love to elevate our fragrances by layering them with bakhoor and oils – it makes the scent distinctive, whilst keeping true to the notes of the scents. Each household has a unique bakhoor formulation that is passed down from generation to generation. That unique bakhoor scent adds a very personal touch to the layering aspect of the perfumes that are created. From our collection, No. 1 Royal Orchard and No. 9 Vanilla Pod are standout fragrances when it comes to layering because they work beautifully with bakhoor and other oils.
What is a favourite ingredient that you love to work with?
That’s a very difficult question! But I particularly love working with musk as it gives so much depth to the overall scent.
Can you remember the first perfume you owned?
Ombré Bleue by Jean-Charles Brosseau was one of the first perfumes I owned; my mother actually bought it for me. Although it was a complex scent for a child, I loved it!
What can you tell us about your latest products or what we can expect to see soon?
We launched “Unity” earlier this month as a Limited Edition fragrance and it has already sold out within less than a month! Soon, you can expect more fragrances and product extensions.
What would you still like to achieve that you haven’t done yet?
There’s a lot on my bucket list when it comes to Arcadia. Generally speaking, however, I would still like to gain more awareness internationally as a UAE brand.
How would you define success?
Many often measure success solely on superficial metrics, but to me, success is defined by happiness, love and pride in what you do every day.
With every success comes setback and failures – how do you deal with this and stay motivated?
When I face setbacks, I always go back to why I started Arcadia, and that was to create fragrances inspired by the memories of my late mother. Her memory will always keep me motivated.
What is a challenge you have faced throughout your journey and how did you overcome it?
The COVID-19 pandemic that humanity is facing is for sure the biggest challenge to date! But upon Arcadia’s inception, my biggest challenge was creating fragrances that were not only nostalgic for me, but also for whoever smelt them. I also didn’t want to create a brand that was intimidating since Arcadia is more of a feeling. It is this raw, authentic emotion we all can relate to.
If you could look back, what is something that you would tell your younger self?
I would tell myself to continue taking risks. Looking back now, the best career decisions I ever made were when I took risks.
How do you think your heritage and upbringing has influenced what you do today?
I always want to stay true to my culture, heritage and upbringing. This wasn’t difficult to do, particularly when formulating fragrances, as we are blessed with a variety of unique notes. These oriental notes are commonly used in Arcadia, but paired with unusual notes to give it international appeal.
What would you say to anyone at the beginning of their business journey?
Believe in yourself and look to those who have your best intentions at heart for support!
What is the life motto you live by?
Don’t be too hard on yourself, in the end we are all human.