Emirati Perfumer Assim Al Qassim Discusses His UAE-founded Fragrance Brand

Lindsay Judge   |   07-02-2023

After discovering his passion for fragrance, Emirati entrepreneur and architect Assim Al Qassim decided to launch his own perfume brand that would capture the beauty of Arabian hospitality and share it with the world.


Knowing that Emiratis love to welcome guests into their homes Al Qassim wanted to capture this feeling in a series of perfumes inspired by his heritage and culture. So he decided to study perfumery which would enable him to put his plan into action and ensure it was done in the right way. He became the UAE’s first certified perfumer and once he qualified, he launched his brand Anfas.



With the idea that every home has a specific scent, and with every scent a new experience begins, Al Qassim wanted to capture this magical concept with Anfas. So he set about creating perfume collections inspired by emotional Arabian moments and concepts. As he plans to launch his fourth collection we find out more.



We know you are first and foremost an architect – how did your passion for fragrance come about and how did it turn into a career?

I also used to be a singer, not as a profession but as a passion, which allowed me to bring something to people in the form of sound. Architecture is a part of art, where you present people with something visually appealing. So I am interested in many artistic sectors. People from the Gulf region also love to play with and mix fragrances together, I had a great passion for fragrances as well, so I decided to follow that passion and try to create something that caters to the sense of smell. Coincidently, this passion turned out to be a profession over time. I met a professional perfumer and he sensed this passion in me. He asked me about my fragrances and what I was wearing and I told him I had mixed three fragrances together. He said I have a good nose and that I could maybe think about developing it more professionally. So from that point, I started to experience the perfume world, and then I decided to study perfumery. I always try to tweak my habits to be more professional and in the case of perfumes, this is exactly what I did.


Anfas Products 



How did you go from realising you had this talent to creating your company and making it formal?

It was a journey of up and downs. I first started the company before and I had all the knowledge so the perfumes I was making didn’t match the market or the customer’s needs. You can have a creative mind, but sometimes you need to understand the business side to make it work. The perfumers told me I had a very good nose, but I needed to make it more professional. So I decided to study perfumery and once I had done that I decided to establish the right brand that could professionally drive my passion and drive the business growth forward. The message I want to share with my brand is “a sense of Arabian home”. Through my perfumes, I am always trying to communicate this idea of opening my door to welcome the world to my home. I want people to smell the style of our life in the UAE, and the way that we welcome people to our country, I want to share that with people through the perfumes I create. I think anyone that comes to Dubai can feel how welcoming the people are here and this is what I’m trying to capture and share with everyone that smells my perfumes.



How do you manage to portray that message through your perfumes?

The name Anfas means “to breathe”. The reason I chose this name is that in the UAE we are breathing hospitality. We are breathing the way of being humble and tolerant and welcoming others. The story behind my first collection was this sense of Arabian home. I started by writing the story behind each fragrance and then I developed them one by one. We created a full collection that tells the exact message of the brand. After the first collection, we know each other, we have built a relationship, and we brought you to our home. Then it was time for the second collection; which focused on the angles that you need to establish in any place to make it feel like your home. We have followed this same concept with our third collection, and we are now working on our fourth collection, again I am trying to put my passion and love into every perfume I make.



Anfas Dhai fragrance


What are your favourite ingredients to use in your fragrances?

I am in love with vanilla and tonka bean because I feel like these two ingredients make everyone feel so calm. They have this earthy feeling which I love. Then from that, I play around with many different ingredients.


In our culture, we mix fragrances together. To some, it might seem unbalanced but in a strange way, it is perfectly balanced. We may not understand the formulations, but we understand which kinds of fragrances go together. So in my collections, if you take each collection by itself and you spray all of the fragrances together, you will have one fragrance and this has been done deliberately.



What’s the vision for your company moving forward?

I plan to be a well-known Emirati perfumer by 2026. I am proud to be Emirati and I want to give something back to my country in the form of delivering very nice fragrances to the world. My brand is an international brand already, everything is made in Italy, but I want to be a well-known Emirati brand and a recognised perfumer worldwide. That is the goal for 2026 and I wish for my fragrances to be in the top ten worldwide. I will be so happy that my country will be proud of my efforts.



What is the message that you want to share with other countries about the UAE and the heritage of fragrance here?

In the Middle East, we used to import fragrances from everywhere around the world and we learned a lot from this. But we also know that we have very nice ingredients here in the Middle East that can be developed into fragrances and this is what we want to share with the world. So my main message is first to my people; we have very good potential and a market to be established worldwide, and instead of only developing the local market, we can develop very nice globally known brands and showcase our culture and inspiration. We have our own style but we can make that international.



The second message that I want to deliver to the world is to tell them that they are welcome to our home. You can come to my city and not only smell my fragrances but understand how our culture is related to this. We want to welcome you. To visit our city and experience the smells of our country. Then you will understand that we have a very deep culture, representing this beauty.



What is the biggest challenge that you face?

Personally, it would be balancing my full-time job with the company. I am handling urban planning and infrastructure and development in Dubai, and I also have my passion and my business. It is a challenge but I already have the plan to do all these things.


The other major challenge is that there is a lot of competition in the world of fragrances, so you need to be the best that you can be to be well known. We have a huge market of perfumes, at certain times in Dubai you could have two or three new perfume brands established in a month. So there is a lot of competition but there is also good potential if you have a nice product.



How do you think The Middle East has influenced the fragrance industry as a whole?

The Middle East was the link point for trading from the North, South, East and West. So you can see in the Middle East a lot of different and varied ingredients. Because of our trading experiences with the whole world, we understand other people’s tastes. We have lots of successful fragrance brands in the Middle East and we see a lot of international brands today using Arabic names or Arabic ingredients. So we are already influencing.



When are you at your most creative?

My passion usually comes from our leadership. When I see how our leadership in Dubai put in great effort to build this beautiful city and to host so many people from around the world, that inspires me. We are aiming to be the best place to live in the world and this is where my passion comes out and I get most inspired. This is what drives me to do the best at whatever I’m doing.



What is the professional motto that you live by?

Every day is different. I need to be different. Some people can grow up normally and live their life normally, and then there are different people. Sometimes these people will struggle when they are young, but they are the ones who will grow up to be different in a very good way. I want to be someone who is remembered every day and I need to be a remarkable person. I want to be an ambassador for my country.



What would you still like to do that you haven’t done yet?

There is a lot on my wish list today! I have already designed two or three fragrances for other brands but my dream is to develop a perfume for one of the top ten brands in the world.



Are there any perfumers that you are inspired by or look to for inspiration?

Maison Francis Kurkdjian. I get inspired by the deep messages and passion that come from his fragrances. And from brands like Amouage. They are from our region and are already very well established so that is inspiring.



What is a message you would send to our readers on why they should discover your fragrances?

If you want to experience our heritage and our city, you are more than welcome to experience it through our collection, and if you want to feel the deep culture of Arabian homes, you will experience this through my fragrances.