Vyrao launched nationwide in Australia last month with the incredible store, Mecca. While visiting Sydney for the launch, Vyrao's founder Yasmin Sewell caught up with Australian Grazia to explain the healing, mood-lifting benefits in each of Vyrao's five signature scents. Read on to discover the properties of Georgette, I am Verdant, Witchy Woo, Magnetic 70, Free 00 and the life-enhancing of having a fragrance wardrobe.
GRAZIA: How did your Australian upbringing inspire Vyrao?
Yasmin Sewell: The inspiration really comes from my love of anything to do with healing. My mum was always quite tuned into health and wellness, and she was even perhaps a little psychically attuned – she was always having dreams about me and things I’d done that she wasn’t supposed to know about! I grew up near Coogee, surrounded by the ocean and my Lebanese family, and my mum used to have a hair salon. I was always around gorgeous women in the salon, and I loved seeing them all come together in a space where they could feel good, enjoy beauty and look after themselves. All my aunties and friends would come, it was a real community filled with such good vibes.
GRAZIA: Was wellness always something you’d been passionate about?
YS: I’ve been in fashion for 25 years, and throughout my whole fashion career, I was always doing things to learn about health, wellness and healing. I’ve trained in different forms of energetic healing, I was meditating when I was 20, I’ve run meditation retreats, trained in Ayurveda – I was just always reading books, learning and studying [healing]. I never imagined I’d be a Reiki practitioner, I just wanted to tune into it for myself so that I could live a better, happier life. But I did always presume that I would get to a certain point in my life where I would completely immerse myself in the health and wellbeing world. I thought it might have been when I was older – like maybe I’d open up some sort of weird hippie centre in Byron Bay when I was in my 60s – but it began earlier than I anticipated, in 2019.
GRAZIA: At that time, you held probably one of the most coveted roles in the fashion industry at Farfetch. What prompted you to take that next step?
YS: I was VP of creative there, and it was a really big role in a huge company – but I got to the point where I want to have a bit of a life change. I’m in my mid 40s now, I’ve done so many projects and I’ve worked really hard since I was 15 years old. I hadn’t had my own business since I was in my early 20s, and I just realised that now is my time. There was something I was yearning for, but I didn’t know what it was – then it just came to me and I acted on it, thankfully! We don’t always act on those things, where a decision can be scary and you don’t know what the outcome will be, or how difficult things might be. But I knew it was the right thing, so I sat with it and did nothing for about seven months, just taking time out with my boys, redoing my house and planting my veggie garden.
Yasmin Sewell Self Portrait
GRAZIA: What sparked the idea for Vyrao?
YS: I knew I wanted to do something in the wellbeing space, but didn’t know it was going to be fragrance. I started to think about my connection with scent and how much it alters the way that you feel – it shifts your mood, your emotions, it can transport you like time travel. It’s powerful, and I’ve always believed in healing through the senses, so I wanted to create products and a brand that made you instantly feel that little bit better through a small spark of joy. When you inhale, there’s a brief moment that you experience a spark of happiness, protection, self love, or liberation – it alters everything in your body.
GRAZIA: What scents can instantly transport you to another time?
YS: Eucalyptus! My grandmother also used to cook loads of Lebanese, which is based on fried burnt onion, so that smell always makes me nostalgic. My mum wore Elizabeth Arden when I was growing up, but my first fragrance was Calvin Klein Escape – it’s very summery and light and I vividly remember my best friend and I wearing it.
GRAZIA: Mine was Ralph by Ralph Lauren.
YS: Isn’t it funny how we always remember our first real fragrance? It’s such an indulgent, special memory that stays with you – they’re precious.
GRAZIA: Did you ever have a signature scent?
YS: Throughout the last 15 to 20 years, I’d have one scent for a period of time, and then I’d have to move on because I like to always go forward. I wore Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady for many years, then I wore Carnal Flower for many years but now I rotate between the five Vyrao scents. And since I’ve launched the brand, I’ve noticed that it’s not just me – for everyone who has experienced the scents, there isn’t just one. They want to have a few fragrances for different purposes.
GRAZIA: Switching between scents that reflect or enhance our many styles, moods or personas is big on platforms like TikTok, and it’s a concept that’s obviously been a big part of your career. I wonder – is the signature scent… dead?
YS: Now it’s about having a fragrance wardrobe. I think the connection between scent and healing has always been there but I think we’re moving into it further with Vyrao, where I’ve taken this notion much further into the traditional fragrance world. Now you can connect with what the healing power of scent can do, and people are now buying fragrances that work for ourselves, rather than somebody else. Traditionally fragrance has been marketed towards attracting others, but I wasn’t thinking about who you’re going to attract when I created these scents – I actually thought about how they would make you feel. I said, ‘What do you want to feel? What does that evoke in you? What does that little spritz of joy and protection make you feel?’
GRAZIA: It’s so interesting, because during the pandemic everyone just assumed that people wouldn’t bother with fragrance, but it continued to be so popular.
YS: Yes! And it’s because people started wearing it at home, just for themselves. It provides a real connection to self, which is what I think so many people experienced during the pandemic.
GRAZIA: So there are five scents – talk us through them.
YS: I always start with the green one, Vyrao kind of means green, it’s a Latin verb – I Am Verdant, I am vigorous, I sprout green growth – and this is the one that does really smell green, it’s like the scent of starting over. It’s about transformation and elimination, so it’s very, very green, luscious, beautiful and alive. It’s quite energetic but also kind of calming. It’s got bergamot, cyclamen, frankincence, iris absolute and orange flower, and we chose every ingredient based on what it can do for your emotions. Bergamont is very uplifting, while iris is very cleansing. I always feel like if you’ve had a bit of a shitty a couple of days and just want to spray something to start new, it’s a good one for that.
YS: The next scent is Free 00. This one is the one that’s about liberation and sensuality, it’s like a summer holiday. If you like summery scents, this one is the most fresh and light. It’s got a bit of vanilla and jasmine, lemon, mandarin, orange flower, sandalwood and waterlily. It’s also the most universally loved from the range because it’s very delicious, almost like a lemon cake. But it’s sexy, it’s about sensuality.
YS: Then there’s Witchy Woo, which is about courage and creativity. It’s much richer and earthier than the others, it’s the deepest and probably the most complex scent. It’s the empowering scent, and it’s also quite magical if you ask me. It’s beautiful on the skin and I’m very drawn to it – I seem to wear it the most. A lot of great creatives love this scent.
YS: Then there’s Magnetic 70. All the scents are androgynous, but this one is traditionally probably the most masculine, because it’s the most woody and there are no florals. It’s vetiver, cedar-wood, frankincense, angelica seed, juniper wood and elemi, for attraction – it’s about attracting good things to you. It’s really very spiritual and when I wear it, it feels like having an orb of protection around me. It’s very powerful, I just adore wearing it.
YS: The last one is Georgette, which is probably the most personal one to me. I named it after my grandmother. I wanted to create a rose scent that was a little bit more androgynous. I was thinking about man-woman, boy-girl, strength and softness, so it’s Turkish rose mixed with black tobacco and a bit of guaiac wood with violet leaf, but it’s still classic and beautiful. It’s about soft love, it’s the one that people say really opens their hearts. You can also mix and layer the scents, which is so fun, but this one is the most precious in my mind.
YS: Our fragrances are 90 per cent natural. We use the world’s most precious oils and organic sugar cane alcohol, which means no pesticides, no fertilisers, so we are much more natural than pretty much anything you’ll see in the space. Some people will say, ‘Oh, but my other fragrance I wore lasts for like three days on my skin’ but obviously I know that’s because it’s totally synthetic. So I have to do a bit of education around the fact that these are much more natural, so that you can reapply again, they might not sit on the skin for three days. I’m also trying to educate on the quality of the oils we’re using, and they’ve made it such a high level and I really put a lot into them. There’s also a Herkimer diamond crystal in every single bottle, which is the conduit for the energy. They’re charged by my energist in Hawaii, who charges them with chant, prayer and intention.
GRAZIA: How does it feel seeing Vyrao launch in Australia at MECCA?
YS: It’s incredible! It’s very special for me as a proud Aussie. And we’ve got a huge wall display next to BYREDO [in MECCA’s George Street Sydney flagship store], which is like wow. I actually worked with quite a few fragrance brands in my fashion career. I launched Frederic Malle into the UK, and I also helped to launch Escentric Molecules into Browns when I was there. So to be here next to them and some of the biggest brands in the world, after only 11 months of being in business, is blowing my mind.
GRAZIA: You sound surprised by the success of the brand, did you have doubts that it would work?
YS: I did think it would work, otherwise I wouldn’t have put my heart and soul and life savings into it! But when I was creating the scents, I didn’t know if people would resonate with the healing part. I knew that they were beautiful fragrances because everyone I was testing them on loved at least two or three – not one person didn’t find a scent that they loved! I think I tested more than 100 people during COVID and I could tell that we had something in the scents that people were connecting with. I wasn’t sure if people would really understand the other part of it, which is more than just the fragrance, but they’ve really responded. So yeah, I did think it was gonna work, but it’s truly been better than I even thought it could be.
GRAZIA: So what’s next for Vyrao?
YS: We’ve already launched candles in the UK, which will arrive at MECCA in August. We’ve also launched the most incredible incense, which everyone tells me is the best they’ve ever used. We made an incense based on our Verdant and Witchy scents, and we also created a new incense called Ember – it smells a bit like a burning wood fire, and it clears the energy of your house like sage to welcome good energy. And I can’t talk about it yet, but something really major is coming later on – we’re going into different categories, all with wellbeing at the heart and benefits to make you feel a bit better.
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