A local perfumer telling stories through scent...

Born in Västerås Sweden, Maya Njie (pronounced 'Maia N-Jai') moved to London in her late teens. Her background lies in design and photography, which she studied at the University of the Arts London. To further communicate her work, she began experimenting with the sense of smell as an added medium.
Inspired by an old family photo album from the decades before her birth, Maya set out to capture, by way of scent, these moments in time, these tropes of familial life, set within their frames. 'What did it smell like?'
The small Swedish summer house surrounded by mercurial forests, the visits to her grandparents’ sparsely furnished flat on Sunday afternoons, Uncle Lars' and Aunt Erene’s wedding...She sought to bottle the spirit connected to the classic 1970's Scandinavian idyll, combined with the soul of her esoteric Gambian heritage.

We have known Maya for many years and her fragrances have always been a favourite in our stores. We spoke with Maya intrigued to know more about how she finds balance in work and life and the importance of weaving ritual into the everyday.

Could you tell us a bit about your background?

I moved from Sweden to London 20 years ago. I came here to experience the city with all that it brings and worked for Carhartt for many years. After becoming a mum I enrolled onto LCC’s Surface Design degree which lead me down the
road of olfaction.

What made you start Maya Njie, what does Maya Njie mean?

After university I took on a pretty non creative job as building manager for an arts hub in Hackney and whilst there I would scent my reception area with fragrance that I had blended. There was a lot of interest in the fragrances and so I decided to set up a business.
"Maya Njie as a brand is a multi sensory experience that depicts my own experiences, memories and imagination"

When did you fall in love with the world of aromas & scents?

I have been drawn in by smells in all it’s forms for as long as I can remember. I would make scented candles as a child, scent my own lotions and mix room sprays using oils. Colour, form and scent has always been strongly linked in my mind.

Over the last few years, more and more people have been
buying into niche perfume brands - why do you think that is?

I believe it’s because true niche brands have the scope to be more creative than the high street brands. What’s more exciting than finding a brand that you can really relate to? Someone telling a story that hasn’t been told in that way before that you want to know more about.

What does home mean to you?

A place where I can switch off and relax. A welcoming space shared with my family and friends that reflects my journey and taste in all things sensory.

How has your notion of home changed from childhood to adult life?

It’s the same in many ways but some elements feel very distant. The way I make fragrances based on my heritage and scent memories is a definite way of linking the homes I don’t have access to as often as I’d like to such as Sweden and Gambia.

Talk to us about what it means to be creative?

"It’s an outlet for expression in different ways that is an important part of my everyday. Creativity is everywhere in life, it can be anything from whipping up a tasty breakfast, taking my camera out for the day or to doing homework with my daughter."

Talk to us about what it means to run your own business?

It’s an integral part of how I live these days, working for myself has allowed me to shape how my day to day looks and how I spend my time.
Talk to us about what hard work means to you?
Dedication and belief in what you do. Working for yourself is hard as it’s tough to switch off at times. The work/life balance gets tested a lot but I am trying to be better at drawing that line.

Talk to us about what community means to you?

Helping and supporting those around you where you can and coming together where it counts.

Talk to us about what traditions mean to you?

I have some Swedish traditions that I miss like Easter and Midsummer.. they can really make me feel home sick but I have brought in elements of them (mainly foods and decorations) that are firm staples in our London life.
Christmas 1988 at great aunt Mary’s. 

Do you have any rituals you swear by?

I burn my Gambian incense everyday without fail. It’s usually in the living room after I come home from work or in the day after a tidy. I like layering it with my own oil blends on the burner and cater it to my particular preference and mood that day.

What are your favourite scents & why?
I like a lot of different scents to be honest. I’m drawn in by woody smokey, resinous aromatic smells. Sometimes floral and sweet too at times, like the fig trees in south of Spain. Spring blooms and the burning of autumn leaves sounds cliché but it’s two of my favourite things to smell. Linked to the change of seasons maybe?

If you could take us on a trip to anywhere, where would you take us and why?

To the Swedish archipelago for a midsummers feast. We would visit a few different islands for their nature, food and drink and of course bask in the sea under the midnight sun.

What is your favourite meal to cook at home?

I like to cook a good egg breakfast, Turkish style baked eggs in tomato sauce with nicely toasted bread, herbs and salad.


Maya Njie

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