Discovering Johanna Monange’s 21-gram salute to creative individuality

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To every man there openeth
A Way, and Ways, and a Way.
And the High Soul climbs the High way,
And the Low Soul gropes the Low,
And in between, on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro.
– The Ways, William Arthur Dunkerley (John Oxenham)

How much do you reckon your soul weighs? That is not such a nonsensical question as it may sound. For in 1907, Dr. Duncan MacDougall, an American physician from Haverhill, Massachusetts, determined the weight of the human soul to be precisely 21 grams.

I won’t go into the science (or otherwise) of that proposition here (except to say it is based on the notion that the body loses 21 grams at death). Suffice to say that the good doctor’s theory caused huge controversy then, much debate since and even inspired an acclaimed 2003 movie called 21 Grams starring Sean Pean and Naomi Watts.

That’s not all it inspired. Yesterday at T Galleria Beauty By DFS, Macau, I met the Founder & CEO of a new fragrance house called Maison 21G. Her name is Johanna Monange and her creation represents one of the most exciting new concepts I have seen enter the travel retail channel in many years. Look out for my full and fascinating feature coming soon on The Moodie Davitt

I was already familiar with Maison 21G, having been a judge in the excellent Retail in Asia’s UPSTARTS Awards last year (so was DFS Group Chairman & CEO Benjamin Vuchot). Johanna’s concept triumphed against stiff competition in the Brand Experience Category, awarded for achievement in transforming the customer experience.

Maison 21G got my vote on that occasion and my decision was reaffirmed after Johanna took me through that customer experience yesterday at the brand’s vibrant pop-up with DFS in Macau. As I noted in a recent feature, this is a splendid, cutting-edge store packed with newness, innovation and concepts designed to appeal to Gen Z consumers.

Maison 21G combines all those attributes and plenty of other virtues, notably an admirable and absolute commitment to sustainability. The concept breaks with convention and gives consumers direct access to haute couture perfumery oils, alongside an AI scent personality quiz, an experiential scent bar and what amounts to an educational masterclass.

The consumer – in yesterday’s case me – is put at the heart (and soul, of course) of a wholly personalised experience, allowing them to create their own perfumes and home scents in a fun and educational way.

To launch something so daring you need to know a thing or two about perfume and few people in the world have better credentials in that regard than Johanna.

Before launching Maison 21G in late 2019, she had enjoyed more than 20 years of experience in the perfume creation industry working with Firmenich and IFF in various locations across Asia, the US and Europe.

Johanna has collaborated with renowned perfumers to create memorable scents for a stellar array of brands such as Lancôme (La Vie est Belle), Armani (Acqua di Gioia), Paco Rabanne (One Million), and YSL (L’Homme).

Maison 21G built on that knowledge but puts the onus on consumers (assisted by expert staff) to unleash their own creativity and create their own signature fragrance.

Which is precisely what I, with a little help from Johanna, set out to do. Having established through the fun personality test that I was a ‘free spirit’, she had me smell a range of scents.

At first they were labelled, then after the first cull of those I didn’t like, their identity was hidden – a blind nosing if you like.

Which one do you think the creator of ‘The website that never sleeps’ chose?

The end result was a beautifully zesty blend of ginger, bergamot, vetiver with a touch of lavender. As I write, I’ve just tried it on again and I love everything about it, from the fresh but complex scent to the petite 21-gram container (the size of the personalised bottles). Most of all though, I like it because it’s all mine. The scent of my soul.

A 21-gram salute to creative genius (Johanna’s, not mine) and individuality

“21 grams is the weight of your soul, and at our Maison we aim to encapsulate the scent of your soul in a 21 grams bottle,” says Johanna. “Scents made by you, for you.”

They certainly are. Now, what to name my creation? With my unrelenting travel schedule in mind I considered Flying Kiwi but that’s too utilitarian. I wanted something more evocative.

And I found it. With a nod not only to my name but also to one of my favourite rock groups of yesteryear, and the three hours or so I spent on the water getting to Macau and back plus the return ferry rides between Discovery Bay and Hong Kong yesterday, there could only be one answer.

Moodie Blue is born. A true travel retail exclusive. Made by me, for me.

A group of KOLs set about creating their own scents