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Article: American Express

American Express

Made by Members: Harlem Candle Company

An entrepreneur uses smell to channel her illustrious neighborhood’s past and present

Fragrances can be inspired by many things: moods, landscapes, music. Candlemaker Teri Johnson takes many of her cues from the past and present of her surroundings in Harlem.

Johnson, a Houston native, has made Harlem her home for the past 15 years. And she’s found a treasure trove of inspiration in the figures associated with the early 20th century’s Harlem Renaissance, a period in American history whose legacy is still felt today, from pop culture to the national political stage to, the two-bedroom apartment in which Teri Johnson designs her scented candles.

“I was always obsessed with the Harlem Renaissance,” Johnson says. “The style and the elegance, the pride and the art, the culture and the literary movement. I thought it would be really cool to use these jazz musicians and writers as my muses.” One example: Josephine Baker. Johnson imagined how the legendary performer’s boudoir might have smelled; the result is a blend of bergamot and citrus top notes, jasmine and rose middle notes, and a sweet finish of sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, and vanilla.

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