“When you travel, you have this ability to lose yourself a little bit.” —Anne McClain, MCMC Fragrances

Anne McClain’s first fragrance evolved from her memories of a few months living in Nepal: the smell of jasmine, the lingering scent of incense lit each day by the mother of the family with whom she stayed. Anne is the founder and creative director behind the Brooklyn-based fragrance brand MCMC Fragrances, which she now runs with her sister, Katie. This particular perfume, botanicalsNoble, swirls Indian jasmine with Haitian vetiver to channel the spiritual and sensory elements she remembers from Nepal.

“It was a transformative time for me,” she said.

Travel provides the basis for most of Anne’s scents. Since graduating from the Grasse Institute of Perfumery in 2009 (read more about Grasse), Anne has bottled nine fragrances to sell, each a careful combination of tangible ingredients and abstract components. Seven of these scents comprise, fittingly, MCMC’s Stories Collection.

“Most of my inspiration comes from travel, and within that travel, people and nature,” Anne said.

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Fragrance lab

Sometimes the connection is explicit: there’s the earthy yet sea-kissed fragrance called Maui; another, breezier scent named Maine. Others are more ambiguous, like Hunter, a mixture of tobacco, Bourbon vanilla, and fir that reminds us of an old, distinguished dive bar furnished in cedar.

All of Anne’s fragrances gain depth with personal stories. Hunter was inspired by an old friend and adventures in Vermont. Maine represents Anne’s memory of falling in love with her now-husband over a long day on the coast.

MCMC Fragrances’ Humanity Project brings a charitable aspect to Anne’s work. Each year, she volunteers with her team and creates a scent based on the experience. Proceeds from these scents go back to those organizations. So far, she has three: AMARA and SAVANN from a project in Cambodia, and the third from a project in Mexico.

Right now, Anne is wrapped up in her latest Humanity Project (this year she’s teaching a 2013September24FeaturedArtisanHumanityFragrancessix-week perfume course for teenage girls) and a cologne for men. She’s also a proud new mother of a baby boy.

“Babies have such a good natural smell—I don’t want to cover it with anything else!” she laughs.

Once things settle down, Anne plans to launch a new collection in 2014. Now that she’s told her stories, she’s not sure what’s next, but with every scent she creates, she hopes to evoke a sense of empowerment in its beholder.

“I really want people to feel comfortable in the fragrance they put on. Whenever you see a perfume ad it’s always physically pleasing and sensual, and that’s really only one element of perfume. It’s a great side benefit, but I view perfume more as clothing—you can feel comfortable in different ways,” Anne said. “I want people to feel [the fragrance] represents a part of themselves, but maybe it’s free or fun.”

Photos courtesy of MCMC Fragrances