Global Village

Memoir – Memories Unfolded

Who are you Terrance Pratt and what’s Memoir?

I’m a husband, a father, a creative, and an entrepreneur among other things. Memoir Fragrances is my autobiography in scented form. I watched the movie Love Jones in 1997 and it inspired my move to Chicago in 1999 to attend graduate school. The Love Jones aesthetic created a rich cultural landscape in Chicago that included poetry, Chicago Steppin (a ballroom dance), music, art, and so much more. I immersed myself in as much of that culture as possible and those lived experiences evolved into the scented chapters of each Memoir fragrance.

Tell us a bit about your childhood, professional career and the road to launching a fragrance company.

I grew up in a small town called Kalamazoo, Michigan with my mother and older sister. Our life was pretty tough but I escaped through television, sports, and music. I went to live with my father when I was 12 and this is when my passion for scents started. My dad had a nice collection of the best scents of his day and he’d let me pick one each day to wear to school.

Professionally, I started my career as a psychotherapist for children and families and made a mid-career switch to Advertising Sales. I matriculated from the sales side of media to creative directing and producing branded content for many of the world’s largest brands.

In 2020, I started my own creative marketing company called Culture Loupe, headquartered in Chicago. I used my creative resources at Culture Loupe to support the development of Memoir.

Memoir Fragrance’s was born in concept in 2013. I worked on the brand for 9 years before officially launching in September of 2022. As a creative director, the story of a brand, product, piece of content or whatever, is the central connection point with the tribe of consumers that you’re cultivating. I wanted the story of Memoir to be cohesive from the packaging, materials, and scents, to the digital and social channels. Navigating the fragrance industry is difficult, so it took longer than expected. My vendors are based all over the world, minimum order quantities are high, and finding perfumers or perfume houses feels impossible in the beginning. As the saying goes, “A delay is not a denial,” and I kept pushing until I figured it out.

How were you introduced to the fragrance industry?

I was introduced to the fragrance industry as a collector. I thought I knew everything about fragrances until a girl I was dating asked me if I knew about Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille. Niche and Prive’ perfumes were just starting to take off and once I tapped in I became obsessed. I studied every thing fragrance I could get my hands on.

We’ve heard about your extensive fragrance collection, how did you start?

I think it’s important to state that I’m naturally obsessed with scents. Not just perfumes, I smell flowers, plants, wood, anything. Smelling things is a weird obsession that I have. At first I started collecting fragrance houses. That developed into curating scents by certain perfumers. Then I learned of the various fragrance categories … gourmands, fougères, chypre’s, etc. So I first started collecting out of pure enjoyment, and then I started collecting for research. That developed into searching for wild rabbit’s and before you know it there are 1,000 fragrances on your shelf.

Most people are pleased with looking good and smelling good. What made you want to venture into creating your own line of fragrance?

I was collecting fragrances as a hobby and I’d become pretty proud of my collection. One day I was chatting with a mentor and he said, “I’m not really impressed by your collection.” I wasn’t used to that reaction so I asked him to explain. He said, “You’re a creator not a consumer, I’d be impressed if you created your own line.” That planted a seed for me. Then, I was working on a Nissan campaign and the communications director said she wanted me to curate a scent for the new Nissan Maxima launch. She never followed up but me thinking that she would encouraged me to bring my scents into fruition. I started sharing my scents with friends and family and I got an incredible reception. One of those scents made it into the line as, “A Street In Bronzeville.”

The names of each scent is clearly intentional tell us more about that. How do you come up with these names. Does the name come before or after creating the scent?

The names of the scents are inspired by uniquely  Chicago moments that also lend themselves to my personal narrative. GYPSY EYES for instance was the imaginary book Darius Lovehall wrote in the movie Love Jones, which happens to be my favorite film. A Street in Bronzeville is named after Gwendolyn Brook’s first novel, but Bronzeville also happens to be where I was living when I came up with the idea to create Memoir. It was also where I lived when I met my wife. My newest scent, TIME TRAVELIN is named after the first song on Common’s ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ album as a tribute to Fela Kuti. That album was so rich in culture and creativity that it became deeply personal for me. Each scented chapter connects to Chicago, Black culture, and me!

To that end, the name comes before the scent. Everything starts with the story for me. Once the story is locked, I think of how the story should make people feel and I work to create a scent that captures that feeling.

What is the dream collaboration or collaborator for you in or out of the fragrance space?

My dream collaborations would be with either Bertrand Duchaufour, Sidonie Lancesseur, or Frank Voelkl. They’ve created many of my favorite scents and Sidonie and Bertrand work really well with boozy notes, rum in particular, which is my favorite note.

As far as regular people. I think collabs with Common or Lorenz Tate would be dope to bring the narrative full circle.

Are there any plans to open up stand alone retail shops ?

The immediate goal is to scale from high-end boutiques to big box retail. I could see a stand alone store in 5 to 7 years.

If Memoir was a retailer, clothing company or celebrity who would it be, in that order.

I love this question because I think about this often for my mood boards. It’s not just flattery when I say The Brooklyn Circus and also Fear of God. They’re both retail muses. I think Ouigi Theodore and Jerry Lorenzo do an amazing job of juxtaposing culture and sophistication. Their personal and retail brands are unapologetically black and inclusive at the same time. These brands blend authentic story telling with a timeless aesthetic. That’s our aim as well.

What’s next for the brand, let’s say the brands 100yr plan?

Bringing fragrance to the people. We aren’t selling sex or ostentatious luxury. We’re creating connection, conversation, community, and accessibility. We’re championing Black love, which is the bedrock for Black family and you’ll see that narrative shine through more clearly in the campaigns we’re developing. Scent connects people through conversation, compliments, and collective expression.

Because there are no Black celebrity perfumers, fragrances houses, or fragrance and flavor companies, the biggest and the brightest of Black culture (I.e., Beyoncé, Rihanna, Pharrell, Usher, and Virgil Abloh among others) have all launched their scents through general market channels. I can envision a world that looks and feels very different, and my 100 yr plan is to create the building blocks to bring it to fruition.