Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah

Style and passion are combined in Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah’s perfume venture The Fragrance Kitchen. A hugely successful entrepreneur, and relation of the Kuwait Royal Family, who has revolutionized the mode of luxury fashion in his home of Kuwait and across the Middle East, Al-Sabah has recently focused on developing his lifelong enthusiasm for quality scents. Since watching his grandmother mixing elixirs in her kitchen, Al-Sabah gathers influence for scent creations from his surroundings, those he loves and his extensive global travels. A unique sense of taste and nose brings his experiences to life through perfume that is rooted in a story.

The Fragrance Kitchen founded in 2011, combines Al-Sabah’s perseverance and creativity that brought luxury brands to his department store Villa Moda. Launched in Shamiya, Kuwait, it has quickly expanded and is found in luxury establishments in vibrant cities around the world. Al-Sabah has also built a hugely successful social media presence that allows him to share his exploration, business and fun view of the world with millions. His ventures continuously prompt the philosophy of The Fragrance Kitchen, ‘East Meets West’, that informs and inspires diverse communities around the world.

Mood of Living Q&A

Mood of Living: What inspired you to become involved in fashion and fragrance?
Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah: I have loved the fashion business since I was young and wanted to bring designers from all over the globe to the Middle East. My family was alarmed at first as this was not a traditional career path for a member of the royal family!

MoL: Where did you learn your craft for creating fragrance?
SMA: I began in the kitchen with my maternal grandmother. She taught me how to mix essential oils and raw ingredients to create elixirs. In the Middle Eastern culture, creating a fragrance as a wedding or housewarming gift is a cherished tradition.

MoL: Does luxury fashion function and inspire in the same way in all countries? 
SMA:
I think it really depends on the lifestyle of the citizens of their countries. For example, men in the Middle East do not often wear suits as we prefer to wear our traditional robes but we do dress in “street” clothing during our travels.

MoL: How do you see fashion and fragrance coming together? How has your career bridged the two fields? 
SMA:
The retail experience has bridged the gap between fashion and fragrance as many designers have their profitable namesake fragrance collections. But really, it’s the innovative, indie luxury retailers who have discovered the world of niche or artist fragrances. It’s a different customer base who is looking for an interesting and specific scent. They are interested in the true story or inspiration behind the scent.

MoL: What is distinctive about fragrance in Kuwait, the Gulf and Middle East?
SMA: It all depends on the personal taste. In the past, people thought that the Arab client would tend to prefer strong and oriental fragrances. This is not the case anymore. They are very international in taste yet they always tend to like long lasting fragrances.

MoL: How do you create scent?
SMA:
When I feel inspired by a person, a life event or by an ingredient, I go into the kitchen and mix oils and raw ingredients than take it to Grasse where the perfume house figures out the “recipe.” I am not a chemist but I am the nose for my brand.

The Fragrance Kitchen uses natural ingredients to create its signature scents.

MoL: The Fragrance Kitchen aims to border ‘East Meets West’. How do you bring this mission to the scents?
SMA: I want to create fragrances that marry Middle Eastern tradition with Western expertise. The Fragrance Kitchen has over 100 scents and are sold in Europe, the United States, Africa, Russia and the Middle East. With each new country launch, I always introduce an exclusive scent designed for the local culture with a Middle East twist.

MoL: What inspired you and made you determined to start The Fragrance Kitchen?
SMA:  I have always carried small vials of fragrances and friends always asked what I was wearing. When I attended the International Collections, I was recognized as the best smelling man at fashion week. Then one day I was having lunch with Tom Ford and he was discussing his hope to expand his ready-to-wear business in the Middle East after he left both Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. I advised him that launching a fragrance collection would be a better investment. I created Arabian Wood, a perfume I blended specifically for Tom Ford’s Kuwait boutique opening. The fragrance went on to become a worldwide best-seller. That success was the ‘aha” moment for me and gave me the confidence to start The Fragrance Kitchen.

MoL: What innovations is The Fragrance Kitchen making in its field? 
SMA: We have developed and sold chocolates inspired by The Fragrance Kitchen’s top selling fragrances in the Middle East. We are always developing new scents.

MoL: How has social media changed how you approach your businesses and the industries you are a part of?
SMA: Social media platforms are a great way to showcase my activities and the cultural aspects of my travels whether work or play. It is important that you know your audience. Snapchat and Instagram are very effective in communicating a brand message as long as the content is meaningful to the fan base. It is best to take breaks and set personal boundaries for yourself if privacy is important.

MoL: What advice can you give anyone interested in starting his or her own business?
SMA: Starting your own business is not for the faint of heart. You need to have a clear vision and passion for what you do. You do need a five-year plan to help guide your path and fuel growth for the future. Always surround yourself with people who know more about something than you do! Everyone owns different talents and can contribute to driving your company forward. Always believe in yourself, and take your chances.

MoL: Do you consider yourself a social enterprise? 
I utilize social media to raise awareness for many different causes. I have visited many places including war-torn countries, orphanages in need, and new commercial property developments and have covered them on Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram. I can raise awareness by developing a connection with the community through my social media and engage in social issues. It’s only enterprising if it moves the needle for the organization in some way, such as garnering donations, educating the viewers or driving tourism. I have been able to share on Snapchat my visits to nursing homes for the elderly, promote a healthy lifestyle, and support youngsters in their business ideas.

MoL: What is the best social change you’ve seen in the world since the start of your career?
SMA: Many people are mystified or scared by the Middle East countries because of the what you read in the news every day. Social Media has served as a uniting force for the citizens of the Middle East and abroad in a very positive way. I feel very proud to share my adventures with everyone and to make new connections on a daily basis. For me, social media can bring communities together in a fun-loving and friendly spirit.

MoL: What is your commitment to sustainability for the future?
SMA: Environmental issues are a big challenge for the world we currently live in and I am very committed to living in a clean environment. The majority of the ingredients, like Taif Rose and Oud, are natural and we are aiming to implement a recycling product for our TFK fragrance bottles in the future.

MoL: What scent makes you happy?
SMA: Bergamot

MoL: What music inspires you?
SMA: Traditional folklore music from different countries

MoL: What is your favorite book and why? 
SMA: The Quran, because its the only book I carry with me during all times

MoL: Where do you go for peace of mind and spirit?
SMA: Udaipur in India

MoL: How else do you lead an artistic lifestyle?
SMA: I collect art and antiques from different parts of the world. I also enjoy cooking for my friends when I have the time.

MoL: Who is an influential figure in your life?
SMA: My uncle, the late Prince of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber Ahmed Al-Sabah

MoL: What is the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
SMA: A dear friend of mine told me: Don’t burn your bridges!

Social Media

Instagram: @majedalsabah
Snapchat: majedalsabah
Twitter: @majedalsabah
Facebook: The Fragrance Kitchen