Alicia Tsai Interview: Founder of Aerangis Luxury Candle Brand

What motivated you to start Aerangis and pursue a career in the fragrance industry?
I’ve always been interested in fragrances and am very intrigued by scents; whether a night-fragrant flower, the concrete aroma on the street after the afternoon rain, or my mother’s scented skin care products, I tend to relate my memories to scents. As a kid, I didn’t think of it as a career path, but when I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, it not only widened my understanding of cosmetics and fragrance but also guided me into this profession.  Also, as a passionate storyteller, it makes all the sense for me to tell stories (whether mine or someone else’s stories) through fragrances. 

Can you share more about the connection you discovered between scent and memory during your childhood experiences in your grandfather's greenhouse?
Aerangis is the name of the orchid my grandfather gave me when I was nine. The particular moment he presented me with the orchid is what introduced me to the power of scent memories, which is the inspiration behind the brand. The Aerangis orchid is a star-shaped flower with a creamy white color, so it is unassuming but elegant, and it has a clean, crisp scent that is especially fragrant at night. It is not as common as the typical types of orchids you usually see. I decided to use the orchid as the name of the company as a tribute to my grandfather and that moment when one very unique scent changed my life forever. It is also a reminder for myself that I want the brand to be like an Aerangis orchid: unassuming, simple but elegant, and able to capture the memories and positive impressions on anyone who experiences it.

How did your education at the Fashion Institute of Technology's cosmetics and fragrance program and your work with industry thought leaders in New York shape your approach to creating fragrances?
My degree in Cosmetic and Fragrance Marketing from FIT gave me a solid foundation of the knowledge I needed to enter the field. The experiences of working with industry leaders give me a more realistic approach to bridging the industry’s perspective and consumer expectations.  In the end, when we create our fragrances, we want to make sure each scent is crafted authentically to tell our scent stories while letting the artistic creativity of the master perfumers shine through. Sometimes, they may not be the most conventional scent in the market, but they are true to our storytelling identity, and we are very proud of them. 

What sets Aerangis apart from other luxury candle brands, and how do you incorporate standards of being cruelty-free, plant-based, non-toxic, and eco-conscious into your products?
From the very beginning, as we started the brand, we knew we didn’t want to create just another candle brand but candles that tell stories that subtly showcase my Taiwanese heritage yet fit into the New York modernity, as I see myself as a New Yorker after almost 20 years of living here. The candles also have to invoke memories and tell the scent stories. After more than two years, we finally launched the brand online in 2020.

Sustainability is one of the core values of our brand. The biodegradable seeded paper is an effort to maximize the usage of the candle packaging and inspire our customers to repurpose the jars by planting something pleasant and creating an ongoing scent journey. For the other parts of the packaging, we carefully select materials that are all recyclable, if not biodegradable, so they don’t add burden to our planet.

For the ceramic jars, we specifically sourced them from a historical kiln from Taiwan. The handcrafting process makes it hard to reduce the production time, but this is our way to support local artisans, keep the traditional craftsmanship alive, and infuse a part of my Taiwanese heritage into our products.  

Besides committing to being 100% plastic-free, Aerangis is also a proud member of 1% for the Planet, a global organization that exists to ensure our planet and future generations thrive. 
We believe that true luxury is a result of a conscious commitment to handcrafted craftsmanship, high-quality materials, and uncompromising sustainability. It is our goal to create products that bring our customers 100% luxury and 0% guilt. 

Could you provide an example of how fragrance can be used to tell a personal story or evoke specific emotions?
Instead of naming the candles after the fragrance notes, we named them after the story that inspired the scent. For example, our newest candle, No. 50 Soiree Noire, is a bespoke candle created to celebrate a classic black-tie event in the library of a private club in New York City. The candle captures the festive elements of lush bouquets that dress the dinner tables with black rose notes, the endless sparkling champagne cocktails with black cassis and lemon twist, and the seductive jazz music in the background with the powdery notes of musk. Each note is selected to represent a part of the evening, but they tell the same story of this specific celebration, which we name it after.  In other words, the name is the essence of the scent story, which works perfectly whether they’re stories from us in the Signature Collection or stories from our clients in the Bespoke Collection. 

In what ways do you believe your entrepreneurship journey and success with Aerangis contribute to empowering women in the business world?
I consider myself lucky that before I started this journey, many strong and courageous women already paved the way, started their companies, and became very successful, which is truly inspiring. I hope by being another woman entrepreneur and telling my stories through our scents, I’m joining the league and being a visible role model for other women aspiring to enter the business world. Seeing successful women entrepreneurs can inspire and motivate others to pursue their own ventures or entrepreneurial goals they might not have considered before.

This journey also allows me to provide job opportunities specifically geared towards empowering women. This includes hiring women in leadership positions, creating mentorship programs, and fostering an inclusive work environment. 

As a successful woman entrepreneur, what inspiring quote or message would you like to share with women who are striving to build their own careers and make a mark in their respective industries?
"Embrace your uniqueness, trust in your abilities, and never underestimate the power of your voice. As you navigate your journey as a woman in business, remember that every challenge is an opportunity for growth, and every success is a testament to your resilience. Be fearless in pursuing your dreams, support and uplift other women along the way, and know that your presence and contributions are not only valuable but essential. Dare to dream big, work hard, and let your brilliance shine!"