Unifrom is a Swedish fragrance house founded by Haisam Mohammed, raised by an Eritrean refugee family. Mohammed was born in Northern Sweden and grew up in the high-rises of Stockholm, Sweden, the equivalent of what urban America deems “the projects.” Moving to the Swedish high-rises in 2009, located just outside of the city center in the borough of Farsta, this place was full of cultural epithets of Africa. Food, clothing, language, religion, and most importantly, the aromas that filled the hallways and stairwells, the different scents of African traditions would inspire a young Mohammed early on.
The smell of culture and ethnicity in the tallest residential structures of Stockholm would define a purpose for the young fragrance designer. Haisam Mohammed saw a uniqueness and an opportunity to refine and highlight his heritage. A culture relocated but one that remained potent throughout his childhood, the diverse population of neighbors would blend into memories fond of Mohammed’s nose.
Unifrom is a refinement of the various aromas each hallway nook and stairwell space would capture, developed in Paris, and made in Grasse. “The smell of food [cooking] – incense [lighting], and spices being [blended] – was something that I was accustomed to as I lived in those [high-rise] houses,” Mohammed remembers. Mohammed desired to bottle that part of his life and culture into a modern art form, respectful of traditions. Mohammed wanted to own luxury as part of the African diaspora.
Into adulthood, a young businessman apart from a boy roaming the apartment building hallways, Mohammed ventured into an elitist structure that surrounded the fragrance industry. Mohammed recalls his attempts to meld pervasive ingredients into aromatic memories and sell that idea to French purveyors of fragrance. “I would embark on a perfume journey to try to highlight those scents and start a perfume house that was not inspired by the typical french botanic gardens but rather the smell inside the high-rises and distill culture through scent,” he describes.
Unifrom comes in a roll-on perfume oil case and has fragrances in solid wax form. The signature look of the Unifrom comes in roll-on pens that resemble the shiny and aspirational high-rises that would glisten along the New York City skyline. A call back to high-rises, Mohammed recognizes this as a pillar and a reflection of Unifrom’s conception.
Mohammed would accept the challenge presented by the luxury industry to design an ‘elite’ product rooted in his heritage and culture. He says, “breaking into one of the most elitist industries in the world, I’m grateful to be showcasing that a new luxury can be found in the stairwells of the high-rises and that a new and young generation is ready to introduce new creative expression to the perfume industry.”
Five signature scents have embodied the Unifrom fragrance house. Each scent is meticulously developed, representing the emotions and aromatherapy that coddled the fragrance house founder. Scents have a range of qualities reminiscent of Mohammed’s upbringing in Stockholm.
The first three fragrances are sandalwood rich; Maghrib, Limbo, and Cassis. The Maghrib has notes of apple, tobacco, incense, and sandalwood. Maghrib recalls the sunsets from the rooftops of the apartment high-rises in Stockholm where Mohammed would smell the apple and wood-rich smoke from shisha.
Limbo is a rhubarb, ylang ylang flower, hay, and sandalwood blend that produces a sense of safeness and sanctuary. A reference to the community that housed the diverse residents, blended of rhubarb, ylang-ylang, and hay essentially work in practice as opposed to in theory. With notes of plum, coconut, fig, and sandalwood, the Cassis is reminiscent of a paradise newly discovered, full of the earthy aromas of unfettered land.
The following scents differ in blend very much but have a culinary mix of aromatic ingredients. Bliss is composed of green vanilla, Rhum, tonka bean, and cast in suede leather. Bliss is the warm-hearted invite to the homes of the African diaspora “manifested in the form of hard-shelled sweets.” This fragrance queues in on vanilla, saffron, almond, and suede leather meld in the air. Inspired by ceremonial tea pouring rituals, the Dawn scent is a blend of cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, maté herb, and white musk.
Each scent is green, and Unifrom has sustainability at the helm of production. It works to minimize waste, removing all plastic package wrappings and locally sourcing as many production materials as possible. This new perfume format includes wax-based perfumes or perfume oils that are alcohol-free, vegan-based, and cruelty-free. Unifrom also designs refillable bottles and interchangeable modules into its product line.
Haisam Mohammed set out for luxury and found his ingredients right at home in the diverse high-rises of Stockholm. He brings forth the idea that luxury is a culture developed through the refinement of our environments. Mohammed has packaged his fondest memories of stairwells and hallways of immigrant-packed apartment buildings into diverse Unifrom fragrances.