Amidst my conversation with Alexia P. Hammonds, one word that came up that’s been stuck in my mind since is “legacy.” As the first Black woman to develop a fragrance line in Grasse, France, the perfume capital of the world, Hammonds is a self-proclaimed “fragrance snob” who shared how her interests in hair maintenance and scents turned into the idea for a feel-good product you didn’t know was missing from your routine. As we spoke more, Hammonds discussed what it feels like to solidify her company, “Eat. Sweat. Undress.” against its competitors in the lifestyle and beauty market, and her mission towards becoming the go-to brand for hair fragrance mists.
Being someone who grew up with a love for fragrance from the time she was young, Hammonds was able to turn her affinity for “wellness and aesthetics,” into a groundbreaking and legacy-defining business. As a child, the entrepreneur noted being put onto the fragrance game by the women in her life: her mother, grandmother, and her aunties. Because she was so enveloped in the world of all things scented, she even recalled being gifted “books on how to learn how you make fragrances, how the brain responds to them, and the sensory aspect of scents” by her mother.
As she jet-setted across the U.S and abroad gaining over 15 years of experience in fashion, beauty, and fitness, the entrepreneur emphasized that “Eat. Sweat. Undress.” was developed out of a need she felt was missing in the market. With her point of view always being framed by how she interpreted things visually and aromatically, the founder decided to join her collective interests and get to work on a product that would nourish someone’s hair, but also leave it smelling bright, sexy, bold, or however they needed to in order make them feel their best.
“I’m a fragrance snob that’s super into wellness, aesthetics, and just making women feel really confident,” Hammonds says of herself. “I brought everything that I love into one hub because there was nothing like it I could find that existed. You know what they always say, ‘If you can’t find what you like, create it.’ And that’s what I did with ‘Eat. Sweat. Undress.'”
“I realized I really love hair perfumes. With less than 70 brands on the market, I really felt as though I had a wide-open lane to make my line the standard and staple of hair fragrance mists,” she adds. “There’s none on the market like ours. I added hair care benefits to my fragrances so that I could have the best of both worlds in one product and people could see what our difference is. That’s really how I came about doing the hair mists, I really wanted to blend fine fragrance, and high-end hair care ingredients in one product.”
Speaking more on the benefits that make her hair fragrance mists so special, and how “Eat. Sweat. Undress.” is different from competitors, Hammonds began by sharing that her fragrances include two specialty ingredients, keratin and cashmilian, the former of which is a structural protein already found in our hair that helps keep it strong and healthy, and the latter being a softening and hair identical synthetic protein.
“They seal the hair shaft, they close the cuticle, and they add moisture and shine,” Hammonds said. “And when I say they add moisturizer, I know women like me who have 4C hair and get blowouts, when they hear ‘moisture’ they think frizz. I don’t want them to think frizz. The two just add a shine to your hair so that it doesn’t look dry. It really seals the hair shaft and makes it look very silky while adding beautiful fragrance to your hair.”
Additionally, Hammonds says she’s the only Black-owned company selling hair fragrances and the only small business. Comparing herself to “those big department store brands,” the founder said she “bought one of each” of the hair fragrances her competition had. For her, when it came to the lack of bottle sizes offered and the variety of scents, Hammonds noted much of what was on the market felt like an “afterthought” of the companies who were pushing those mists. Now, conversely, she’s opted to sell a Discovery Set on her site, so that customers can get a feel for her formula and the scents she carries before purchasing a regular-sized bottle if they so choose.
“I’m very familiar with what they offer,” the entrepreneur said of her competition. “Plus, I was into it way before I decided to go this route. I knew I could create a fragrance that was so much better, but also has hair care ingredients. Yes, fragrance an ancillary beauty item, but with ours, there are also benefits of haircare while you use it, which is an added bonus.”
“Our product is also safe for the skin. How long the scent lasts depends on your pH. The important thing to note is that there’s a big difference between regular perfume and cologne versus hair perfume,” she says, “I hear all the time ‘Why would I get this when I can spray perfume I already have?’ You really don’t want to do that because the alcohol content is so much higher in perfume, even if you get eau de parfum which is a much higher quality than eau de toilet. The formulation is just too harsh for the hair and it ends up drying out the hair strands and making it brittle.”
As she told me about her own formulation process, Hammonds and I discussed what it was like for her to be the first Black woman to create a fragrance line in Grasse. According to her, the experience was really exciting because she was received well, and welcomed into the industry with open arms by the French. Even though she had to pick up some information along the way, she noted always being prepared and timely with how she communicated everything she wanted as helping her make some breakthroughs in the long run.
“As a Black small business owner, it was important for me to come out of the gate ‘varsity’ — I didn’t want to come out of the gate ‘junior varsity,'” she says. “I knew having this product being developed in Grasse, France would already give me a certain edge over my competition and credibility. The lab that I work with and the perfumer, they were so welcoming because they hadn’t developed a hair mist yet, and they loved my concept. It usually takes people a long time to figure out their scents but I knew exactly what I wanted going into things. Because I have an affinity for fragrance, I knew the notes I wanted, I knew the top part bases that I wanted, so I made sure I had my stuff together before I walked in the door to work with these people.”
“I knew more than the average person about fragrance because I’m a more of a fragrance snob than the average consumer is, but realized I had a huge learning curve when it came to being in the business of fragrance,” she adds. “All that is to say, they were very welcoming. I didn’t feel like there was any hardship for me. Everyone was just very excited. Because of how they felt about me, they cut me a huge break when it came to their minimums and units per order. They cut me a huge break.”
As we wrapped up, we talked about the way Hammonds has opened the door for other women who dream of being in the fragrance game just through the work she’s been able to accomplish with her connections in France. In the end, that’s what it all really seems to boil down to for Hammonds when it comes to legacy. The entrepreneur almost got emotional sharing how invested she is in “Eat. Sweat. Undress.,” and building her brand to not only stand against its competitors but truly be a mainstream and domineering force in the market. Even though she described herself as being quite “humble,” speaking on how she’s been able to make history by successfully being the first Black woman to create a fragrance line in Grasse, Hammonds says, “I think it’s incredible and something I can be proud of,” later adding, “I always wanted to leave a legacy.”
“I really feel like I’m going to be able to leave my own little legacy, like an Estee Lauder,” the entrepreneur continued. “This whole lifestyle brand that I’m doing, I’m really doing it. It gives me chills. I’m really proud of myself because it’s a lot of work but I’m so happy because every day feels like playtime. That doesn’t mean that things don’t get stressful or I don’t get upset about things, but I’m so happy because I’m literally working and fulfilling a dream that I had. I understand that a lot of people have dreams that they don’t execute, so it feels so good to know that I’m really living my dream and executing it every day. With the hair fragrance creating history, I think that’s so powerful.”
If you’re wondering what scent to try out first, the history-maker recommends one of her bestsellers, Carnal 4. According to her, the “very sexy smoky fragrance” is her personal favorite because it’s the scent she created the entire line around. Coming out of an intense and steamy whirlwind romance from her past, Hammonds said that Carnal 4 (and her additional fragrances in general) are easy for people to connect with because of how relatable the experiences are that the fragrances are birthed out of. As her top tip for usage, the founder suggested either spraying her product through your hairbrush or comb and brushing it through your hair that way. Her personal favorite method though is to spray her product a couple of inches away from the hair.
“There are two different ways. You can either spray your hairbrush or comb and brush it through your hair or spray six to eight inches away. Now because we recommend spraying six to eight inches away from your head, it lasts all day. You just do a couple of sprays. I overdo it because I love it, so I also flip my hair over, make sure I go underneath my hair and part in between my hair. People notice it all day and they’re like ‘What is that? What perfume are you wearing?'”
To learn more about Hammonds, her fragrance line, and some of the other lifestyle products “Eat. Sweat. Undress.” has to offer, check out her site here.