Former Follain VP Cristina Bagozzi Launches Mood-Enhancing Clean Fragrance Brand Emmotiv
When Cristina Bagozzi was 11, she moved from Romania to the United States with her parents, who were fleeing their home country’s economic instability four years after the communist regime was toppled in the Romanian Revolution of 1989.
Relocated to the Detroit area, she didn’t understand the language or culture at first. “I struggled a lot with acclimating to this country, and I had to suppress my emotions for a long time,” recounts Bagozzi. “As I grew older, I wanted to explore embracing how we feel and even saying the words ‘joy’ or ‘love.’”
That exploration and Bagozzi’s perennial passion for fragrance led her to launch Emmotiv, a clean fine fragrance brand designed to enhance emotions with wearable scents. It premiered on Nov. 11 with four fragrances—Joy Rush, Love Euphoric, Calm Soul and Cozy Reverie—priced at $78 for full-size 50-ml. bottles and $28 for travel-size 8-ml. vials. A discovery set with 2-ml. samples of the four fragrances is $25.
“There’s been a shift in how we perceive and talk about fragrance with the idea that it’s more focused on the internal and intimate experience of fragrance rather than just the external, superficial experience of it,” says Bagozzi. “That’s where I’ve always believed fragrance has potential, and I wanted to bring that to life. I don’t even consider fragrance beauty. I know it’s part of beauty because you put it on your skin, but, for me, it’s more about wellness and self-care.”
The idea of fragrance as wellness and a mood enhancer isn’t merely a theory. Bagozzi, a former VP and head of the owned brand business at clean beauty retailer Follain and brand manager at beauty chain Bath & Body Works, haircare company Living Proof and beauty company Avon, passed the idea and her concept for Emmotiv by retailers prior to developing the brand to validate them—and the retailers responded that she was spot-on.
She also vetted two versions of each fragrance with 30 hand-picked fragrance-adoring testers to determine which version to introduce. Bagozzi strove for fragrances that could be broadly commercial while having strong personalities. With fruity floral Joy Rush, she elected to sell the version of the two concocted by Claude Dir, a master performer at fragrance producer Mane, that polarized the testers. “I really wanted there to be an appreciation for the artistry behind how it was created, and I didn’t want it to be recognizable,” says Bagozzi.
Across the Emmotiv’s range, she elaborates, “The fragrances use ingredients and notes known to evoke specific emotions. I worked with talented perfumers in traditional perfumery, and they interpreted the notes to add layers to them so the fragrances wear like perfumes. It’s not an aromatherapy line where you have like three notes.” The emotion-evoking ingredients and notes are detailed on the brand’s online product pages.
Along with Dir, Emmotiv teamed up with Gino Percontino, a perfumer at Mane, for musky floral Cozy Reverie, and Patricia Choux, another perfumer at Mane, for spicy amber Love Euphoric and woody amber Calm Soul. Bagozzi predicts Cozy Reverie will be an early bestseller. “This is not a sitting by the fire cozy,” she says. “This is more of a, I just did my skincare or got out of the bath, and I need something super indulgent to top off my ritual fragrance. It’s very ethereal and dreamy.”
“I don’t even consider fragrance beauty. I know it’s part of beauty because you put it on your skin, but, for me, it’s more about wellness and self-care.”
Bagozzi predicts Calm Soul will be a close second to Cozy Reverie. “It’s not the type of calm people imagine sitting by the water or going to the ocean, it’s a much deeper interpretation. If you were going to go to a meditation retreat in the middle of the forest, that is what the scent is like versus going to the Caribbean. It’s a little bit more niche,” she says. “People are going to instantly feel grounded when they try it.”
Bagozzi invested $25,000 from her savings to build Emmotiv, excluding inventory, and she readied the brand for launch over a roughly 11-month period. She turned to Maria Troconis, founder of the branding studio Grafikisto, to help her with Emmotiv’s elevated, contemporary and simple design. The brand relies on labels instead of screen printing and standard bottles instead of custom bottles to minimize expenses.
“I didn’t have the luxury of two to three years of lead time. I knew I needed to get to market much faster. Otherwise, I needed to go back to the workforce and get a job,” says Bagozzi. “I ended up parallel pathing what people usually do in sequence. That doesn’t mean I took shortcuts with the products.”
In particular, Bagozzi emphasizes she didn’t take shortcuts with fragrance formulations. She points out Emmotiv is compliant with European Union cosmetic regulations and discloses its complete ingredient deck despite the regulatory framework in the U.S. allowing fragrance brands to conceal ingredients for trade secret purposes. She mentions the brand’s prices reflect the quality of its formulations, but they aren’t exorbitant to encourage regular usage.
“A much bigger part of my cost is the fragrances rather than the packaging—and that’s a strategic decision,” says Bagozzi. “I want these fragrances to be something people can use every day. I don’t want them to be a precious treat kept on a pedestal and used once a month, so I didn’t want to be $100-plus up to $200, but I still have a business to run.”
Emmotiv is kicking off in direct-to-consumer distribution. However, Arlington, Mass.-based Bagozzi envisions the brand entering local boutiques, clean beauty and wellness retailers, and larger beauty specialty chains. For its initial year of availability, Emmotiv’s goal is to become profitable.
Bogazzi doesn’t have tens upon tens of thousands of dollars to pour into marketing. To spend what she has wisely, she plans to dabble in micro-influencer partnerships and social media advertising, but mostly depend on Instagram and TikTok content she generates. She’s posting weekly deep dives on Emmotiv’s Instagram account delving into the brand’s fragrances and the art and science of perfumery.
Fragrance was a surprisingly hot category coming out of the pandemic. Last year, market research firm The NPD Group estimates U.S. prestige fragrance sales jumped 49%, representing the highest category growth in U.S. prestige beauty. Prestige fragrance growth has continued this year, but has been slower. Motivated at least partially by the growth, several beauty industry veterans are joining Bagozzi in leaping into the category with a new brand. Among them are ex-Too Faced and Perricone MD CMO Daniel Giles, founder of Perfumehead, Proven Skincare COO Luke Weston, co-founder of Noteworthy, and Wander Beauty co-founder and CEO Divya Gugnani, founder of forthcoming brand 5 SENS.
“The fact that we were all stuck at home for two years really changed the relationship we have with fragrance,” says Bagozzi. “The fragrance space is seeing signs of shifting. Obviously, the major players are still the traditional players we have always seen, but, at the indie level, there’s a lot of exciting activity around different ways to think about fragrance.”