The meaning of Gumamina, with perfumers Marissa Zappas & Courtney Rafuse

What happens when two talented, virally emergent indie perfumers meet? In the case of Marissa Zappas (of Annabel's Birthday Cake fame) and Courtney Rafuse of Universal Flowering, it was an empathetic collaboration of pirouettic proportions. 

Gumamina is a "manifestation of their merged fantasy scapes," taking the stage with two resplendent olfactory tributes to the transcendent, tragic beauty of the ballet Swan Lake. Odette the white swan and Odile the black swan dance in graceful contrast: effervescent floral musk vs. chocolate-infused rubber and suede. And yes, we're swooning over those swan caps.

As a committed collector of both perfumers' work, our wonderful fragrance specialist, Celina, was first in line to order Odile and Odette when Gumamina launched online to a frenzy of fanfare. When she shared the two enchanting scents with our team, we were all in. Here Celina asks Marissa and Courtney about the collaboration that produced what she describes as her "desert island" perfumes...

Celina: When I first heard your brand name, I immediately Googled the word, searching for the reference to no avail. I even tried to rearrange the letters and decipher it as if it was an anagram. It’s so fun rolling off the tongue and often elicits a confused yet captivated response by people who haven’t heard of it. Can you tell us the story of how you came up with the name “Gumamina”?

Marissa: We made it up! Courtney and I went to Brighton Beach one hot August afternoon and were listening to the Italian singer, Mina, on the way there. When we got out of the car I saw a giant green dumpster tagged, “Guma.” I just blurted out Guma-Mina. We couldn’t stop saying it and laughing and the rest is history.

Courtney: Yeah it was pretty funny how it came together. We couldn't stop laughing and making up an entire persona for her. It felt like a joke for a while but as the day went on it became VERY serious and almost spiritual. Our guiding light, Gumamina!

Celina: Being two of the indie darlings of the fragrance world, you were bound to cross paths eventually. But how did you two originally meet?

Courtney: Online! The fragrance community felt a little bit smaller even then, and we followed one another on social media for a long time before ever speaking. We started chatting about business stuff, trading insight and resources for materials and what not.

It became clear pretty quickly that we got along well, and we started talking about working on something together that was just for fun, just for us... Something to keep the initial excitement from when we started this work alive. Things naturally fell into place, and it was obvious we had to do more than just tinker around together.

Celina: Swan Lake is my absolute favorite ballet and I’ve always hoped for a duo of perfumes to encompass the duality of Odette (the white swan) and Odile (the black swan).

The timing also seemed to fit perfectly with the recent “balletcore” micro-trend and “coquette” swan imagery I’ve seen a lot in the last couple years. What made you decide on the theme of Swan Lake for your first release?

Marissa: We honestly just wanted to choose a creative direction where we were creating two perfumes; we’re a duo and we wanted the perfumes to be a duo, too. We also love the movie Black Swan and are interested in more deviant forms of femininity.

Celina: Do either or both of you have a ballet background, and if so do you think that art form has influenced your olfactory medium now?

Marissa: I do. It definitely informs my aesthetic sensibility! Wearability is important, in both clothing and fragrance, and I like combining that with intricate, soft, romantic and feminine details.

Courtney: Unfortunately I have poor coordination, but have always appreciated and loved ballet.

Celina: It’s already a unique concept for two indie perfumers to collaborate, but how did the actual design and formulation process work between the two of you?

Marissa: I started Odile, wrote a sketch of a formula, while Courtney did the same with Odette. Then we swapped. We did this a few times, sending the formulas back and forth until completion, and absolutely loved the process.

Celina: Going forward, can you tell us about any fragrance themes you’d like to explore next with the brand?

Marissa: I think we want to get a little weirder. Not totally sure what that means yet.

Courtney: Every time we talk about our next project it’s nearly overwhelming where our excitement and ideas go — we are waiting for us both to have some time to get into it but once we do….

Thanks, Celina, Courtney and Marissa!