Making Scents: Kansas City’s Fragrance Artisans

Local custom fragrance artisans blend aromatic essential oils to create personalized perfumes that will appeal to nearly anyone.

Today, it seems like every time you visit the fragrance aisle, a Hollywood starlet or Olympic athlete has released a new perfume. It’s no wonder more women are turning to custom body fragrances to help them stand out. Local perfumeries blend personalized scents to help women (and some men) craft idiosyncratic aromas.


The first step for making a one-of-a-kind scent is to choose ingredients. Jill McKeever, owner of For Strange Women, conducts client interviews to find out everything about a person that could affect his or her scent preferences. These questions center on the client’s childhood memories, career accomplishments and anything else that bring about good feelings.

“Some people wear a scent to feel really beautiful,” McKeever says. “Others wear a scent to make themselves feel comfortable and go back to a time and place that they enjoy.”

“In order to create a fragrance for a person, I have to be in a clear mental and physical state. This is an intuitive art form,” says Kathleen Dreier.

Dreier, owner of Esens Custom Fragrances in Phoenix, takes the analysis a step further by requesting a photo of her client. “I ask people to send an image or I look at their Facebook profile to get a sense of what they look like,” Dreier says, noting that imagery is helpful when blending fragrances.

Unlike synthetic, alcohol-based products that have dominated the cosmetics industry for so long, customizable scents are more often made from natural essential oils. Aside from possessing skin-irritating chemicals, commercial perfumes just don’t smell as good as oil-based fragrances to many people.

Custom fragrance creator Jill McKeever, owner of For Strange Women

Today’s economic and social trends point to customization as almost always more preferable to consumers. The same goes for perfume. “I think people don’t want to smell like everybody else,” says Nancy Pell, owner of Perfect Scents. “It’s like wearing the same dress as everyone else.”

Customized fragrances have retained their popularity because of the mental benefits they imbue. “It gives a person pride to say that they created a fragrance themselves,” says Susan Rix, owner of S-Scents. People wear perfumes to make an impression on others, and essential oils are making better impressions than commercial products.

There are many base notes to choose from when trying to construct a personalized body fragrance. “Over the past 18 years, we have found that blending two to three oils works best,” Rix says. Vanilla and amber essential oils are among the most popular at Rix’s store, which stocks more than 400 oils.

In stark contrast, Dreier’s blends use 7–12 oils, on average. “One current trend right now is fresh, clean smells,” Dreier says. The orders placed on Dreier’s website come from around the world, and the “fresh, clean” scent trend is consistent throughout.

Incidentally, the clean trend is a perfect example of why custom fragrance is becoming the hottest trend in scents. Dreier says “fresh” is a difficult scent to create because what smells fresh to one person might not have the same effect on another.

“In order to create a fragrance for a person, I have to be in a clear mental and physical state,” Dreier says. “This is an intuitive art form.”