Fragrance is an incredibly personal form of communication – an invisible message from the perfumer to person wearing it, and from the wearer to the world at large. Stories by Eliza Grace go further, reaching into the depths of mislaid memories, childhood dreams and long-forgotten hope…
Tonya Kidd-Beggs is a full-time mother of four, with two boys and twin girls to keep her busy. More than that, Tonya’s family play a significant role in her scent story: the twins inspired the brand name, that Tonya explains, ‘…pays tribute to the stories that shape our lives, from pain to beauty and from struggle to freedom.’
Indeed, the birth of her children formed the creative catalyst she needed to make sense of her own life – Tonya herself having been born into the heart of of Northern Ireland’s ‘troubles’, and struggling to come to terms with thinking about the future curated each blend personally as a testament to the power of fragrance in her own life.
Tonya’s own appreciation of fragrance began early. As she writes: ‘My grandmother’s pearl necklace hung on my tiny neck and I rubbed one of her furs across my cheek. It was laced with Chanel No.5. I breathed in the scent of a woman I would never know. A courageous businessperson who paved the way for Northern Irish women to succeed in a male-dominated market place.’
‘She was my inspiration,’ continues Tonya. ‘I never met her, yet I knew her by the fragrance she wore. Even now, when I smell that perfume, I am reminded of feminine strength and dignity. This is the power of fragrance and the heart behind Stories: connection, to oneself, our past and the things we hope for looking forward. I designed a fragrance line to create space for this connection and as a testament to the stories that will emerge.’
Tonya travelled to Grasse – the home of perfumery – to develop her Stories by Eliza Grace collection, to work with the world’s best perfumers, using only the finest raw materials sourced from all over the world; immersing herself in their traditions and learning their long-honed techniques. There, she came to understand the true power that fragrance has to move and inspire us.
She recalls: ‘As I sat surrounded by the tiny brown bottles at a perfumer’s organ in a village in the French Riviera, I was confronted by some of my most painful memories,’ she explains. ‘Each scent I inhaled illuminated the shadows of a difficult past and marked the beginning of a healing journey,’ she recalls, and Stories No.1 was the transformative beginning, as ‘it tells the uplifting story of sorrow transformed into beauty, of the dark yielding to the light.’
Tonya employed those time-honoured, traditional methods to formulate the fragrances while also now listening to her gut and trusting her intuition to bring a harmonious balance to the collection. Tonya’s intention is to use the fragrances to tell her story, but more than that – encourage and empower the wearer to unlock their own stories, create their own, highly personal connection that will last a lifetime.
With bodycare now added to the range and home fragrance in their sights, Eliza Grace like to say they are ‘more than a range of luxurious beauty products; it is an homily on transformation.’ So what does hope smell like? In this case think luminescent notes of citrus – bergamot, grapefruit and orange blossom leading to the deep, warm embrace of cedarwood, with delicate touches of jasmine, heliotrope and a fig-tea accord along the way. Ultimately, snugglesome amber swaddles sandalwood and the earthy cool of the so-grounding vetiver.
For her second fragrance, meanwhile, Stories No.2, Tonya reached further back in her fragrant memories to recollections of her own childhood, evoking days spent in her grandfather’s garden. ‘In the greenhouse, rose bushes stood among orange trees, on which blossom and fruit grew in tandem,’ Tonya remembered, with pots of patchouli lining the patio, which she had the sensation and scent memory of rubbing the leaves on to her wrists.
For Stories No.2, Tonya drew on these images, vividly describing how ‘The scent of the stream drew me barefoot into its water. I paddled under the watchful gaze of my father and grandfather, their faces obscured by tobacco pipe smoke.’
Here, once again, the fragrance is more than simply a pleasure to wear, for it beckons you to return to your own carefree memories: of running barefoot on dew-flecked grass, giggling with delight while exploring the flowers face-first, an invitation ‘…to walk among the flowers, shed your shoes at the river and recover that which has been lost.’
But the true joy of fragrance, as we all know, is that the point we spritz it onto our skin, we begin to write our own story, too.