In recognition of this years World Mental Health Day, we sat down with Jasmine, founder of luxury home fragrance brand Mefiye, to talk about the role that mental health played in the creation of her business, what she does to unwind, and get insider travel tips for Ghana.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the origins for MEFIYE?
I was born and raised in East central London in a large Ghanaian household. London is where I’ve spent the majority of my time, save for school years in Sussex, a working secondment in Brussels and any opportunity I could get to travel the world (including visits to Ghana over the years).
The idea for MEFIYE came to me towards the end of 2020 when I was approaching burnout; I was working towards a promotion at my full-time legal job, had just started a part-time postgraduate course and joined two educational boards of trustees, all during a country-wide COVID lockdown. In this season of spending much more time at home than I could previously remember, I became increasingly conscious of how my home space made me feel, and how not prioritising enough time off was affecting my wellbeing.
My parents were both in Ghana for the majority of 2020 while I was in London, and during that time lighting multiple candles in and around my space and curating relaxing playlists were two of my favourite ways to unwind. I thought about the power that fragrance had to transport me to somewhere beyond my bedroom, and so I came up with the idea to create an affordable luxury brand which told stories about my heritage and upbringing. I spent some time fleshing out what is now the brand’s DNA but decided to largely shelve the idea for about six months until after I had finished my postgrad finals. I was making prototype candles in late May, and grew the brand from there – soft-launching our products at a pop-up in November 2022 and officially launching online in January 2022.
Who or what do you draw on as inspiration for your fragrances?
Much of the inspiration for each candle’s “scent story” has come from my Ghanaian heritage and/or experience of being a black woman growing up in London. For example, the fragrance created for DUA comes from spending countless hours on Facetime with my parents back in 2020. They’d often be sat in the shade at our family home in Ghana, eating fresh oranges from our compound and looking happy and peaceful from being in a sunnier, slower-paced climate. I wanted to capture all of those senses – the warm feeling of the sun on your skin, the sweet yet sharp taste of fresh citrus fruit, the woodiness of the trees.
When conceptualising 91 I first asked myself “what does black love smell like”? By which I mean stories of black people in love, as told through classic 90s and 00s music and romcoms (think music from Boyz II Men, SWV, Musiq Soulchild, or films like Brown Sugar, Waiting to Exhale, The Best Man). As such, the scent of 91 feels warm, smooth, rich and comforting all at the same time.
When creating YAWA I wondered how I might celebrate the brand’s conception with our favourite in-house notes and accords, including jasmine and cedarwood. The selection was decidedly floral, which to me felt like an ideal birthday: romantic and celebratory in a way.
Your candles are designed to help people “re-imagine” the spaces they call home. What does home mean to you?
It really means so many things. First and foremost, home to me represents a place in which I feel the most safe, comfortable and free. Home is also a place where I feel like I truly belong; as a Ghanaian born in the UK, sometimes that’s certain spaces in London, but Accra often feels like home whenever I visit. I also consider my physical body to be my home – I feel my most centred when I am looking after my physical self.
You've very open about the fact that MEFIYE was born at a time when you were struggling with your mental health and have said that mental health lies at the heart of MEFIYE’s mission. What message do you want your candles to impart?
The idea for the brand came to me during a challenging season, yes. But I see that as a blessing, because it wasn’t until I actively took steps to quieten my mind that I was able to regain mental clarity and return to my most creative self.
Similarly, I would hope that MEFIYE candles (and any other future MEFIYE products or services) serve as initial prompts for people to reach for in moments when they too need to take a beat, unwind after an exhausting day/week/month, return to their most optimal selves. Rather than offering a specific message, I see each MEFIYE product as being a call-to-action for others to take the time to tune in(wards) to their own internal messaging.
Alongside home fragrance, do you have any other self-care practices that you turn to?
I learned to play the piano at a very young age, and so music has always played a massive part in my life. I find that playing the piano or my guitar whenever I have spare time, or chilling out with a curated playlist (we’ve created one to complement each MEFIYE candle’s scent) and a giant cup of herbal tea really allows me to switch off my often overactive mind and get into a flow state.
I also find that taking long baths have the same effect – I sprinkle generous handfuls of Epsom salts, a few drops of essential oils and light a few YAWA and 91 candles as these are my favourite for night-time.
More generally, I always feel my best when I am consistently moving my body. I currently practice morning yoga and Pilates, and go for weekly runs, all of which help me feel my best.
A lot of our collections invoke a feeling of wanderlust and travel and so we love to share travel inspiration with our readers. With this in mind... Do you have any travel tips for Ghana (scenery, food, advice – anything that comes to mind!
The first time I travelled solo to Ghana, I stumbled across Gallery 1957 which is a contemporary art gallery located in the Kempinski Hotel in Accra plus two other smaller locations. If you’re not able to travel to Ghana just yet, there is an associated Gallery 1957 near Hyde Park in London.
The Accra Arts Centre and Makola Market are great destinations for pieces crafted by local artisans. I also love The Lotte – it’s a really cool concept store housing a curation of contemporary African lifestyle and fashion brands. For first time visitors, Cape Coast and Elmina are popular destinations to learn about a part of Ghana’s history.
I love Accra’s Airport and Cantonments areas for their restaurants and bars. Kozo and Santoku are great options for pan-Asian and Japanese cuisine respectively, and Skybar is nice for quick drinks with a view. Bloom Bar in Osu holds so many fun memories for me, as does Twist club. If you’re new to Ghanaian cuisine, go to Mango’s Restaurant Bar and Kitchen for authentic dishes.
Also, don’t stop at Accra. Kumasi (my mother’s home town), Tema, and the various beachside/coastal regions (to name only a few places) all show the extensive beauty of the country.
Finally, one thing to bear in mind is that the pace in Ghana can feel substantially slower than other global hubs, which can be a wonderful thing or frustrating thing depending on how you look at it (especially if you’re a born and raised city girl like me). My advice would be to embrace the slower pace – it may just do wonders for your spirit.