Catherine Omai

Wrapped in authentic Nigerian asa-oke fabric, Contagious is a unique fragrance from Catherine Omai with exotic hints of oud and sandalwood

Catherine Omai’s formative experiences with perfumes came at home in Nigeria, when she would borrow her father’s fragrances to mask what she describes as her own “insecurity” about her appearance. Many years later, she is now the proud creator of her own international fragrance line – Contagious – following almost a decade’s experience creating bespoke fragrances for individuals.

“Contagious is intense and unapologetically present,” she says. “It is a gender-free fragrance for anyone who is unapologetic about who they are and what they represent.” The fragrance of Cambodian oud – cradled by sandalwood, oakmoss, ambergris, labdanum, civet, musk and castoreum – is, she admits, partly inspired by those smells she discovered as a child in the mysterious glass bottles in her father’s bathroom cabinet.

Catherine started blending her own fragrances as a student in London. She showed such promise that it was recommended she complete a course at the Galimard School of Perfumery in Grasse. Even so, she had no intention of becoming a perfumer, instead completing a master’s at Dundee and returning to Nigeria, hoping to work in the energy industry. However, while working at a temporary job in admin, colleagues were constantly complimenting her on the fragrances she created from a home kit she brought from Grasse. She decided to explore the craft, and soon established a reputation as a bespoke perfumer, creating fragrances designed uniquely for individuals around Africa.

The next step was to create her own international line. Contagious launched in September 2019 and instantly drew attention in the fragrance world, winning acclaim for its memorable, bold aromas and eye-catching packaging. The latter sees the bottle wreathed in aso-oke, a traditional fabric created for special occasions by Nigeria’s Yoruba people.

“The aso-oke embodies our African values – our pride, our celebratory attitude, our camaraderie, our spirit of belonging, and our resilience,” says Catherine, who plans to launch more fragrances in the coming months. “As Nigerians, we have showcased ourselves internationally in industries such as music and fashion but not through fragrance, which is what I am determined to do. Contagious is an embodiment of Africa through scent. It is for anybody around the world who connects to an empowering fragrance.”