The Smell of Success

Lambda Fragrances creates unique handmade scents
By Kamala Kirk

For years, Pasadena residents Gabriella Anaya and Sean Young bought essential oils and other raw ingredients so that they could create homemade fragrances for fun. As the couple experimented with various formulations, they realized they were onto something truly special.

“It started out as a hobby and was inspired by our passion and intrigue for fragrance,” Anaya says. “Sean, our master perfumer, is a polymath who is gifted in different disciplines. He’s also a portrait artist and a fantastic chef, and that process is similar to making a fragrance – you’re creating something from scratch, you need to know ratios, and you need to have a creative mind to be able to put together a great scent. Sean spent a long time blending and making formulations over the years. We created many different fragrances that were quite amazing, so we decided that it was time to share our hobby with the world and we launched Lambda Fragrances last year.”

The founders are high school sweethearts who met through a mutual friend back when Anaya was a student at South Pasadena High School and Young was attending Pasadena High School. The name for the company was inspired by the Lambda symbol used in math and physics. Young, a mathematician and researcher at UCLA with a background in physics, created each fragrance formulation from scratch. Young has a very technical mind but he’s also an artist, so that helped a lot with creating these amazing formulations.

One thing that sets Lambda Fragrances apart from other companies is that its products are made with two simple ingredients, alcohol and fragrance, and are free of fillers and preservatives. In addition to clean formulas, their scents are also long-lasting due to its aging process.

“Part of the reason why our fragrances are long-lasting is because of our curing process,” Anaya says. “We exceed the time that standard fragrance houses age their perfume. Everything is based on perfect timing, when we add in the raw ingredients and the alcohol, it is done with our proprietary aging process in mind. Each fragrance is really unique.”

The formulas are available in two unisex scents, a cologne for men and a perfume for women, although Anaya points out that the cologne can be enjoyed by women as well.

“We specialize in unisex fragrances that can be worn by men and women,” Anaya says. “Our two unisex fragrances are Fireflies and Amberian. Fireflies is a playful green scent with cardamom and a floral profile. It’s very magical, whimsical and cozy. I like to wear it when I’m going to have a busy day because it goes great with that mood. I call Amberian our ‘hippy’ formulation because it’s a relaxing, warm scent with ingredients such as frankincense, amber and sandalwood.”

The most popular scents are Fireflies and Secret Arrangement, a women’s perfume infused with Bulgarian rose, carnations and caramelized tonka beans. 

“I like to describe it as a subtle and modern rose fragrance,” Anaya says. “When I think of an older rose fragrance, I tend to imagine something overpowering, but this is the complete opposite. Customers describe Secret Arrangement as ‘exclusive,’ they say that it smells different that anything they’ve ever smelled before.”

The fourth scent, Mr. Huntington, is a cologne for men that was inspired by the late railroad magnate of Pasadena, Henry Huntington. It features a citrus blend of mandarin and grapefruit accompanied by cardamom seeds, ambergris, sandalwood, cassia and vanilla musk.

“It doesn’t smell like your typical cologne, it’s more of a mature and bold scent,” Anaya says. “But it’s not strong because it has a floral essence with some spice to it.  Mr. Huntington was also a polymath who was gifted in different disciplines. We named the scent after him because he is a landmark of our area and we love Pasadena so much.”

The fragrances are manufactured and distributed locally in Pasadena. Anaya and Young work with local artisans and a supplier who sources all of their raw materials locally. When it comes to creating a new scent, Anaya says that sometimes Sean will start out by picking a few ingredients, while other times it’s based purely on mood or daily inspiration.

“Some fragrances have been inspired by different ideas that just come up, the process is fluid and not always so structured,” Anaya says. “Sometimes it’s mood-related and will depend on what Sean is envisioning at that moment and we’ll pull the various raw ingredients we have together. Currently we have four scents that we’re selling on our website, but we have many more recipes we’re working on.”

Anaya says that she and Young plan to introduce more of the unisex formulations that they’ve been working on over the past year, and they’re also thinking about expanding into a line of accessories and other fragrance products. They also look forward to being carried in stores in the future as well. 

“Sean is into shoemaking from scratch, and we love learning about clothing and fashion, so that’s another idea of ours,” Anaya says. “Next year we’re focused on bringing more recipes to the market and continuing to develop our image. We’re also playing around with the idea of introducing our scents through other fragrance products like incense sticks.”

Lambda Fragrances looks forward to creating more captivating formulas that will bring love and joy to those that wear them, and Anaya and Young are excited to continue their fragrance journey together. 

“Being part of this creative process has made me feel more emotionally connected to the scents,” Anaya says. “It’s like when you look at a painting, you see the hard work, creativity and beauty all at once. I look at fragrances differently now, especially ours. They’re more than just scents – each fragrance has its own story, soul and personality.”

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