When Olga Sorokina left Belarus at age 17 for Paris, she says she “dreamed of fragrance.” What she may not have envisioned is that her path to fragrance would include resurrecting and designing for storied fashion house Maison IRFĒ; creating five fragrances for IRFĒ with dsm-firmenich; launching the collection at Neiman Marcus—and being nominated for the Best New Indie Fragrance at The Fragrance Foundation Awards this June.

But that is how Sorokina’s story unfolded—and her timing was impeccable. Luxury indie fragrances have never been hotter. An Industry Research Biz report on the Luxury Niche Perfume market states that it was valued at $2970 million in 2023 and is expected to reach $7420 million by 2032, representing over a 16% compound annual growth rate. Pamela Vaile, a private marketing and branding consultant whose clients have included L’Oréal, Bath & Body Works, Revlon, and Laura Mercier, worked side-by-side with Sorokina on the development of the IRFĒ fragrances and says their timing was just right. “Look at what’s going on globally, post-pandemic, what we’re finding is that the consumer is totally in love with luxury right now, it’s all about treating ourselves. Niche luxury perfumes are [experiencing] double digit growth since 2021 when stores opened again,” she says. “We are in the sweet spot of fragrance category. This is what the consumer wants.”

The original Maison IRFĒ was the creation of Princess Irina Alexandrovna Romanova (yes, those Romanovs; she was the first granddaughter of Tsar Alexander III and the only biological niece of Tsar Nicolas II) and Prince Felix Yusupoff, who combined their initials and together founded the couture house in 1924 in Paris.

Inspired by this origin story—and with fashion aspirations of her own—Sorokina acquired Maison IRFĒ in the aughts and relaunched it in 2008 with a haute couture collection at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. She followed that up with a ready-to-wear collection in 2009, which was carried by 200 retail stores globally. While designing for women around the world, Sorokina became intrigued by their personality types and began viewing them as female archetypes. That vision became the basis of the five IRFĒ eau de parfum profiles:

Smoldering Pepper is nominated for The Fragrance Foundation Award and was created by perfumer Alexis Grugeon at DSM-Firmenich to represent a “sexy, sensual woman.” Top notes include black pepper, saffron, olibanum; the heart is labdanum, patchouli Indonesia, and cypriol; and the base contains vanilla bourbon, smoked leather, and oud. “This is a very personal fragrance,” says Vaile.

Marshmallow Musk was also created by Grugeon and is all about romance. “Think of a woman wearing lace or a ballerina dress,” says Sorokina. “It’s very feminine.” This blend boasts top notes of Earl Grey tea and magnolia and lavender petals; heart notes of jasmine, marshmallow cotton, and iris nectar; and a base of powdery musk, fluffy woods, and airy vanilla notes.

IRFĒ Saffron Leather is a gender-neutral scent inspired by someone who is “unstoppable and focuses on the business part of their life,” says Sorokina. Perfumer Ilias Ermenidis gave it a fresh green note at the top, saffron and burnt rose at the heart, and a warm leathery base that invokes the feel of leather (although no animal products are used in any IRFĒ fragrance). “These fragrances are all made with sustainable practices and consideration for kindness to earth, people, planet. It’s critical to this brand,” says Vaile. Saffron Leather is nominated for the CEW Beauty Award for Best Personal Scent: Gender Neutral.

Centifolia Rose is a fragrance that captures “the essence of the modern femme fatale—someone who turns heads,” says Sorokina. The top notes include pink pepper, pear, and bergamot; the heart is comprised of rose Damascus, orris, and neroli; and the sensual base boasts cedarwood, sandalwood, and white musk. It was created by DSM-Firmenich perfumer Honorine Blanc, who says her inspiration was a lady in red: “I looked at the IRFĒ red dress created by Olga. You need to have courage and a certain character to wear red. She is daring and brave.” Centifolia Rose is nominated for the CEW Beauty Award for Best Personal Scent: Women.

Patchouli Forever Worn strives to project the “feminine allure” of a “moody lady” who is “emotional and mercurial” says Sorokina. The fragrance combines three varieties of patchouli, tobacco, and sweet honey notes and was created by perfumer Frank Voelkl, who is also known for crafting Le Labo Santal 33. Voelkl says of Patchouli Forever Worn: “The scent is unforgettable.”

In addition to developing personality-driven fragrances (a unique approach, to be sure), the IRFĒ fragrance bottle was also Sorokina’s creation. She designed it in Paris eight years ago and says it “has a connection with the past…and is reminiscent of the dolls from my childhood.”

“The beauty of the brand is that [Sorkina] is so connected to art world and fashion world,” says Vaile. “There’s a multi-dimensional, richness to this brand.”

Neiman Marcus launched the five luxury fragrances ($285 for 50 ML) in April and will offer a Discovery Kit in June ($95 for five vials 3 ML each). Other fragrance specialty retailers will carry IRFĒ, including Atelier d’Emotion and Maison 10 in New York City, Stella Flame Gallery in Bridgehampton, Attic Koncept in Beverly Hills, and Curio at Faena Bazaar in Miami, among others. IRFĒ is now based in New York.

Sorokina’s next fragrance dream? Because she designs her scents “with appeal on a global scale,” expect IRFĒ fragrances to expand into Dubai and Europe soon.