Lovely Sabrina Co looks back on her childhood and recalls that, at a young age, she could already sniff and identify familiar scents. These memories and fascination for aromas led to her decision to get into the business of fragrance.
“I wanted to do something that highlighted the Philippines. And I thought it was interesting that our country didn’t have a scent brand that featured our local fruits and flowers.”
And so ATIN was born. I asked Sabrina, who is ATIN? “We are a truly Filipino company with global dreams. The thread that weaves the concept of the brand together is the story of the Philippines. The company aims to evoke Philippine culture, traditions, history, and nature, in all our products.”
ATIN in English means “ours” and is also an acronym for “Aiming To Inspire a Nation.”
Aside from being the company’s founder, she is its creative director.
When Sabrina started ATIN, she wanted to cater to the balikbayan market and the Filipino community. They did research, including focus groups, where they found out that Filipinos like citrusy scents and associated it with cleanliness. It is no wonder that many detergents and cleansers in the market have a calamansi variation.
Apparently, the sense of smell is the most instinctive of the five senses. So when you are in a space that smells good, it instantly elevates your mood.
She narrates further, “as the brand was developing, I had foreigners smell these Filipino scents, and they really liked it. It evoked going on vacation in the tropics for them. It was a nice surprise.”
The company has two sides. There is the retail division that includes reed diffusers, body and massage oils, and essential oils, among other products. ATIN creates custom perfumes for gifts or giveaways as well. It has a charming home-décor line such as canisters and plates with exotic fruit artwork and Philippine costume illustrations.
The other side of the business does “scentscaping,” which is the scenting of large spaces. ATIN creates special and exclusive fragrances to enhance brand identity, or simply provide a pleasant and welcoming smell for various establishments and companies.
Their clients are top shopping malls, hospitals, hotels, banks, corporate headquarters, offices, car showrooms, and even a convention center. These bespoke scents are distributed via specialized machines on aircon ducts.
I inquired as to how Sabrina formulates a scent for a client to appropriately “scentscape.” “We meet with them and get a profile of the company to understand it better. For example, if the company is into sustainability, we will add green notes to the scent, a reminder of nature. Or a hospital will request for one that relaxes people mixed with a clean odor, of course. We listen to the company’s owners or management, but we also take into account what their visitors would like to smell when they enter the space.”
Among the scents of ATIN’s retail items, dalandan is an all-time favorite. Their Boracay is also quite popular because it reminds people of the sea and sun. Well, what does Boracay smell like? It has a subtle floral bouquet with marine notes, which is totally relaxing.
ATIN has quite a number of fragrances for their many products, including popular Filipino scents. Just imagine smelling guava, mangosteen, lychee, hardin, and even Milagrosa rice.
One of their newer scents is the divine ylang-ylang. Sabrina shared an amazing story that the introduction of the Ylang-ylang was first distilled in a “botica” in Binondo and introduced to the world in the Paris World Exposition in 1900s. And this very important fragrance, originating in the Philippines is now a major ingredient in all the important perfumes in the world including Chanel No. 5.
Literally surrounded by her perfumed air, Sabrina personally prefers musky and woody notes, and one of her favorites is a combination of dalandan and black pepper.
Sabrina trained in the famed Charabot Perfumery House in Grasse, France. Grasse is known as the perfume capital of the world. She acquired knowledge on the art of “fragrance cocktailing” or layering fragrance, which is mixing multiple scents together. She said that “it was interesting to understand the science of translating an idea into a fragrance. It only enthused my love for scents more.”
She also has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theater/ Theater Management, Art History, the Italian Renaissance and Italian Business from Syracuse University. This surprises others who think she took up business management. However, she applies what she learned in school and various work experience in her current endeavor.
She cites the dynamics of working with different types of people, and the discipline needed in business. She understands the importance of aesthetics, too. ATIN’s packaging is meticulously thought out, having a local look but with international appeal.
Sabrina’s latest project is a collaboration with respected journalist and celebrity Korina Sanchez-Roxas. Together, Korina at Home and ATIN have come up with a limited-edition reed diffuser. This is perfect for the holidays.
So, is a scent just a scent? Apparently not. Sabrina elaborates, “Olfaction, or the sense of smell, can conjure dormant memories. When we smell, the scent’s molecules go to the back of our nose where the sensory cells are located, and that process sends a signal to the brain and to the olfactory cortex to tell us what we are smelling. That is why we recognize what we smell.”
There is also the power of scent to influence emotion. Apparently, the sense of smell is the most instinctive of the five senses. So when you are in a space that smells good, it instantly elevates your mood.
“At ATIN, we hope to recreate memories. We capture the essence, liquefy it and store memories in a bottle. We focus on combining essences that evoke local fruits, flora, spices or help people remember their special moments in the Philippines.”
What are the valuable lessons she learned during COVID? Sabrina says, “The pandemic only made me recognize more that I am blessed to have a running business with a great team, and so we must continue together to build this brand that is Filipino and that Filipinos can be proud of.”