Isabelle Gellé is the founder of The Perfumery Art School & Les Parfums d’Isabelle. She is a French creative perfumer who has been striving to make people rediscover the smells of Nature through classic and elegant perfumes composed of naturals since 2006. Ahead of her time, she anticipated that consumers would want to return to the true soul of perfumes, made of natural ingredients only.
She was one of the first perfumers in the U.K. to sell her collection of perfumes made with 100% natural aromatic oils online and to offer natural bespoke perfumes services to private clients. She is also the workshop and course leader at the Perfumery Art School UK, delivering Introduction to perfumery and Intensive know-how workshops. Past clients include Historic Royal Palaces, London Transport Museum, The Qatar Foundation as well as private companies and individuals.
In my view, women emPOWERment is a misnomer because I believe that women hold the POWER in societies even though those very societies want to make believe that it is otherwise. This is obvious in developing countries where women are mostly in charge of raising the children, promoting their education and working hard to sustain their families. Cooperatives managed by women tend to achieve more positive results to their communities. Women are natural nurturers and have the emotional edge which makes them able to champion changes in a more balanced way. Empowered women are everything but feminists as in my view, feminists are promoting women disempowerment through wanting to equal men. When women realise their potential and balance their intrinsic feminine and masculine sides, they can reach for the moon and leave a lasting footprint in the world.
I am the daughter of an expat. With my father having contracts all over the place, I have travelled extensively and lived in many different countries and experienced various cultures. My dream as a teenager was not to get married and have children but to live my life in full and discover the world I live in. This led me to live and work in West Africa, first in marketing and buying of spices and then as an international consultant to the Togolese government for the Free Trade Zone. There, I got involved in community projects and I realised that women are the pillars of changes in the communities and to a greater extent, the sustainability of the local economy. But it also became obvious that these women were hampered by their lack of education and the fact that they were treated as second-class citizens. From that moment, every action I made was geared towards women and supporting them as much as I possibly could.
In particular, I organised distribution of school books and dictionaries to rural schools were the number of girls were prominent because in my opinion, women empowerment starts as a teen. I trained groups of micro-businesses women to understand basic functional skills in order to help them increase and manage their income.
The stakeholders I was dealing with on a daily basis were men and I personally experienced the dogma of being a woman trying to navigate through a men’s world particularly at political level. I can say that I nearly lost myself and my soul in my determination to change the world.
It made me understand that the old saying ‘charity begins at home’ is so true. Indeed, in order to instil inspiration and change among women, a woman first needs to take care of the first person: herself. This is not selfish: only when women focus on their own well-being and needs can they find the strength and energy to help others. Drawing upon the lesson of my experience, I decided to follow my passion for perfumery and business in order to cater for my own needs but always with the idea in mind that I will pass my knowledge to women who need support so that universal energies do not stagnate. To do so, I strongly feel that education and training are key.
For me, there are 2 keys characteristics which are: Sustainable income and Education. When the first thought of the day is ‘how I am going to feed my family today?’, there is a systematic loss of power given to other people and one becomes dependent. Poverty is a major obstacle to empowerment because it keeps the person in a state of stagnation and hampers them from finding solutions to get out of the vicious loop they are in. This leads me to the second key characteristic which is that a person can only become more empowered through education and knowledge because Knowledge is Power. Once these two characteristics have been tackled, it becomes easier to focus on personal growth and achieving personal dreams.
In a nutshell, mentoring. There is no point acquiring knowledge through experience and education and not sharing it. Had I had a mentor to accompany me in my footsteps, I think I would have avoided ending up in a spiralling downfall in West Africa.
Again, find a mentor but be your own person and do not give up on your dreams. A mentor will guide you but you are responsible of your choices and actions. When you are at the bottom, there is only one way: up!