Kai Fragrance Founder Gaye Straza Talks Exotic Scent and Celeb Following

Photos courtesy of Kai

Gaye Straza (left) and Kai products (right).

In 1999 Gaye Straza launched Kai, a distinctive fragrance line that embodies vivid memories of Straza's tropical childhood in Hawaii.

Kai fragrance is a brand founded on a love of both nature and luxury, and the signature scent is a sensual earthy aroma that is perfect for every time of year.

With a celebrity clientele that ranges from Charlize Theron to Rachel Bilson, Kai fragrance is continuing to gain a strong following.

FashionEtc had the opportunity to sit down with Straza to discuss Kai's inception and perhaps even plans for an additional fragrance.

What was in the inspiration behind forming a company like Kai?

The inspiration for Kai really came from a couple of things. I was basically allergic to most every fragrance I had tried. I was longing to have something I could wear that agreed with me, so I set out to create a fragrance for myself never dreaming to turn it into a business. The inspiration for the scent came from childhood memories of spending summers in Hawaii with my family. I'll never forget the scent of those days in Hawaii along with all the love and laughter. Not a care in the world. Still to this day every time I put Kai on, it just takes me back.

How did you create Kai's signature scent, and what is it composed of?

I found a small boutique fragrance house that allowed me to play with all the different fragrances and essential oils. Kai is a gardenia based fragrance wrapped in white exotics.

Is there ever a plan to launch another scent to accompany the one you've developed?

Yes, I'm working on the second scent at present. If all the planets align perfectly, "Kai 2" which is the working name, will compliment the original scent allowing the customer to layer it with Kai as well as all the other Kai products from the range.

What do you think separates your products from what is already out there?

Hmmmm.... I know for certain that the woman who wears Kai is extremely loyal to it. That along with the fact that our ingredients are the best of the best. We have a true cult following.

Is there a certain type of woman you had in mind when creating the company?

I really just set out to develop a scent for myself. Years later, I've come to realize Kai devotees seem in general to be independent, unfussy, strong women. I think she likes fresh, clean scents. nothing overbearing or heady.

Kai has been wildly successful among celebrities from Pamela Anderson to Jennifer Aniston. Why do you think that is?

I'm not quite certain but I'm terribly grateful to all of our customers. Men, women, celebrities, mom's, the young and the old. Our demographic is wildly broad.

Kai is an all encompassing lifestyle brand; you have items for the home and beauty products for everyday use. What's next?

This week, we are launching the Kai shampoo and conditioner. They are just hitting the stores now. They are incredibly luxurious, hydrating and moisturizing due to the combination of argan oil and glycolic acid. Turns out glycolic acid is as good for your hair as it is for your skin. Our chemist is incredible! We launch our travel kit this holiday season and have more body products in the works for early 2013.

Do you intend on expanding the brand by incorporating cosmetics?

I must admit I've toyed with the notion, but for the time being I've got my hands full.

How do you think working in the home market differs from something like fragrance?

I don't know that it does. I believe it's, again, all about layering. Starting with your morning shower using the body wash or buffer, shampoo and conditioner. Using Kai though out the day whether it's the perfume oil, lotion or glow, and ending the evening with a nice hot bath filled with Kai bathing bubbles, burning a Kai candle, listening to some relaxing music while having an amazing glass of wine.