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As a teacher in South Korea circa 2007, Kate Jennings befriended a young woman who taught her Korean phonetically. One day, this tutor gave her a phrase that translated to, “I am happy because I’m with you.” It inspired Jennings, years later, to name her Richmond, Virginia-based shop Na Nin, which means, “I am.”
Ask any stylish woman from Richmond to name their favorite boutiques, and Na Nin will definitely be on the list. The venture started out as an Etsy shop in 2009, where Jennings, 31, sold vintage clothing finds she picked up on her travels. Her brick-and-mortar store, which sells some vintage items alongside beauty products and new clothing from emerging and established indie brands like Atelier Delphine, Ilana Kohn, and Ace & Jig, soon followed. But these days, it’s her line of handmade oil perfumes, candles, and incense that is Jennings’ true passion project, and the real draw to her shop.
In 2014, Jennings got the bug to make fragrances and began tinkering with essential oils in her spare time. As a self-taught perfumer, “it was a lot of trial and error,” she says. “I just got really into it.” Jennings explains that the fragrances are an extension of her love of nostalgia; many of them are named after songs. She used to mix them in her home, but as the business has grown she’s added a studio (which also functions as an event space). She currently has three full-time employees and a legion of friends that help out and work in the shop in a pinch.
Na Nin’s first scent, Cripple Creek, is an homage to Jennings’s dad. “He and I would listen to The Band a lot so I wanted to make something that reminded me of that time of my life,” she says. She describes it as a “smoky pine scent,” with notes of sweet tobacco, amber, and vetiver. It’s a best-seller, along with Landslide, an “earth mama scent” featuring patchouli, rosewood, sandalwood, and cedar. (Very Stevie Nicks, for sure.)
The various scents are available in eau de parfum ($18-$74), candles ($16-$38), oils ($36-$38), and incense ($22). They’re sold in simple bottles and cleanly-designed glass holders with graphic black and white labels. Jennings thinks several of the scents have unisex appeal, though she notes that Farewell is “feminine” and Willin’ was targeted at men.
Jennings has recently had success selling a new simple collection of scents featuring two notes, pragmatically named for what they smell like, rather than song names. “Cannabis and Opium Den” has been a best seller.
She’s got big plans for her business in the coming years, including a new fragrance collection in 2017 and “having a few clothing pieces made that really represent Na Nin’s aesthetic.” In the meantime, Jennings is grateful for her customer base. “You build a lot of relationships with people when it comes to scents because it’s very personal.”
While her Richmond shop is the best place to check out the full line, you don’t have to be in town to try them out. Na Nin sells fragrances online, and wholesales to about 60 different stores in the US and Canada — including some of our favorite shops in New York, LA, San Francisco, and beyond.
101 S Addison St, Richmond, VA
M–F 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.