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Meet Joe Zhou and Ray Zheng, founders of Australian fragrance brand, Black Blaze-The Day Ahead
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Meet Joe Zhou and Ray Zheng, founders of Australian fragrance brand, Black Blaze

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The power of scent cannot be understated. It can change your mood, evoke memories and transport you to somewhere you’d rather be. Joe Zhou and Ray Zheng, the founders of Sydney-based home fragrance and lifestyle brand Black Blaze, called on this concept when creating their brand.

After travelling around Australia, Joe and Ray sought a way to preserve their travel memories and share the beautiful scents of Australia with the community. The duo founded Black Blaze in Sydney in 2016 with a range of home candles and interior sprays formulated with the rich scents of the landscape and botanicals of the Australian environment.

Flash forward to 2022 and Black Blaze is a thriving home and lifestyle A-beauty brand with a cult following, renowned for its distinctive Australian-inspired products like the best-selling Bush Walk Interior Fragrance Spray. A spritz of this refreshing room scent and you’re immediately transported to the great Australian outdoors.

Read on as Joe and Ray share how their Australian travels sparked the idea for Black Blaze, their commitment to sustainability and the exciting future of A-beauty.

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Tell us about when you started Black Blaze and how the idea came to be what it is today?

“Black Blaze was established in Sydney in 2016. However, the idea of creating our own business had been growing for a long time. The original concept of Black Blaze was simple: to preserve our memories of travelling around Australia (our first product range was titled The Great Outdoor Collection). After moving to Australia and living in Sydney, we realised that… it was the right time to start our own business. Nowadays, Black Blaze is a home fragrance and lifestyle brand that is all about good living. We have a flagship store located in Paddington, NSW, and we’re also shipping our products to our consumers in Europe, the U.S.A, and Asia.”

How are sustainable and ethical practices incorporated into your business?

“We’re very thoughtful with our choice of ingredients. Our candles are hand-poured in small batches. Black Blaze candles are constructed with 100 per cent soy wax and wooden wicks to meet the ever-growing interest in better choices for the planet and our homes among Australian consumers.

“Compared with paraffin, which is more common and less expensive, the 100 per cent soy wax we use is a natural, biodegradable, healthier option for candle-making. It comes from a renewable resource which makes it more eco-friendly and healthier.

“All our packaging is 100 per cent recyclable. After using up your scented candle, we highly encourage our customers to reuse the containers. One of the reasons we have chosen these glass containers is that they are effortless to clean and reuse.

“The fragrance oils we use are IFRA [International Fragrance Association] approved and phthalate free. We don't use fragrance enhancers or other additives during production. We would like to make our candles as natural as we can.”

What is the importance to you of being made in Australia? And why is it so unique in the beauty industry?

“Australian products always have a reputation for being clean and green, so it is great to see more fragrance brands insist on being locally produced. We’re also glad to see more consumers embracing Australian-made products, and we are committed to contributing and giving back to our communities in our values. Australian made is win-win as it’s better for our economy and the environment. Buying Australian made is not just about supporting a local business, but it is about helping our communities and people.”

What changes have you seen in the Australian beauty industry and the ‘A-beauty’ category in recent times?

“We have seen a rise in A-beauty brands in different sub-categories. You can now find more well-designed local labels for sun care, oral health, baby skincare, even inner beauty. It shows that A-beauty is blooming, which is fantastic.”

Ray and Joe, co-founders of Black Blaze.

What excites you about the potential and future of Australian-made beauty and home products?

“We are excited to explore the diversity and potential of native Australian ingredients. We’re willing to tell more Australian stories through our products, connecting us to the land we’re standing on.

“We’ve seen Australian-made home products go to a new level focusing on health, organic, and sustainability, so it’s fantastic to be an Australian brand at the moment. We can make something great here with high product standards. We believe Australian-made brands inspire other international brands in terms of being healthy, organic and innovative.”

What is the one product you always recommend from your range?

Bush Walk Interior Fragrance Spray. It’s one of our best-selling products, and it has a hint of fresh green grass, trees, and pine scent. This interior spray can instantly change a room’s atmosphere with a long-lasting aroma. We call it Bush Walk to pay homage to the Australian lifestyle. We wanted it to feel like it brings us closer to nature and conjures memories about nature in our minds.”

What is your personal favourite scent?

Vetiver and Fig. It’s calming, refreshing, and atmospheric. Every time we light the candle, the smell reminds us of the sea breeze, the endless blue sky, and the clean air. The freshness helps us unwind and relax.”

What has been the most rewarding part of being a business owner?

“The most rewarding part of being a small business owner is combining our life with things that we’re passionate about. We enjoy the complete control of the brand that we built on our own beliefs and values and the satisfaction of knowing that plenty of people love our products and that our business contributes to our local communities.

“Another rewarding part is that although we face challenges, we’re aware that there are also possibilities to grow and learn. Owning a business is like an adventure full of excitement and pleasure.”

And what has been the most challenging?

“As a start-up brand, we understand that new challenges await us each day we wake up. However, we have to say that 2020-2021 was an extremely tough period for our brand when the business was on a crucial expanding phase while we were challenged by the great uncertainty that the Covid-19 pandemic brought to us, not to mention the sudden lockdown of the whole city.

“We have been dealing with various difficulties caused by the pandemic, such as supply chains and freights, while experiencing a surge in product demand. However, we’re more prepared for this situation now.”

What had you both been doing in your career prior to founding Black Blaze, and how did that experience translate to founding a fragrance brand?

“Before establishing Black Blaze, we worked for years in the media and marketing fields as designers and chief editors of magazines. It provided us with a different perspective on brands and products and allowed us to work with the best brands and creators in fashion, design, art, and lifestyle. It helped us in many ways. On the one hand, working as a chief editor of a magazine allows us to focus on a bigger vision—a quality required by start-up entrepreneurs. On the other hand, our trained designer-mind always reminds us to carefully pay attention to the small details as we believe that good design will spark emotions just as scents do.”

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