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L.A.’s ‘Gangsta Gardener’ Ron Finley Launches a Fragrance

The earthy scent made with L.A.'s Fiele Fragrances celebrates the community activist and urban gardening pioneer.

Self-described “gangsta gardener” Ron Finley, who has cultivated a worldwide fan club thanks to his popular MasterClasses, has launched his first fragrance.

Named “A Flower for You,” the scent was made in collaboration with Los Angeles-based Fiele Fragrances, where it is being sold exclusively. Inspired by community activist and urban gardening pioneer Finley, it has an earthy appeal, with notes of Hawaiian sandalwood, Madagascar vanilla and Egyptian Rose.

He launched the fragrance with (what else?) a garden party at his fantastical flowering folk art space in midcity L.A., where guests wandered the swimming-pool-turned-terrarium of fronds and vines.

“Drugs, robbing — that’s not gangsta. Building community — that’s gangsta. I’m changing the vernacular,” Finley’s said. He has worked to address food deserts in South Central L.A. by teaching urban farming, and fought the city to change laws allowing public parkways to be used for it.

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The subject of a 2015 documentary executive produced by John Legend, “Can You Dig This,” Finley has a TED talk that’s been viewed more than 3 million times, and one of the most popular MasterClasses, “Ron Finley Teaches Gardening.”

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He was lured into the fragrance world by L.A.-based perfumer Linda Sivrican, who has mixed up scents for Clare Vivier, Vince and others, and has a retail store selling her own modern, botanical scents. It’s in the process of relocating to downtown L.A.’s Chinatown, where she already runs the popular Sesame L.A. market specializing in old and new Asian pantry items.

Gangsta Gardener Ron Finley Launches a
A Flower for You by Ron Finley and Fiele Fragrances. Courtesy/Zachary Gray

“It was a lot of fun, I call her ‘Linda the nose.’ I told her I should have just not showered!” he said of being her muse, after she found him through his MasterClasses, and reached out by email.

“I invited him over to my perfumery to play with essential oils as a thank you for all he does,” said Sivrican. “He said yes, then we hit it off. He wanted to support me, so I offered to do a fragrance.”

“I post a lot of flowers on Instagram, and I didn’t know people would take to it like they did,” Finley said of spreading his love of nature, which comes through in the scent. “Gardens to me are freedom. We treat it like a hobby, but to me this is a life skill.…It’s getting people back to that, to knowing we’re energy and energy never dies.…Even the brown stuff, compost, is a living thing. Everything Mother Nature produces is alive.”

No stranger to the style world, Finley had a successful L.A. fashion label — Drop Dead Collection — in the ’80s and ’90s. His tailored woven suits and denim were stocked in major department stores and worn by Robert Horry and other L.A. Lakers and celebs.

He continues to keep busy, working on a book, a second clothing collaboration with L.A. label Everybody World, and a capsule with San Francisco-based Taylor Stitch. “People keep wanting me to get back into the clothing business,” he laughed.

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