A Scentual Brunch at Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery
What Makes Natural Perfumes Different?
While trying out smells, I learned that scents, especially natural ones have three different levels (high notes, middle notes and bass notes). Each of these is a different layer that reveals itself the longer the scent lingers. Commercial perfumes don't have this layering and, Stern said, they tell you what you are supposed to feel instead of letting you feel beautiful on your own, and bringing out what you already feel.
Since her perfumes are all natural, the perfumes contain no petrochemicals, phthalates or other chemicals that will eventually end up in the environment when you wash the scent off of your skin. Stern also chooses to not use sandalwood any more as in her research she found that sandalwood has become severely over-harvested.
Many of the traditional chemicals found in perfumes are off-limits to her, so Stern needed a way to make a "solid" or a base for the creme perfumes. About this time a swarm of bees took up root in her backyard and when Stern called to have them humanely removed, she learned more about these tiny creatures and thought she might rather have them around. So instead, she constructed a hive (now she has two in her backyard in the hills overlooking the Bay Area) and let these wandering visitors take up root in her backyard. She learned to harvest the honey and is overly cautious during the process to make sure that as few bees are bothered/harmed during the process. This devotion to preservation is apparent during most of her work as she knows each drop of oil meant 20 flowers were killed, and the same goes for each of her scents. (Not to mention, many of the oils are worth more than a paycheck so nothing can be frivolously wasted).
Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery is also involved with a project in Colombia titled En Florage, which is a traditional process of coaxing scents out of flowers. The local village has found this sustainable way to make oils that Stern can then use in her mixtures. In fact, most of the oils used in Velvet & Sweet Pea's perfumes are chosen from smaller, sustainable family farms rather than commercial enterprises. In addition, all of the scents use palm oil harvested from sustainable farms, as well as use sustainable and fair trade oils. Choosing local, and by local we mean her backyard, Stern has become a master at growing her own flowers and herbs to be used as scents in her perfume and then makes different mixtures by letting the scents soak in organic alcohol and organic grape-seed alcohol.