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quarta-feira, 9 de dezembro de 2015

It's Kittylicious: Velvet and Sweet Pea's Purrfumery

by: Jodi Battershell

Though my first opportunity to try the fragrances of Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumerydid not come until 2015, with the FRAGments swag bag, I've been aware of this house for years. Once seen, it's not forgotten, even if you're not a cat lover like me. Amidst the Victoriana and beautifully saturated hues of magenta, purple, turquoise and orange, cats are in play—literally and figuratively: in the logo and name, in the packaging, in the product photos, on the house's Facebook and Instagram pages.
It's all by design, and all so wonderfully designed, by the founder and perfumer of Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery, Laurie Stern. It all began when Laurie, formerly a florist, was transitioning from creating bouquets for weddings in Napa Valley to creating olfactory bouquets in the form of natural perfume. Little did she know that two rescue cats were about to change her personal and professional lives forever.   
"I’m a lifelong animal lover. Whenever an injured animal comes into my karma, I try my best to help it out. That’s how I met Velvet and Sweet Pea, who were lab animals I rescued," recalls Laurie. "Velvet and Sweet Pea became my kitty muses, and they paved the way to a new consciousness about the horrors of animal testing. Ultimately, the lessons Velvet and Sweet Pea taught me became the pillars of my life and the principles behind my natural, botanical and very whimsical Purrfumery! Their images are immortalized in my elaborate, fanciful packaging that accompanies every product I create."
Laurie Stern with a feline friend
Velvet and Sweet Pea enjoyed long and happy lives with Laurie and new animals joined her family after they passed. These days, not all of them are even feline. "Cruelty-free is my commitment and my way of life. Animal rescue is a part of that. A few years ago, I built an aviary for an injured homing pigeon and his mate who came in the cat door for help. I’ve brought home a few more pigeons from a local animal rescue and the aviary is very cozy!"
Her experiences with Velvet and Sweet Pea prompted a new direction in Laurie's efforts as a perfumer. "As I deepened my study of natural perfumery, I also learned that many commercial and natural perfumers used animal products, like musk and other secretions, for animal notes and fixatives in their products," explains Laurie. "Sure, these materials are natural, but do people realize that animals are held, tortured, or even killed for their musk? The civet cat is one animal that endures tremendous suffering for the sake of perfume. The methods people use to harvest its musk are cruel and archaic, and have been scrutinized by animal rights activists for years." (For those who wish to learn more, Laurie has a detailed article on her websiteabout the use of civet and animal musks in perfumes, as well as the kinder, gentler alternatives available for both perfumers and perfume consumers.)
An ode to cats and conifers: Fir-ever Young
Working exclusively with natural ingredients already, Laurie made the decision to forego the use of all animal musks in her products. (Even ambergris no longer made the cut, once she learned that much of it came from slaughtered whales.) The only animal-related products you'll find in Velvet & Sweet Pea perfumes and personal care products are honey and beeswax from the Purrfumery's own bees, which Laurie looks after herself with tender loving care.
To that end, it's no surprise that Velvet and Sweet Pea's Purrfumery is Leaping Bunny certified. Leaping Bunny is an international coalition that promotes a single, comprehensive standard for cruelty-free cosmetic products. "Eight years ago, after many months of work and research, the Purrfumery received its Leaping Bunny certification, which certifies that we don’t do animal testing (of course!) and neither do any of the companies we patronize." As Laurie explains, this is not as simple as it sounds. "This involved contacting and receiving documentation from every supplier I work with, or may work with in the future—no small job as I source ingredients from all over the world!"
Choosing to create perfume exclusively with natural (botanical) ingredients presents a unique challenge, and choosing further to avoid animal musks and source only from suppliers whose ethics are compatible with her own makes the task even more daunting, but it's a challenge Laurie embraced with enthusiasm. A quote from her website says it all:
"There are enough amazing plant essences in this world to create an infinite number of gorgeous scents. We are at a point in our perfume development where we have more access to beautiful, incredible essences than ever before."
I've sampled all of the Velvet & Sweet Pea fragrances (except its newest, The Moon & the Stars), and nature's beauty is exalted in all of them. It appears Laurie and I share a love of jasmine, which features prominently in several of the Purrfumery's fragrances. My favorite is Jewelry of Heaven—so perfectly named, with its plush jasmine and jammy rose notes enhanced by a base of rose-infused alcohol. Honey is also a particular delight, marrying lush orange blossom with velvety rose on a gently sweet base of honeyed vanilla and sandalwood.
And, oh! The packaging! All Velvet & Sweet Pea fragrances feature the most adorable cat-themed labels and scent cards. Laurie even sent a sweet little fan featuring two tabbies drinking tea. As a child of antique-collecting parents, I thought I recognized some inspiration from vintage postcards and Valentines in the Purrfumery's packaging. 
Indeed I did ...
Laure confirms it. "Everything I love is incorporated into Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery. Obviously I love kitties, and I’ve been collecting Victorian cat postcards and antique trade cards since I was a kid." Now based in California, Laurie is originally from the East Coast, where she found much of her inspiration for the Purrfumery's imagery. "I used to go antiquing with my older sister along Route 9 to Cape May, New Jersey, and these charming cards were all I could afford. I create the packaging—the little silk bags, pouches and scent cards—with the help of my incredible graphic designer, Emerald, and find inspiration in my collections of postcards, antique perfume bottles, laces and fabrics."
There are more amazing scents and delightful product designs from this house than I can cover in a single article, so I want to focus on a particular line within the house:KittyliciousThe Kittylicious Collection is a great point of entry into Velvet & Sweet Pea, whether you're a natural perfume novice or a seasoned appreciator of all types of fragrances. Any of its four fragrances—Rose JasmineMojitoJasmine Orange Blossom and Black Cat—would be an excellent choice for a gift or a special treat for yourself. The collection is available as a set of four or individual bottles.
"I designed the Kittylicious line to be an affordable luxury for my younger customers. A bottle makes a beautiful first perfume for teenagers or young adults. Right after I launched Kittylicious, I noticed it had wide appeal—people of all ages love these scents," says Laurie. "And I love the name—Kittylicious sounds so fun and yummy."
Like all of of the Velvet & Sweet Pea scents, the packaging on the Kittylicious collection is an absolute delight. "I create each bottle of Kittylicious perfume to be a collector’s item. I make them in small, numbered vintages, and the rarity of the ingredients alone ensures that only a limited number will ever be created. In earlier eras, a perfume bottle was a precious thing to treasure long after the perfume itself was gone. I try to continue this tradition with my creations."

I truly enjoyed all four scents. Mojito smells just like the drink and is easily a unisex fragrance. Laurie notes Rose Jasmine is the most popular scent of the collection, and Orange Blossom Jasmine features two of my favorite florals together, which plucked at my heart strings in a special way. But a certain little onyx-colored kitty just cried out for more attention. "I launched Black Cat right before Halloween! Of course, I had to make it! It was really fun to make a scent that was all of my favorite candies, with chocolate, vanilla, licorice, blood orange, and more…"
Halloween has come and gone this year, but Black Cat's gourmand notes are also perfect (or rather, purrfect) for parties and wintertime wear. The fragrance is like a delicious candy or cookie sampler of wonderful holiday treats that needs no added frosting or honey to be delicious...unless you want to add some, of course! And if you do, Black Cat is also available as a moisturizing Whipped Frosting, as well as a solid Scent Locket made with beeswax from the Purrfumery's own bees.
Scent lockets for Black Cat solid perfumes
2015 has been a busy year for the Purrfumery, with the addition of a new men's line—Mr. Whisker's Beard Balms—and a recently released fragrance. Plus, Laurie offers bespoke perfumes and "Perfumery Adventure" opportunities in her boutique. In addition to tending bees, she's also active in her Perfumer's Garden and hand-tinctures many of the ingredients used in her fragrances. Still, she's not one to rest on her laurels, and she has more plans and products in the works for Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery.
"I’ll be turning 60 next year, so I’m thinking about this next chapter in my life a lot! I’ve just released a new solid perfume, The Moon & the Stars, based on tuberose and jasmine, and I will be launching another new perfume soon."
She's also looking for new ways to combine her many loves.

"I love making perfume, helping animals, and finding ways to blend the two. I’m working on some new scent locket designs that will help my favorite bird rescue, Pigeon Palomacy, and some solid perfume kitty lockets that will help cat rescue. I’ll donate a portion of profits to groups and help them raise money. I also want to get Twitter to help fund local bird rescue—these organizations need support and getting Twitter involved makes a lot of sense to me. And I won’t give up on freeing the civet. Animals need our help and I want to combine my art with helping animals at this point in my life."
Thank you to Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery for the opportunity to try your amazing fragrances. Please visit the official website to learn more and shop the entire Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery collection of fragrances and bath and body goods.
All Images:  Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery

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