Founder and creative director, Belinda Smith shares her journey of launching a fragrance line and the importance of transparency in beauty with Rêve En Vert, a platform for ethical and sustainable living.
TO BEGIN, CAN YOU JUST TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF - WHAT BROUGHT YOU INTO THIS WOULD OF BEAUTY?
My family moved from a small country town in Australia to the United States in the early nineties. I feel incredibly lucky to call such beautiful countries home and especially grateful to have had my first memories of life be draped against the stunning backdrop of the Australian countryside. It was these early years that cultivated my lifelong love for the beauty of the Earth and passion for protecting it.
A natural approach to beauty and wellness was really a result of my upbringing. We’re really lucky in Australia to have access so many fresh foods year round that living organic and farm-to-table is a pretty accessible lifestyle, at least how my parents were raised and raised us. My mum always made her own cleaning supplies with essential oils and invested in simple and pure body care products. It’s something I really took for granted until I was on my own able to make independent conscious decisions and realized how vital those choices are. Nourishing our bodies inside and out are equally important.
As ST. ROSE we say that we create personal rituals at the intersection of beauty and wellness and that truly stems from my own personal journey. I have found that the more I return to the basics and revel in nature, incorporating a balanced and holistic perspective, the better I feel. To me there is no greater luxury than a life well lived. Beauty and wellness truly are inseparable from each other, and our wellness is fundamentally interconnected to the health of the Earth.
AND WHY PERFUME SPECIFICALLY? WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THIS PART OF BEAUTY THAT SPOKE TO YOU AND MADE YOU WANT TO CREATE SOMETHING WITHIN THIS SPACE THAT WAS CLEAN?
I have always loved fragrance, bordering obsession. A bit of a romantic and definitely a minimalist I love the transportive and nostalgic power of fragrance and how spritzing on a parfum over my simple daily uniform of jeans and a t-shirt makes me feel instantly put together. I have also always been fascinated by the psychology behind scent, its mood altering and behavioral impacts on our feelings and emotions. Fragrance is such an incredibly beautiful and powerful way to indulge the senses.
It was a love of the art of perfumery coupled with an insatiable curiosity of the aromatic materials and their origins that led me on this journey to launch ST. ROSE. I was really fortunate to have incredible contacts from spending my career in the fashion world to find the right experts in the fragrance industry to align with.
In starting ST. ROSE, I was rigid in my creation ethos. With the art of perfumery being as old as antiquity, I was certain there was a way to create in harmony with the Earth while not sacrificing the luxurious quality inherent to fine fragrance. It was non-negotiable that I receive a full compositional breakdown of a finished fragrance, which is still very novel in the industry, to be able to share with our customers.
SO I REALLY WANT TO DIVE DEEP INTO THE ISSUES SURROUNDING CONVENTIONAL PERFUMES … I WAS REALLY SHOCKED WHEN I STARTED LOOKING INTO THIS A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO AND DISCOVERED THAT SO MANY SCENTS ARE FULL OF HIDDEN CHEMICALS THAT ARE POTENTIALLY LINKED TO HEALTH CONCERNS.
Ultimately, I think the most important thing in the beauty industry is to push for wider transparency so that we have the knowledge to make informed decisions. I believe that consumers today are highly educated and motivated to learn about all aspects of wellness —we simply need to enable them to make informed decisions. At ST. ROSE we are incredibly proud to 'bare all' and share our fragrance ingredients, something that is not currently required under current labeling laws in the United States.
Transparency is important for a number of reasons, for one is reassures the sensibilities behind the clean beauty movement that have evolved far beyond the current lax and outdated cosmetic safety laws. Secondly and specific to fragrance, many worry about fragrance being 'shrouded in mystery' due to The Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which protects fragrance and flavour formulas as a trade secret. What the industry enjoyed for decades as a protection of intellectual property is today being viewed as something potentially scary. While I personally believe this loophole is entirely unhelpful to today’s incredibly well-educated consumer to make informed decisions without full ingredient transparency, there is certainly no nefarious conspiracy by cosmetic companies to hide anything potentially harmful from consumers.
As a brand that practices and also advocates for clean beauty and transparency we hope more brands join our mission, in the meantime we hope to empower consumers to make informed choices.
Here are our suggestions to approach companies that haven't yet joined our mission for transparency; 1. We encourage consumers who are becoming more savvy on reading their cosmetic labels to reach out to a company if they have a question. Let us not forget how powerful the consumer voice is to change not just the opinion of a company but that of entire industries. 2. Check if the brand, or their manufacturer, is a member of IFRA. If so, you can breathe easy that they are following very strict safety guidelines.
In fact, the fragrance industry was really proactive to establish safe guidelines and in 1973 The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) was founded. Headquartered in Switzerland, IFRA is the official self-regulatory representative body of the fragrance industry worldwide. Members are legally bound to comply with the IFRA code which lists the substances (both natural and synthetic) that are prohibited or restricted to a percentage threshold in consumer products. IFRA’s guidelines are based on the evaluation of an independent research institute called RIFM (Research Institute for Fragrance Materials) which includes an international group of dermatologists, pathologists, toxicologists, reproduction, respiratory and environmental scientists.
All reputable fragrance houses in the world, including ours at ST. ROSE, are IFRA members and adhere to their safety guidelines. As a brand we have taken an approach to creation that concentrates on naturals. This places more responsibility on our shoulders to ensure that raw materials are cultivated in harmony with the Earth. Any questionable ingredients that are suspected to pose harm to people or planet are put on our never list and kept out of our products.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT HOW YOU CHOOSE AND SOURCE THE INGREDIENTS YOU USE IN ST. ROSE?
Our fragrances are composed with raw botanical materials from plants and flowers as well as naturally-derived and nature identical aroma molecules that are all vetted against the EWG Skin Safe Database and adhere to IFRA guidelines. ST. ROSE natural essential oils are ethically sourced from around the world. Often rare, they are gathered and harvested by modern and ancient methods. Seasonal crops and delicate processing through steam distillation or extraction is a laborious and time extensive art to yield the final essence.
Driven by the innovation of green science we use aroma molecules to incorporate vegan musk as well as naturally-derived and nature identical molecules when there is a hypoallergenic or eco-beneficial purpose.
We are really passionate about sustainability and believe safe ingredients begin with responsible sourcing. Creating relationships directly with farms and suppliers at origin ensures that raw materials are produced ethically, with a stable supply and that local producers and their communities benefit as well. One beautiful story of this is our sandalwood farm back home in Western Australia that received the 2019 highly coveted United Nation’s Equator Prize not only for their incredible environmental initiatives but also due to their 50/50 business partnership with the local Aboriginal community which has had an incredible socio-economic impact.
I PARTICULARLY WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE ORGANIC SUGARCANE ALCOHOL YOU USE, HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT FROM NORMAL ALCOHOL USED IN FRAGRANCES?
With alcohol constituting in some cases over 80% of a parfum, having a high-quality source is absolutely paramount. Organic and non-GMO sugarcane ethically sourced from Brazil is the source for the beautiful base alcohol of our parfums. Most commercial fragrances are made with ethanol that's fermented from grain or corn. Our preference for cane alcohol is that an acre of sugarcane produces double the amount of alcohol than either of these alternative crops, which means you don’t need as much land to produce the same quantities making it a win for energy efficiency. Our sugarcane is also non-GMO and organic meaning it is distilled from cane sugar that was grown without any pesticides or fertilizers.
In order to be certified as organic, not only must the cane sugar itself be grown without chemicals, but the production methods used for distilling cane alcohol mustn’t result in pollutants that harm the environment.
Truly gentle for skin and Earth.
Our collection of artisan fragrances are now available at Rêve En Vert.