1000 Flowers- Past and present

Happy New Year to all!!  May love and abundance fill all your lives for 2011 and beyond!

It is now officially the second day of 2011 here in France- and besides feeling full of optimism and energized to jump into some new projects, I am also reflecting a lot on how I arrived to where I am now.  This post will chronicle some of that journey.


On the first day of this year- we went up into the mountains behind Grasse to a little ski station called Gréolières Les Neiges, which is about one hour by car up into the Sub-Alps.  As we crested about 800m in elevation, the clouds dropped away, and we were bathed in bright winter sunshine.  At 1100m, the sides of the mountain were blanketed in wild lavender plants and plump little pine trees.

Upon arrival at the ski station, we found that many others had planned the same new year’s day outing, and the place was packed with people of all ages.¬† After all, the cost for a half day ticket is only 6 euro!

We had decided to have lunch in the lodge- and being that it was a bit too cold to sit outside at one of the long dining tables, we went inside, only to discover that it just as chilly. 
The proprietor was extremely gracious, in such a classic French way- pushing tables together for us (we were a group of 7) and lighting a roaring propane powered flame-throwing heater to warm us up.  (I suspect that it also fed us a touch of carbon monoxide!)


The lunch menu was small- but the risotto with prawns and shaved reggiano that I had, was absolutely delicious (and very well presented, given the setting).


Later, after a walk in the sunshine, looking up at the quite large runs over various parts of the slopes, plus some very brave sledding,  we returned to the waffle and crêpe stand at the lodge, and had our dessert.
My cr√™pe with ‘abricots et chantilly’ was divine!


On our way back down to Grasse, we stopped at the wild lavender zone to check for seeds.  Sure enough, the little scruffy flower tops still held some of the shiny black seeds, and even offered up the dry powdery aromatic perfume of the summer blooms.

One of my projects from this past year of 2010, was to grow lavender plants from the seed I had collected 2 years ago from the same spot.  I successfully raised about 65 plants- and by the time I left Canada 3 weeks ago, they were hearty little shrubs of about 5cm in height.


So now what’s next for 2011??

First off, I’ve begun the major project of building another website for a new branch of the entreprise.¬† This will be the site for all things natural that I create or that I find while traveling in France and beyond.

After all, I first began with naturals back in 1994 by launching a collection of 5 massage oils composed of essential oil blends and almond oil.  These were very simple and even the labels were hand-painted and then colour-copied!  This was followed in 1996 with a collection of pure essential oils and several skin care products, including a gel moisturizer and a scrub inspired by (and utilizing) the dried hibiscus flowers and copal resin that I found in Mexico.

It was also at this time, that I applied for and received a small business development grant from the government.

Three years later, in 1999, the Body Bar was born- a collection of cocoa butter massage bars that were ‘good enough to eat’.¬† These were quickly ‘discovered’ and were soon distributed across Canada and into the US.

Sometime during the huge success of the Body Bar, I came across an article in the New Yorker about the creation of an Herm√®s perfume, and the light went on for me.¬† I had no idea the career of ‘perfumer’ existed, and I was smitten with the possibilities.¬† I began to research like mad all that I could find about perfumes and the companies who created them.¬† Jo Malone and Lyn Harris of Miller Harris, among others were huge inspirations for me at the time.

Having already worked with the natural raw materials for almost a decade, this  was a medium that was very familiar.  Clinical aromatherapy had been the path I was exploring for years.  I had completed a year-long certification program through the Australasian College of Natural Sciences in Portland- but I was craving to be more artistic and even abstract.  The art of perfumery was the natural direction to take.

For four years, (while also manufacturing the Body Bar), I worked away in the little studio at the back of my garden, and created 4 natural perfumes.¬† These I marketed only to my community, Nelson, British Columbia, where I had lived since 1995.¬† These were exceptionally well received, but I was reluctant to launch them out into the world.¬† I felt there was still too much to learn and I didn’t want to make any mistakes.¬† I knew then that formal training was a necessity.

As it can sometimes do- life broadsided me when the sole distributor of the massage bars copied the product, thereby reducing my income to almost zero.¬† I was devastated.¬† This was a classic case of David vs Goliath and I really didn’t want to take on a huge fight like that. This was a very difficult and emotional time.¬† It was then that I made the dramatic decision to sell my house, (including the studio), to fund my dream and go to perfume school in France.

From this point on, the story can be picked up in detail at the beginning of this blog.  I came to Grasse in January of 2007 and have been here a good portion of the time ever since.  This blog has followed the journey.


In April of 2010,  I went to New York City to present my fist perfume, Reglisse Noire, to the Sniffapalooza group. This garnered some great reviews and enthusiastic support.  As well, at year end last week, the same group of supporters in New York awarded Reglisse with the award of being in the top 25 picks of the year in perfumery.

I am not trained in advanced business, but I am keen to learn and continue to explore my own vision as 1000 Flowers expands and grows.¬† I have been reading the book ‘Business as Unusual’, written by the founder of the Body Shop, the late Annita Roddick.¬† I’ve always found her hugely inspiring. ¬† I believe, and always have, that there are many different ways to find success- and forging new paths that are positive and inclusive, and that take into account the health of the planet- are particularly important.¬† Of course, one must play by certain general rules, and take counsel whenever possible, but one’s approach and attitude to life (and business) can be defined individually. Rebelliousness can be rewarding when expressed creatively.

During the last week of 2010, I had distribution inquires from several countries- including China- and so now…. I am seeking counsel and working hard to make good decisions that will¬† bring all this long journey to another level of fruition.¬† The fact that it happens to also be a new year, is perfect and couldn’t have come at a better time!¬† So onwards we go on this fragrant adventure called life… ¬†¬† xoxo

Grasse!

I have arrived safe and sound back to the beautiful home of my heart- Grasse, France.  I got in last night, after a very long journey from Canada.  I caught the bus from the Nice airport- and after wrestling my two large and one small loaded down suitcases (more raw materials and books/papers than clothes) down into the old city,  I was met by my friend Julie who had my keys.  She than kindly helped carry everything up to the 5th floor where I live.

I was nervous all week- not sure how it would feel to be back in Grasse this time.  I have been in Canada for the last 11 months, and it is always a huge shift to jump between cultures and worlds- and I often feel so slightly schizophrenic in which place I belong to.  The longer I spend in one place the bigger leap it is to return to the other.  (I still think there should be some sort of psychotherapy for this sort of dilemma).

However, as soon as the bus entered the outskirts of Grasse, I felt a surge of excitement.  And certainly, as soon as I unlocked the door and stepped into my apartment, I breathed the huge sigh of relief that one does after being away from home for a long time.

Now today, after a heavy sleep (thanks Jordanna! melatonin really works!)- I am unpacking and settling back into this lovely space.  It is cold (these old buildings are not made for cold weather, and last night it was -1 C), but it is bright and familiar, and I am excited to get to work creating the perfume that has been percolating in my mind for the last 6 months.

View from my desk...

Black Liquorice for Sale

Here we are in November already! This Autumn has been flying by, as time does when one is busy every waking hour.

Since first launching in the summer, I’m happy to report that Reglisse Noire has been enthusiastically received by perfumistas everywhere.

In Canada, Reglisse is available in a stylish little boutique in Nelson called Habits.

And in the US, Reglisse is now sold at the Scent Bar at 8327 Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles as well as on their new site dedicated to niche and artisan perfumers… Indie Scents.

Recently, I was interviewed by Michelyn Camen from Cafleurbon… ¬†you can read it here. ¬†As well, please leave a comment following the article as 5 names will be drawn to win a 5ml pocket-size decant of Reglisse Noire eau de toilette.

It’s been fun to google Reglisse just to see what it being said out there. ¬†It’s such an adventure to launch a perfume and then to watch its solo adventures out into the world as it’s discovered and experienced and shared by people whom I have never met. ¬†Here is an example- a sweet little review from the perfume blog- Perfume Smellin’ Things.

There is also a listing here at Fragrantica,  and Basenotes Sniffapalooza Spring Fling recap.

One of the things I have been asked recently is- ‘What’s next?’ ¬† Since I have been in Canada for most of this year, I have been yearning for Grasse with those sunny Mediterranean days and the perfume-infused culture. ¬†My heart is always there and so I will be returning next month to explore some new ideas.

I have two perfumes on the drawing board and while one is still secret, the other will be dedicated to the well-being of the honey bee.   This is a subject close to my heart and one that is of grave importance.

The pollinators are suffering and dying, due to many human activities especially (super)pesticide use both in home gardens and on the large agro-farms.   Without these little creatures, we will suffer major consequences to food production.   So I would like to dedicate a portion of sales to really push for positive change.  If any of you have suggestions as how to most effectively do this, I would love to hear your thoughts.

All images and content copyright by 1000 Flowers -2010

R√©glisse Noire and the Art of Packaging

This blog began in January of 2007 with my journey to Grasse, France to study perfumery.   Since then, following my studies and internships there,  I have been focusing all my attention on the subsequent portion of the dream- to create beautiful perfumes, and to realize a successful career at the same time.  No small feat!!

I returned to Canada 7 months ago, and have been working day-in and day-out on all the details of launching the first fragrance.  To say the least, this has involved an enormous amount of work.  More facets than one can even imagine!! (although, such a wonderful challenge!)

Since being back,¬† I have also been taking classes in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to learn graphic design so that I can fully express all visual aspects (that accompany imagining of the perfume formula itself) of this creative process.¬† To be honest- more and more, this project feels like an artist’s installation.¬† Such a multi-faceted creation that involves digging deeper into my creative depths than I ever have in my life.

So, subsequently introducing the new outer packaging (as developed in Canada) for Reglisse Noire- the perfume that was born in France¬† ….

Cedar box

The box is solid British Columbia cedar (from off-cuts, leftover from home building), stained pure white with titanium dioxide powder and water, and sealed with a cigar-box style label to guarantee the purity and hand-made nature of each batch of perfume.

My goal has been to create an outer packaging that is an item of beauty to be kept…. thereby having a super light footstep on the Earth.¬† (‘recyclable’, in my humble opinion, just doesn’t cut it anymore…)¬† Refills will be available soon.¬† The lockable vintage-style atomizer is removable, unlike most perfume bottles.¬† Standard perfume bottles, even from luxury and niche brands, have what is called a ‘crimped’ spray top.¬† These are permanently attached, therefore making the bottle, once empty, impossible to recycle or to reuse.¬† For years I have struggled to find a solution to this problem… and finally, the technology has been developed- an atomizer that threads on, that also has a locking mechanism.. so it can be sealed for transport and to prevent evaporation of the precious juice inside.

Réglisse-50ml bottle

So there.¬† Years of work at the drawing board… with the goal of bringing into the world a product that represents beauty and that has a light environmental impact….

If you’d like to order this perfume- please go to the 1000 Flowers website…. http://www.1000flowers.ca

As well, your feed-back is greatly appreciated… I like to think of this as a work in progress….. Merci!

To be or not to be? (natural)

Perfume. ¬†An art form that, now more than ever, is sweeping the world in a multi-layered storm. ¬†It’s interesting to see so many people captured by this fascination! ¬†I myself am completely engulfed by it. ¬†I have given up everything in the pursuit of the knowledge of how to compose perfume…. my house, my country and all my treasured belongings.¬†¬†I will never be the same again.¬†I have been bitten by the bug and now must live with my own deliriously wonderful fever.

Antique perfume flacon

On the flip side, there is a growing body of antagonists those who lobby for perfume-free workplaces, schools, and public places in general. On this side of the fence, one also finds those who are the most pro-natural and anti-‘synthetic’.

During the past two years, as I work to create my little perfume house- over and over, I have grappled with the question of ‘all-natural or not’? ¬†And it’s my own beliefs about this I have had to come to terms with through a lot of soul-searching.¬†¬†And I have been torn. ¬† To my surprise,¬†I have come to love, for example-¬†hedione and exaltolide, for example!!! ¬†They are a pleasure to work with and to smell! ¬† But they are not so-called ‘natural’, so in this climate, how can I include them in my palette? ¬†I too want the earth to survive forever and for all living beings to be healthy and happy and I also want to have creative freedom plus a successful business, so how can I find a balanced answer to these issues?

Sephora, Cannes

The words on everyone’s lips these days are…natural, organic, fair trade, ¬†sustainable etc. ¬†and this great! ¬†We are all waking up to the power we have as consumers and how we can really make a difference by how we spend our dollars plus knowing that what we put on our skin effects not only our health, but that of the planet.

But what does that mean for perfumery? ¬†The industry is traditionally owned by the big brands who have had the honour of giving us perfumery… as we know it, on a mass scale. ¬†And we love these perfumes. Guerlain, Chanel, Dior, and all the others who have been the names behind countless incredible masterpieces of perfume. ¬†But now the climate is definitely changing. ¬† The relatively recent media spotlight that has illuminated the creation process of perfume is slowly destroying the mystique, and at the same time, many many people are now asking for something different. ¬†The return to nature and purity. ¬†I read the other day that the green movement in cosmetics is now seen as not just a trend- but as a revolution.

As a perfumer, an entrepreneur and a consumer, I support this revolution wholeheartedly.  But not blindly.

Bastide du Parfumeur

The perfume that I created in Grasse (R√©glisse Noir) is half naturals and the other half is carefully chosen molecules (biodegradable musk, and others that have been tested thoroughly and have no allergy issues). I love this perfume, and everyone who tries it, does as well. ¬† Of two very well-known perfumers in Grasse who reviewed it for me… one said it was “harmonious and well-balanced”. ¬†The other said that it was “addictive”.

But how do I market this perfume? ¬†Many ask me, here in Canada, “Is it natural?” ¬†To simply answer “No”, is insufficient…. and leaves things open to immediate judgment and possible rejection. ¬†To say it is ‘artistic’ is true. ¬†Painters, for example, use synthetic colours to achieve their goals. But no one is talking about colour; and the public simply wants natural cosmetics.

If only we could find within ourselves balance and moderation rather than extremes…. the middle road so to speak…. and see the¬†good that can be found in almost everything. ¬† Which is what I have decided to do. ¬†Create perfumes that are composed of various raw materials- predominately naturals of course, as they are my first love and I understand the therapeutic aspects of pure organic oils…. But I will also augment and enhance with some materials which have been created in a laboratory setting. ¬†These ones manmade will be biodegradable, (no Galaxolide for me), phthalate-free, and of course- in accordance with the now very stringent International Fragrance Association (IFRA) standards*.¬† Besides, ¬†more and more isolated molecules are being created in a way considered natural… so the palette grows.

* (After-note…as I reread this statement about IFRA, I realize the na√Įvet√© of what I have just said.¬† I was conditioned to have IFRA compliance as a norm, because this is how it is in the industry and it has been standard self-governing. And this has been for the purpose of the safety of the consumer.¬† However, more recently, it could be said that IFRA is ruining the art of perfumery with its biased extremism and paranoia through the limiting or prohibiting of raw materials- in particular natural materials- based on questionable data.¬† So far, amendment after amendment, the perfume industry has taken it lying down, reformulating classic formulas and even discontinuing perfumes that proved too difficult to comply with the new rules.¬† There is a growing movement, among natural artisan perfumers in particular, to take a stand against this extremism, and I will be contacting some of the most active in this movement to find out if they are standing together on this and in what way.¬† I¬† will write about it once I hear back.)

I feel good about this decision. It was amazing how my education in Grasse opened my eyes to my own blind bias. ¬†However, knowing too much can be paralyzing as well..’the more I know the more I realize how much I don’t know’… ¬†until one makes friends with new information, deals with the identity crisis that may follow, and then simply moves forward with an open mind. ¬†Then, for me personally, ¬†the decision is made by choice rather than prejudice.

(After-note: I have utmost respect and admiration for perfumers who chose to work with only natural raw materials. This was my original direction as well, and it was difficult to hear industry people in France and elsewhere say, “you can’t make real perfume with only naturals”. ¬†Just in the last 2 years, finally, ¬†the school of natural perfumers is being taken much more seriously. The nay-sayers will be eating their words as more and more beautiful natural perfumes are created. )

Mimosa trees in full bloom