When this is the state of affairs, scented moisturizers become my fragrance medium of choice, especially when it gets to be ninety degrees plus a number of days in a row. I was lucky to run across a delightful post by Beth Schreibman Gehring, on Laurie Stern's Velvet and Sweet Pea. It's a late-Victorian California style of organic products and perfumes by an artist and gardener, who came to perfume by way of floral design. There’s a pampering-of-the bride-getting-ready-for-the-big-day feel to the aesthetic, crossed with a hand-made Californian love of bodily and natural pleasures and ingredients, crossed again with a layer of 1890s Gold Rush influence. I think of ladies in the old Westerns in their hand-made white lacy under-things, getting out of their corsets and sinking into the white claw-footed bathtub. Only Laurie Stern's is out in the open, in a back yard garden in San Francisco with a thick layer of rose petals on the water, protecting modesty.
I was so taken with this idyllic image of bathing in the garden, and the natural and traditional perfume elements, I immediately ordered a sample pack of perfumes and a whipped frosting face and body cream, in Kashmir Rose. I happened to need a face cream and I had a good feeling from the description of the texture and the delicious ingredients, and my expectations were more than fulfilled. It contains Kashmir Rose otto and Moroccan Rose absolute, and an ambrosial combination of organic shea butter, virgin oil de coco crème, avocado, organic sesame, safflower, marula, vanilla infused organic jojoba, rosehip seed oil and vitamin E. I have been using it so often that I got through the smaller size jar quickly, so I am lucky that extra samples were thrown in for me. The Tuberose and Gardenia Whipped Frosting is remarkable in that the gardenia and tuberose fragrance was made through the enfleurage process, a very rare thing these days. It is subtle and entirely uncloying, which is a feat, considering the notes involved. The shea butter and oils are whipped with so much air that the cream makes a tiny crackling sound when you scoop it out, which I enjoy, and also when it melts from the warmth of the skin’s heat, going from the texture of butter cream frosting to a light fragrant oil. Best used at night because it is so rich, I have nevertheless used it in the morning too, letting it sit awhile over breakfast, and then wiping any remaining shine down with a towel before applying makeup. It's very smoothing around the eyes and a good preparation for eye makeup.
My favorites of the fragrances so far are Narcissus Poeticus, a fresh cool floral green sweetness, notes of violets, jonquille, limes and mandarin, osmanthus and iris, hand-made in limited edition; Honey, an accurate warm aromatic, a relaxing soft fragrance, not as sweet as you would expect, more like honey after it has been stirred into the hot water or tea, and Jewelry of Heaven, a calm, classic fond of jasmine grandiflorum and Himalayan and Turkish roses, in a late 19th century style. They also come in solid form.
Velvet and Sweet Pea is named for the two cats that are the patron saints of the concern, and certainly vigilant guardians of good cream sources. Laurie Stern is a great animal lover, and contributes to the rescue of the cats who haunt the Coliseum in Rome. She has received the Leaping Bunny certification, signifying that the products and the ingredients are cruelty free (of course!)
Above, the rose petaled bath of my dreams in Laurie Stern's garden, and a portrait of Lillie Langtry, the great professional beauty of the Edwardian era, and a beloved icon of female beauty in the American West of that era.