Making Scents with Sally Woodward-Hawes

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My blog presence over the past few months has been patchy at best. You probably noticed. Partly it’s because I have just started freelancing full time and am trying to wrangle the overwhelm that comes with being self employed and partly it’s because I haven’t been entirely sure about what I wanted this blog to be.

So I decided to bring it back to basics and think about what it is I am actually passionate about. And that’s people. What’s most fascinating to me about the initiatives, issues and ideas I care about, are the people behind them. So, I have decided (finally) that Thinking Fashion will be a platform to share their stories. When I read articles or hear about amazing things, my first response is usually ‘I wonder who came up with that idea?’ and ‘what’s their story?’

Each week (hopefully!) I will profile at least one inspirational person who is making waves in the world of sustainability, social justice (or other areas of ‘good’) using style as a vehicle or a lense.

So to kick things off officially, I would like to introduce Sally Woodward-Hawes of Aromantik.

I came across Sally at my local Saturday markets when I first moved back to Sydney about two years ago. Her natural and organic handmade perfumes quickly became regular fixtures in my bathroom cabinet and her delightful unisex fragrance ‘Merchants of Menace’ is now my signature scent. I even wore it on my wedding day (and so did my husband!)

So here we go, making scents of Sally.

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How did Aromantik start and what’s the philosophy behind the brand?

Strangely enough I became drawn to perfume through an old box that I inherited when my mum passed away when I was 17. Inside were bottles of her favourite fragrances – classics such as ‘Joy’ by Jean Patou, and ‘Opium’ released by YSL in the year I was born (1977) . When I sprayed them I felt an instantaneous connection to her again – it was as though she was standing beside me. I was struck by the intensity of the memories that can be triggered by scent and this led to my obsession with fragrance. I wanted to create something that would trigger memories in people and take them out of the moment to another time in their life. I love the romance of this concept – of smelling a fragrance that reminds you of your first love, or of a place you visited. This is what still drives me today – creating the potential for memories and keepsakes.

What has influenced your commitment to natural and ethical beauty?

It wasn’t until I started doing some research into what actually goes into most mainstream beauty products and fragrances that I became aware of the issues. Our skin is our largest organ and anything we put on it is absorbed into the bloodstream. People are often shocked when they hear this, but medical technologies often utilise skin patches to deliver potent drugs through the skin so it definitely makes sense that we need to be conscious of what we put on it. Also, most commercial fragrances use petroleum derived materials and many of them are now found in our oceans and waterways. I have a real issue with synthetic musk. As a matter of concern, polycyclic musks are now being detected in blood, breast milk, and even newborns due to their prolific use in fragrance. This is actually what led me to create ‘merchants of menace’ as I wanted a 100% natural alternative to synthetic musk. It’s one of our bestsellers and my signature fragrance.

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Can you tell us a bit about how the perfumes are made and where you get the inspiration for the amazing fragrance names?

I have now been making natural perfumes for over ten years. I source my raw materials (being natural essential oils, absolutes and extracts) from all over the world. Some examples of this are vetiver oil from Haiti, vanilla oil from Madagascar, rose oil from Bulgaria and ylang ylang oil from the Comores. I could go on and on! I usually start out with an idea, or a key ingredient in my mind – it could be a memory, or just a feeling I have and then I will sit down and start to create accords that complement each other. Working through the base notes, heart and head notes of the fragrance can be a long, painstaking (and expensive!) process. Some fragrances have taken me over 2 years to create, others come together very quickly. Some materials that natural perfumers use in their palette cost over $10,000 per kilo. The rose oil I use from Bulgaria takes 3,000 to 5,000kg of flowers (more than one million flowers!) to produce just 1kg of rose oil.

As for the names, they just seem to come to me. Sometimes I think of the name first and will write it down and create a scent to fit it and other times the fragrance comes first and then I will sit on it for weeks or months until I find the right name.

If we were to look inside your beauty cabinet, what would we find?

I make most of my own beauty products and this year, I am actually going to be releasing a small range of the things I make, that I swear by. I use mainly face oils and organic rose water on my skin morning and night. I cleanse with Gentlemans Brand Co. face wash, and use the daily moisturiser also (full disclosure -this is my other business with my brother and our business partner). I always wear sunscreen if I am going out in the sun. In terms of make up I use rms beauty uncover up and living luminiser and Jane Iredale mineral make up. In my cabinet you’ll also find Egyptian Magic, Black Chicken remedies, Axilla deodorant and many other bits and pieces.

Check out Sally’s Aromantik website, peruse the skincare on Gentleman’s Brand Co (her other business) and follow her on Facebook.

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