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Filigree & Shadow

Fragrances against mediocrity

31 Jul ’22

Stand Up, Fight Back

Posted by James Elliott in the more you know, transparency
A map of the United States illustrating states with LBGTQ nondiscrimination policies
Source: Freedom for All Americans

To the people asking why I would turn away sales, or to the business owners who question me requiring U.S. customers to contact their representatives, allow me to present what’s about to happen in the fall when SCOTUS reconvenes and listens to arguments for 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. [Source: Supreme Court of the United States]

To date, amicus briefs for this case have been filed by 20 Republican Senators and 38 House of Representatives, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Colorado Catholic Conference, the General Council of the Assemblies of God, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Samaritan’s Purse. [Source: KLTVCatholic News Agency]

Given that we know SCOTUS met and prayed with a right-wing evangelical activist directly following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, it’s safe to assume that the Court will side with 303 Creative LLC, which will allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people on the grounds of “religious beliefs.” [Source: Rolling Stone]

Currently in the U.S. there are 27 states without LGBTQ nondiscrimination policies. In terms of numbers, 6,274,000 LGBTQ Americans in these 27 states could lose their employment, housing, and health services at minimum because of “religious beliefs.” (This number was tabulated from a 2020 poll of Americans who identified as LGBTQ within each of the 27 states.) [Source: Movement Advancement Project]

State lawmakers are already working on their own “Don’t Say Gay” legislation to follow in Florida’s footsteps. [Source: NPR]

We are being shown – in broad daylight – what they mean to do to us.

So when you ask why I am requiring all U.S. customers to contact their representatives, this is why.

29 Jun ’22

Defending our rights

Posted by James Elliott in store news
A screenshot of Kathleen Hanna from the documentary 'The Punk Singer,' with the video caption 'All girls to the front! I'm not kidding.' changed to read 'All activists to the front!'

Effective immediately, all U.S. orders will require proof that you contacted your elected officials demanding they fight to protect full bodily autonomy. Failure to produce proof will result in a cancellation of your order.

Here are some links to help you fight back:

Here are some book recommendations:

You can text RESIST to 50409. Answer the questions the bot texts you, and in two minutes you’ll have sent a letter to the elected officials of your choice: your members of Congress, state legislators, or many more.

I will follow up with you when you place an order and ask for a screenshot or photo of you contacting your elected officials. I will delete all images and I will not share your information. I am instituting this requirement for all U.S. orders until we take back our rights for full bodily autonomy.

If you are not ready to fight, then get the fuck out of the way.

16 Aug ’21

IFRA Compliance

Posted by James Elliott in IFRA, the more you know, transparency
Photograph of a plastic pipette in a glass beaker filled with water, with empty glass beakers and a glass funnel in the background
Photo by Hans Reniers on Unsplash

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) works hand in hand with the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) to test materials and deem appropriate safety levels in 12 categories of consumer goods. Lip products are category 1; candles are category 12; and fragrances are category 4. IFRA standards change as needed, so all things fragrant must stay ever vigilant with material safety levels.

In the U.S., IFRA draws different reactions from myriad perfumers: conspiracy theories about corporations and chemicals; dramatic eye rolls; stern looks over eyewear to remind you the standards are not mandatory; and prepared monologues condemning other perfumers who choose not to follow the standards.

U.S. cosmetics safety laws presume you, the business owner, know what you are doing when it comes to making and selling all things fragrant. This is in stark contrast to other nations that set and enforce regulations to protect the safety of their citizens. The de facto state of the U.S. market is litigation when products harm consumers.

I use Bergamot FCF which is bergapten-free (not photosensitizing). I have the Certificate of Analysis and Safety Data Sheet to verify this. Bergamot FCF shares the same Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number as regular Bergamot (8007-75-8), and IFRA standards restrict the use of Bergamot oil to 0.40% of a finished fragrance. Despite one of my natural fragrances containing 0.67% of Bergamot FCF – bergapten-free – according to IFRA I’m still using too much Bergamot. I could petition my supplier to register a different CAS for their Bergamot FCF, but “citrus bergamia peel oil bergaptene reduced” (CAS number 68648-33-9) still falls under the same restrictions.

To ensure everything in my collection in IFRA compliant, I’ve reformulated 12 of my original natural fragrances using a mixture of natural and synthetic materials.

My goal with these reformulations is that you don’t notice any loss of the original fragrance. I have a Bergamot replacer from a flavor and fragrance manufacturer that, frankly, doesn't smell at all like Bergamot to me. The choice was clear: I made my own Bergamot accord that is bergapten-free. In AEON, I’m using the maximum amount of Bergamot FCF (0.40%) plus my accord, resulting in the finished water perfume containing 1.04% Limonene and 0.38% that are far below IFRA standards for each material.

31 Jul ’21

What it means for a perfume to be eco-friendly

Posted by James Elliott in the more you know, transparency

What it means for a perfume to be eco-friendly

I received a direct message (DM) on Instagram asking if my fragrances are eco-friendly. I want to tell you why my answer is “No.”

Disclaimer: My answer is steeped entirely in experience as a U.S. perfumer based in Seattle. So everyone outside the U.S. reading this can lower their pitchforks. Also, obligatory “not all perfumers” if it makes people happy. Now then.

My boxes & inserts are manufactured and printed by a family-owned company in China. I have a great relationship with them and they are incredibly easy to work with. U.S. manufacturers either ignored me or told me to accept their subpar output capabilities.

My glass bottles are made in France (though the company is in London). I don’t have the capital to produce custom glass bottles, so I zhuzh up my stock glass bottles with custom labels and a box.

I use a synthetic surfactant blend that enables distilled water to be used as a substitute for alcohol in perfume. It is produced from a company with global production facilities.

I use a combination of synthetic materials as well as natural materials that are extracted from botanical sources. (I don’t manufacture my own tinctures or distillations.) I label which fragrances are natural or natural and synthetic on my site.

When I create my perfumes, I wear disposable latex gloves to protect my skin and I use plastic pipettes to measure materials. I use paper towels to absorb any accidental spills.

I have only met one company that manufactures all its fragrances using materials they themselves harvested from invasive species. Cebastien and Robin of dryland wilds are just the loveliest people, truly. (This is an important distinction from other perfumers that “harvest” materials from “public lands” without compensation—which sounds an awful lot like colonizing, but that’s a subject for another day.)

I’d never presume to tout my fragrances as eco-friendly because clearly I cannot. But: I make sure my bottles & packaging can be recycled; I never use any animal products; I donate products where I can as well as a percentage of my annual sales to Seattle Animal Shelter; and I am working toward paying rent to the Duwamish People as I occupy their traditional land.

I’m not eco-friendly. I simply try to be good.

05 Jul ’21

My Customer

Posted by James Elliott in the more you know
white and blue floral ceramic cup
Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

I’m often asked who I make my fragrances for. Who is my target audience. Without hesitation I reply, “people who’ve been broken.” The people picking up the pieces again. The repairing person. The person who started as a bowl, chose the parts to keep whilst leaving some parts of themselves behind, and joined everything together in gold. Maybe what was once a bowl becomes a cup. Similar to Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), the process to put ourselves together is individually different but, oh, how we shimmer in the end.

I’ve been told my perfumes reflect a coherent and deeply felt/lived aesthetic. I appreciate my fragrances create visceral reactions. That’s my intention. They are, as was told to me, full of sincerity, heart, and playfulness.

Not everyone is going to gravitate toward the same fragrance or brand aesthetic, and that is what makes perfume so magical. There is space: we find one another. And, oh, how we shine.


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