Forget one signature scent. Toronto-based writer Anne T. Donahue is…
The 7 Virtues gets a celebrity scent with the introduction of Lisa Ray Jasmine of India—the 6th scent in the brand’s lineup.
If there’s a Canadian perfume brand we’re particularly thankful for it has to be The 7 Virtues. The brand partners with distilleries, communities and suppliers in places like Afghanistan, Haiti and, now, India, in order to provide honest and economically viable work to people in the area. The latest is the brand’s first celebrity fragrance—Lisa Ray being a Canadian actor, model and actress. We spoke to Ray, and The 7 Virtues founder Barb R. Stegemann about the latest scent—what makes it Canadian, why jasmine and why perfume is so important.
What comes first: the ingredient or the place?
Barb R. Stegemann: They pick me. I get a lot of requests. And I connect them to resources, because they have to lead on it. But it truly has to be led by the people, because that’s where we see things that last. They choose me. And when they don’t have a distillery, we try to help them get their own distillery going.
Why jasmine, why now?
BRS: Lisa and I wanted jasmine 5 years ago. But I didn’t know anything then. She said I’ll help you make jasmine from India, but couldn’t find the suppliers at the time. So fast forward, and I had been wanting to use frankincense, and I wasn’t super comfortable with the supplier to be honest.
And then all of a sudden I get this call from a licensing shop and they asked if I wanted to do a celebrity scent with Lisa Ray. And I thought she had sent them, but no. And I realized we could do jasmine of India finally. We travelled to India, we got the jasmine—we basically added the jasmine to this fragrance (frankincense and myrrh) we had been developing but were unsatisfied with and again, it just sort of—follow your ethics, follow you gut. It was crazy, we dreamed of this 5 years ago. It really is this journey of who needs us, and we go there.
Lisa wanted copper and her branding of course—and she wanted a jasmine flower on the packaging. The whole celebrity component—I guess we’re grown up now (laughs), now that we have a celebrity fragrance.
Lisa Ray: In India, jasmine is so evocative. It’s used in your hair, outside temples. It’s very sacred and yet also very mundane. When you’re caught in traffic in Bombay, there will be strings of jasmine flowers that people will wander through traffic and sell you them. And it’s sort of a ritual. Amidst the chaos, amidst the traffic of Bombay. Sting up one piece of jasmine in your car. It’s a way to reconnect yourself.
BRS: You had it at your wedding didn’t you?
LR: I did, which my husband still grumbles about. We got married in Napa, and I had jasmine from India come in. It was really important to me. For me that was me connecting with my heritage. It’s so evocative. It’s something that’s so primal to us.
BRS: It’s spicy, it’s fruity…
LR: It’s also a beautiful bridge form one part of the world to another, Canada. Both places have a lot to offer the world.
I feel like that’s sort of the “Canadian-ness” of the brand too, is the ability to connect other countries.
LR: It’s a beautiful access point at a beauty counter, for something that is a little deeper and a little more healing than usual.
Why do you think perfume is such a powerful thing for women? Obviously you do a lot of work for sustainability, but just the scent—why do you think scent has the impact that it does?
BRS: I think it’s the fastest way to be happy. And it doesn’t matter how much money you have. In university we would buy our favourite perfumes. It’s the most emotional part of the brain that’s affected so it really hits you emotionally. And when you have natural essential oils—people tell me, that it helps them their anxiety. It’s actually kind of healing when you think of aromatherapy, so I find that very powerful. It’s your trademark.
For women to be empowered to use their buying power to effect change, is so important. Let’s talk substance and show that beauty has substance. We can harness that buying power and end the cycle of poverty. Essential oils and women and the beauty industry have that power. It adds up.
LR: You have your own intention, your own personal interpretation. But once it’s out in the world it reaches other people. And it creates union in diversity. Your fragrance becomes your personal story.
Do you have a love of fragrance from your childhood? Who influenced it?
BRS: My grandmother. She had flare. She lived in Montreal and always had the most beautiful bottles and the most beautiful makeup. Those bottles were so special, so rich and so gorgeous.
Do you remember what she wore?
BRS: She probably wore Chanel—classic, beautiful. I think she’d be very proud.
If you could bottle the smell of anything, what would you bottle?
BRS: My hot husband.
Is he the best smelling person to you?
BRS: He is because he actually helps develop the fragrances. And so he was wearing this scent [Jasmine of India] for many many months, so now when I smell it I think of him.
What other notes/ingredients do you have in mind for the future?
BS: I want to do a vanilla. Definitely. I think the 7th one will be vanilla. It’s hard to find fair trade vanilla. It’s also the most popular note. I hope the vanilla finds me.