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I won’t lie: green perfume used to make me gag. Sustainable as it may have been, the lingering musty and hairy-smelling patchouli and musk oils of hippy-dippy past were not, I repeat, not the pretty and pleasurable phthalate- and paraben-free scents I’m now spritzing with abandon.
Currently on my wrists, décolletage and in my hair: Vetiver of Haiti by The 7 Virtues (C $70).
With Barb Stegemann at the helm as founder and fragrance visionary, it’s not surprising that her fair-trade Canadian brand, The 7 Virtues, is as renowned for its global activism as it is for its light and fresh, unique scents.
Infusing the locally grown and harvested organic Haitian vetiver with a squeeze of tangy lime and zesty bergamot, Vetiver of Haiti is the ideal unisex citrus-y scent. The oil is purchased at fair market value, and its sales help to rebuild the country’s communities devastated by the 2010 earthquake.
“I wanted to take a historically male fragrance-oil and make something that both women and men could wear,” Barb explains. “Turns out, Haiti’s vetiver is the best in the world.”
Upon first spritz, the perfume is sexy and cool, “like the ocean,” describes Barb, but then features a warm and earthy quality, much like pulling up a plant’s roots straight from the forest floor. Perhaps this is because of the inclusion of hardened tree resin or amber. Or due to the mix-mastery expertise of Canadian perfumer Susanne Languir.
Either way, this unconventional scent is bright and invigorating and took just over a year and a mere six incarnations to perfect. While most perfume houses typically take upwards of 18 months and double-digit versions before leisurely launching a fragrance onto department store counters, Barb keeps her focus on the humanity of others.
“We move fast,” admits Barb.
Her first two fragrances, Afghanistan Orange Blossom and Noble Rose of Afghanistan (both launched in 2010) have successfully helped empower Afghan women by encouraging the cultivation of the legal, natural flower crops of orange blossom and rose—both alternatives to the illegal poppy crops from which most of the world’s heroine is derived. Tireless in her search of additional organic essential oils, she is now looking to the Middle East and Africa for inspiration to develop additional socially relevant scents. Vetiver of Haiti is the line’s third perfume.
“These are all respectful scents,” Barb affirms. “They can be worn in every environment because of their organic properties. But, mostly, they make you feel happy, and they make the lives of others better.”