Marisa Borrevik had been wearing Alice and Joan fragrances from Sweet Anthem for the past three years when she found out the Seattle-based perfumery was closing its doors. Instead of cycling the stages of grief, she emailed the owner, asking to take over the company. And, now Marisa is in charge of preserving and expanding the product line.
“I have always loved fragrances, the science behind them and how smells relate to memories. For example, my mom has worn Knowing by Estee Lauder for as long as I can remember and I love the feelings of warmth and love it conjures whenever I catch a whiff. On the flip side, there are some fun, cringe-worthy moments from my youth that can resurface every so often when I catch a whiff of Guess.”
The company currently has eight fragrances and plans to expand into a new line based in the world of herbs.
“My first step has been to really just smell and start gathering notes on what I like and what I think will go well together,” she says. “It is a lot of experimentation. I think Chanel No. 5 has 80 ingredients in it. Eighty different notes in the iconic perfume.”
Notes are the different scents that go into perfumes. There are Base Notes, Heart Notes and Head Notes. The Base Notes are the foundation of the perfume and what you will be washing off at the end of the day. The Heart Notes are the bridge between the Base and Head Notes and the Head Notes are the first scents you smell in a perfume and usually the first to fade as well.
Sweet Anthem’s current products have 10 to 15 notes. “I am really excited to develop more perfumes with herbs and have been working on formulations with basil, marjoram and ginger,” says Marisa.
Making perfume doesn’t have to be complicated. It requires essential oils or fragrance oils –essential oils are naturally occurring substances found in plants vs. fragrance oils are synthetically made — and a carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil, jojoba oil, almond oil.
“The tricky part,” says Marisa, ”is creating that perfect balance among the fragrance notes. Good perfumes are all about entrances and exits as the base, heart and head notes all make their olfactory appearance on your skin. That continues with the timing of their exits, so at the end of the day your fragrance’s base notes should still be lingering on your skin. A good perfume keeps your olfactory sense engaged throughout the day.”
Herbs seemed like a natural inspiration. “I think most of us have good memories that include herbs being used in the culinary world or gardening,” she says. “And I know that they translate effortlessly into the perfume world. It is exciting to see what combinations we will come up with.”
Her work has an unexpected family side effect. “My working with herbs has also influenced my five year old. We have a small herb garden with lemon balm, basil, peppermint, thyme and rosemary in our backyard. She loves spending time picking leaves, tasting, smelling, using a rock to mash them up and mix them with water to create her own perfumes.”