Today we’d like to introduce you to Whitney Swales.
Hi Whitney, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
Wit & West Perfumes is a 100% all-natural botanical perfumery with a focus on rare ingredients and legit scents for those who don’t want to smell like everyone else. Based in Colorado, our small-batch artisanal perfumery is solely owned and operated by myself (Wit) and my husband (West). All fragrances are designed, formulated, and bottled in-house by me, with creative content designed by West. Our perfumes are handcrafted in small batches using only the finest, high-quality 100% natural whole botanicals and naturally derived ingredients including wildcrafted and organic essential oils, CO2 extracts, absolutes, naturally derived isolates as well as custom handmade tinctures and enfleurage extraits carefully selected and sourced from raw materials including those from our very own garden. The alcohol base used in our perfumes is three-stage filtered USDA organic grape alcohol made from the finest certified organic wines and grape varietals. Our perfumes are made from 100% all-natural ingredients and are cruelty-free, phthalate, and paraben-free.
Why perfume? From as early as I can remember I have had a passion for scent and the world of perfume. What started out as a modest interest in childhood led to a more refined appreciation in my 20s and 30s as I grew my collection of bespoke, rare, and luxury perfumes ranging from lesser-known indie brands to high-end perfume houses.
In the meantime, I continued to develop my corporate marketing career that no question brought me valuable knowledge, experience, and comfort, but I was also looking for something that I could grow on my own, something more personal where I might have to face my fears but also be able to express myself in the world. My husband (West) and I have always been captivated by music and the visual and gastronomic arts and constantly drawn toward travel and unique cultural experiences. How could we join these pursuits together in an interesting and genuine fashion?
Perfume. It was perfect.
Our sense of smell is directly connected to our memory and our emotions, making perfumery a very intimate and powerful form of self-expression for both the perfumer and the wearer. Initially, as I was researching how to become a perfumer, I was weighing the options of the genre of perfumery I wanted to focus my work on; mixed media or natural. Ultimately, I landed on natural perfumery. I will note that I do not have anything against non-natural/synthetic or mixed media perfumes, I just decided to make a personal choice not to work with synthetic materials. For me, I believe that synthetics alone do not represent what scent and perfume should be – inimitable, luxurious, and natural – an olfactory interpretation of an essence in its true form that elicits emotion, connects us to the natural world, and ties memories to the moments in our lives.
Encouraged by West to channel my desire to create a unique and expansive natural perfume line as well as nurture my delight in constructing custom bespoke perfumes, I set out to learn from the masters by studying perfumery with world-renowned natural perfumers such as Anya McCoy of the Natural Perfumery Institute, Mandy Aftel, owner of Aftelier Perfumes, and Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co.
Thrilled by West’s willingness to join me on this journey and inspired by the idea of building an uncompromising and authentic perfumery that could connect life’s many passions and share them with others, Wit & West was founded.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
The world of perfumery is highly competitive, with most perfumes on the market coming from large beauty/luxury brand perfume houses. In addition to the large brands dominating the perfume and fragrance market there is also a perception that to be a true perfumer (known as a “nose” in the industry) one must study at top institutions in France and post-graduate work as a perfumer must be at a top brand.
This may seem a bit discouraging from the outside, however, there is a silver lining. Change and disruption is occurring within the industry. These change-makers include indie perfumers who are often self-taught or who’ve studied under other independent perfumers.
Some of the primary challenges with this artistic path (besides the competitiveness) is the mainstream perception of natural perfumery. Natural perfumery is growing in interest with more and more small natural perfumers emerging each year, but there are still misconceptions regarding its legitimacy and relevance in the industry. These misconceptions are based on a belief that natural perfumery is not luxurious or sophisticated and instead is rooted in aromatherapy and simplistic homemade formulations. While I was aware of these misconceptions prior to embarking on this journey, it wasn’t a challenge I originally sought to take on. However, now one of my primary goals is to show that natural perfumery is not only as beautiful as mainstream perfumery, but also that it can connect us to the sensory world in a way that we feel synthetic perfume cannot.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
In terms of what sets Wit & West Perfumes apart from others, I would say it is my approach to perfumery as well as West and my approach to our business in general. Our approach is based on a commitment to creating authentic, handcrafted perfumes developed with 100% natural whole botanicals and naturally derived ingredients that are unique and never boring. In addition, we adhere to the concept of “slow perfume” which is similar to “slow fashion”. To West and I, perfume can’t truly be experienced if treated as disposable, uninspired fast fashion. We believe perfume is an experiential art, both for the perfume wearer and the perfumer. We follow the classic French perfumery method developed by Jean Carles which focuses on assessing ingredients with one another and then formulating a perfume based on base, middle and top notes (notes are classified into these categories based on their rate of evaporation; top notes being the most fleeting and short-lived, heart notes that linger for up to a couple of hours, base notes can last for several hours). In addition, I also use traditional artisanal methods of scent extraction such as tincturing and enfleurage for some of my reserve perfume ingredients (enfleurage is a process that uses odorless fats such as solidified coconut or palm oil to capture the fragrant compounds exuded by plants/flowers).
What does success mean to you?
To me (and I know West as well), success is more than attaining a certain level of status or reaching a profit target. When it comes to Wit & West, West and I developed the brand to be centered on authenticity to who we both are without compromising things that are important to us. Whether that be in the brand itself or our focus on perfumes formulated completely in-house from 100% natural ingredients or our promise to ourselves to always ensure we make time for each other outside of the business. We chose to not take out huge business loans to start the business and not cut any corners by outsourcing any part of the startup process or ongoing business operation. Instead, we spent almost two years preparing to launch the business, working on nights and weekends during off-hours from our normal jobs. This included everything from developing perfume formulations to branding, product packaging design (the box and bottle labels are prints from original artwork painted by West himself), copywriting, website design, business incorporation, and other legal requirements, etc. We did this all ourselves with no outside funding or support from a business consultant. This was challenging due to the initial time commitment and slow ramp-up, but the long-term goal was to ensure sustainability and a business we could be proud of. West continues to remind me to remember who we are and why we did this – to create a business based on a passion of mine that remains true to our values as both individuals and as business owners. I think no matter who you are or what your business is, success should never be about compromising your initial goals or purpose. If West and I can maintain that with Wit & West, then I would say that we’ve achieved success.
- $35-$90 for Eau de Colognes
- $60-$160 for Eau de Parfums
- $600 for the Bespoke Experience (Custom Perfume)
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: https://witandwest.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/witandwest/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/witandwest
Photography by BlueSky