Exclusive Interview with Joyce Lanigan of Raw Spirit
Sustainability is a key word in fragrance as well as fashion. True scent aficionados are becoming more interested in where the ingredients in their favorite fragrances are sourced, and how they’re used. Scentbird recently sat down with Joyce Lanigan of Raw Spirit Fragrances to hear more about how sustainable business practices can open up wondrous new worlds for ethical perfume consumers to explore.
Raw Spirit has made direct collaboration with some of the oldest communities on Earth a major part of your mission. What are some of the greatest lessons or experiences you’ve had working this way?
There have been SO many amazing experiences, I could write a book! If I was to narrow it down, I’d say that both the most amazing experience and the greatest learning has come from understanding how most indigenous people view the world. They don’t believe in ownership of land—they believe in custodianship. We are nothing more than caretakers for the planet for future generations. They also take a very long-term view of the world so it can sometimes be a challenge to try and fit that approach into a commercial business, but what we’ve found is if everyone can do what they are good at, and we are respectful of that, then it all works out.
How does the idea of “perfume triggering memory” affect working with some of the world’s oldest communities?
The indigenous people that we partner with have all introduced me to the importance of scent as part of rituals. In fact, it was from experiencing scents used for rituals that inspired Raw Spirit. To give you some examples – Fire tree being burnt in Western Australia for the Nyoogar people’s Welcome to Country ceremony, or Sage being used by Native American’s to clear the air of unwelcome energy. These experiences made me realize that my own life had been peppered with scents associated with ritual. I could be immediately be transported time or place when I smelled them again. You can time travel with fragrance!
What are the biggest challenges in establishing a strong connection between sustainability and commercial success? What advice would you give other entrepreneurs in pursuing a similar path?
I strongly believe that commercial success and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe that it will become the norm and that consumers will demand it! It is not an easy path and we are still not where I’d like to be – we are a work in progress. The advice that I’d give other entrepreneurs is to accept that you may not be able to start with the “gold standard” of sustainability, but make that your goal and then plan for it.
How are you able to work directly with marginalized communities to source your materials?
We are still a small company, so I personally maintain direct relationships with most of the communities that we work with. In some cases, our fragrance house does the purchasing, but we have them guarantee that it is being sourced from our partners. I then double check back with the community to make sure that is the case. As we grow, this will get more challenging so we are looking at external accreditations and audits that we can put in place to ensure that we are being true to our mission. However, my most favorite part of my job is being out in the field with our indigenous partners, so I’ll be reluctant to give that up any time soon!
What’s next for Raw Spirit?
We have a brand new fragrance line under development for Raw Spirit. I’m really excited about what we are doing, but I can’t say much more just yet except for – watch this space!! Lots of good stuff is coming!