We always love hearing from our friend and neighbor Heather D’Angelo, the ecologist, musician and founding perfumer of San Francisco indie fragrance house, Carta. Utilizing her background in ecology, Heather creates highly original fragrances that are each built around a special, sustainably harvested ingredient from a specific geographic location.
Sourcing excursions for her first two fragrances — Moena 12|69 and Immortelle 43|17 — took her from the Amazon forest for moena alcanfor essential oil to the coast of Croatia for just-harvested immortelle. Here's what we learned about Heather's next Carta adventure and more...
Q. With so much change over the past two years (plus the birth of your son!), has anything significant changed for Carta?
A. There's been so much change in the past two years for Carta, more due to the pandemic than becoming a mother — although the latter definitely contributed to the shift! Not being able to travel for Carta because of COVID threw the biggest wrench into my plans. Carta is all about traveling and telling the stories of the people and organizations I collaborate with in sustainably sourcing my essential oils. In fact, the last trip I had taken pre-pandemic was to Croatia to source Immortelle.
I had so many dreams and plans of all the other places I was going to go and new ingredients I was going to source but that all came to a screeching halt in March 2020. I know some people continued to travel but between my asthma and then becoming pregnant, I didn't want to risk my health or the health of my baby. I flew for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic only a month ago for a family vacation.
Q. Are you working on a new fragrance and, if so, will it be centered around a special ingredient and region, like Moena 12|69 and Immortelle 43|17?
A. I am working on a new fragrance now using a very special ingredient from a very special region and in collaboration with an organization that I know well — one that I'm eager to visit once a long, potentially grueling, international trip is in the cards for me again. I will say that motherhood has made planning these kinds of adventures a bit more complicated but I'm determined!
Q. We love the Carta packaging, from the elegant 15ml glass stopper bottle to the lovely sample vials and boxes (images below). How difficult was it to transition to more sustainable packaging?
A. Thank you! A couple of years ago I decided to make Carta's packaging 100% plastic-free, which turned out to be much easier said than done. While I have seen extraordinary examples of other perfumers accomplishing this, I noticed that they always use custom-made bottles, which is way out of my budget as an indie perfumer (though having custom bottles remains a big dream of mine!).
So, instead, I had to work with existing bottles and figure out how to seal them for shipping without using any plastic-based material and I settled on baudruchage, even though it adds about five minutes of labor into the packaging of each bottle. It does add a beautiful and unique finish to the final product, however, and I love that it looks so old-fashioned.
I also struggled with finding sustainable solutions for my sample packaging since most, if not all, perfume sample vials utilize some plastic components. I ended up trying out dozens of glass vial and cork stopper combinations before coming up with the current configuration. I also had to figure out how to safely transport this extremely fragile vial to customers via mail, but my product designer Jorge Valesco at Likely and graphic designer, Kimi Lewis, got it done beautifully.
Q. A portion of profits from sales of Moena 12|69 is returned to Camino Verde, the reforestation non-profit that distills the moena alcanfor essential oil in the Peruvian Amazon. Do you have any updates on their reforestation efforts?
A. Camino Verde continues to do incredible work reforesting the Amazon. The most exciting thing they've recently launched is Moena Botanicals, their online shop where you can purchase their unique essential oils derived from plants and trees that have been cultivated using sustainable practices.
I'm so in awe of how fast they're growing and how much of a positive impact they make both ecologically and socially. We need more conservation organizations like them!
Q. Have you had time to create new music? We’d love to hear it…
A. I recently collaborated with JB from the french band, Air, on his latest solo album, Carbon. I wrote the vocal melody and lyrics to the track Space, which were recorded here in San Francisco by Lien Do at Different Fur Studio.