I’ve been on the hunt for a scent to call my own for years. You know, one that becomes imbued in your everyday, your signature. A fragrance that will waft through the air years after I last saw someone and they’ll immediately think of me and the times we shared. I want a scent that feels like home, one I can dab behind my ears while my babies are still nuzzling my neck and again when they’re grown, when I’ll dab again and be briefly transported back to these sweet, fleeting moments thanks to the olfactory etchings in my brain.
I’ve never felt like I found “the one” until I misted my first hit of Vanilla Woods by The 7 Virtues. The best way to describe it is that it’s all the things. There’s an instant sense of coziness that envelopes you like a hug and vaguely reminds of delicious baked comforts. Keep sniffing and the fragrance morphs into something alluring, spicy, and seductive as it radiates from your pulse points. Yet there’s also something juicy and buoyant. It’s a scent that’s sophisticated but light, cozy but fresh. You’ll find notes of pear, rose, caramel, amber, and vanilla. And you’ll find just three ingredients on the label: Organic Sugar Cane Alcohol Denat. Vanilla Planifolia. Water.
Be still my heart.
My search for this fragrance has lasted so long because I’m picky. I’m not interested in undisclosed mystery ingredients and potentially toxic elements in my everyday products. Vanilla Woods, along with every other perfume from The 7 Virtues, is vegan, clean, fair trade, organic, ethically sourced, sustainable—pretty much every wellness and socially conscious buzzword you can think of. But that’s not the end of the story, it’s only the beginning — every essential oil that makes up these fragrances was sourced specifically from war-torn or strife-ridden countries as a means to rebuild lives. Take Vanilla Woods, for example: the fair trade, organic vanilla comes from a sustainable co-op and helps bring education and healthcare to the community in Madagascar. Or Patchouli Citrus, which features fair trade, organic patchouli oil from Rwanda and helps survivors of the Rwandan genocide find economic independence through a wage that’s three times higher than that of their next crop, coffee.Barb with Haitian farmers who supply 7V’s vetiver essential oil
This is where my search for a clean signature fragrance transforms into an all-out obsession with The 7 Virtues, its peace-promoting mission (“make perfume, not war” is the brand’s battle cry), and its founder, Barb Stegeman, a journalist and author turned social entrepreneur. The more I researched and read, the deeper my admiration grew, and I found myself telling the story of The 7 Virtues to anyone who’d listen because I found it THAT inspiring.
The story is rich and complex and still unfolding, but can be boiled down to this: Picking up her friend’s mission to liberate the women and children of Afghanistan (that friend, a Canadian soldier who survived a Taliban ax to the head), Barb began to source orange blossom and rose oil from Afghan farmers, giving them a dignified means of income and an alternative to growing illegal poppy and entanglement with the Taliban. Those oils would become perfume, and that philosophy of empowerment would lead the brand to other countries as well, among them Haiti, Madagascar, India, Egypt, the Middle East, and more.
The whole idea is essentially the concept of her book put into action. Yes, The 7 Virtues brand actually began as a book: “The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen – A Woman’s Guide To Living & Leading in an Illogical World.” The goal—to empower women to own their destiny and their ability to change the world. (As Barb notes, we as women own the buying power that can change lives and create immense global impact.) The book outlines the seven virtues of the great philosophers as a roadmap to fulfillment and effecting change — wonder, balance, truth, courage, justice, wisdom, and beauty. It includes lessons applicable to any woman, while following Barb’s incredible journey through her initial career and throughout the development of her perfume brand. This holiday season, it’ll be the first book ever sold at Sephora, alongside the entire 7 Virtues collection. Barb told me she hopes it’ll ignite a business cavalry of social entrepreneurs who will change the world with clean beauty — and after reading it and feeling ignited by it myself, I have no doubt about that.
Let’s get back to those fragrances though. Barb also shared a Peace Blend Box ($29) with me, a collection of seven perfume samples from around the world, each representing an investment in a particular community in need. Among the likes of the original Orange Blossom and Rose Amber scents from Afghanistan, you’ll find Vetiver Elemi, an earthy, spicy blend with oils from Haiti that support post-earthquake farmland recovery and more than 2,500 workers; an uplifting Israel- and Iran-sourced Grapefruit Lime, a symbolic blend that holds hope for end to conflict there; and a Jasmine Neroli perfume crafted with jasmine oil from India that provides agricultural development and a college program enabling the blind to become perfumers. You can wear each perfume alone or layer them to create your own signature “peace perfume.” The collection comes in a gift-ready box that features inspiring snippets of each oil’s story. I don’t think I’ll ever struggle to find a holiday or thank-you gift again. With so many samples and scent combinations that make them almost infinitely customizable, it’s a can’t-go-wrong gift. And the best part is that I’ll be playing a part in perpetuating this perfume-to-peace cycle. That makes my heart happy — and makes me smell really, really good.
I’ve just barely scratched the surface of this brand’s impact and inspiring story, which is still evolving and accelerating to this day. Watch the movie Perfume War, a documentary about the brand’s fight for world peace here: https://the7virtues.com/contemporary/perfume-war-the-film/
Shop The 7 Virtues perfume and book directly at www.the7virtues.com or find it as part of Sephora’s Clean at Sephora collection.