Interview with the Founder of Abel Fragrance : Frances Shoemack
Interview with the Founder of Abel Fragrance : Frances Shoemack

With the launch of Abel's newest fragrance, Laundry Day, we checked in with the brand's incredible founder Frances Shoemack.


1. We have loved your beautiful brand from its inception and pride ourselves in being one of your first retailers here in New Zealand. Can you share an insight into what rituals or routines contribute to your own holistic approach to wellbeing?

Finding moments to pause and reflect. The smallest of pauses can make such a difference... 10 minutes meditation before bed, a coffee in silence before starting emails, a quick walk in the sun at lunchtime. There’s always time to breathe deeply. And yoga. Something that’s been part of my life for many years now (I was fortunate enough to be raised by a yoga teacher mother). 

A more recent addition to the self care ritual is one I share with my husband (as such has become both self and relationship care) - sauna and cold plunge. This started more casually several years back, but became very entrenched when we decided to put in a Sauna in the bush by our coastal home. My husband has now gone nearly 1000 days in a row of cold plunging... (when away from home this could be a cold shower or dunk in any body of water!). I take a more holistic approach (!) and get into the water "most days" for nearly three years now. So much to be said on the benefits of hot cold therapy, but for me the biggest is the mental aspect - it keeps me grounded and in harmony - if I let it slide, I notice!


2. With the launch of Laundry Day and your philosophy of keeping the range small, a one in one out policy, could you walk us through your process of developing and introducing a new product?

The creative process changes every time we work on a fragrance. For Laundry Day, I literally said to Isaac our perfumer on a dark Parisian day "I'd love to bottle Wellington on a good day"... Isaac, a Kiwi who hasn't lived in NZ for 25 years and never in Wellington, immediately got the reference. That first day of Spring when you throw open your windows, anticipate the beauty of the season ahead, inhale the sweet aroma of freshly cut grass, take joy in the ritual of hanging your sheets on the line knowing they'll dry crisp and fresh. Originally we coined this creative idea "Laundry Day" as a working name, but I got much too attached! Laundry Day is a metaphor for all that is possible in the change of the seasons. 

3. As a founder deeply rooted in the natural fragrance industry, how do you balance innovation with the preservation of traditional methods and ingredients? In the context of your latest product launch, how have you integrated novel ideas while staying true to your brand's heritage and values?

I really take joy in this balance! Beautiful, rare and complex essential oils will always be at the core of our scent making process. Growing innovation in natural science and biotechnology gives us far more tools in our tool box, options around sustainability and supply chain - in short, it's really exciting for us! Biotech allows chemists to obtain molecules from a natural source (i.e. plant sugars, yeast, bacteria, fungi) and culture them in a lab environment. The resulting ingredients are more efficient, consistent and less volatile than their natural counterparts while having a small, controlled supply chain, just as stable and scalable as their synthetic counterparts (molecules made from petrochemicals, which make up the vast majority of the scent ingredients used in perfume today) while being made from a renewable resource and readily biodegradable.

Laundry Day that just wouldn't be possible to make (100% natural), without biotechnology. For example, we use a biotech aldehyde molecule - that's responsible for the fresh laundry smell! When I started out a decade ago, I didn't imagine we'd be able to source a natural Aldehyde - one of the first high profile synthetic molecules!  Another great example is an incredible upcycled ingredient from the skins of passionfruit (juice industry waste) which has an stunning unique, almost feijoa-like aroma (note there is no "feijoa essential oil"). 
As (one of the first) natural perfume houses, biotech is broadening our palette significantly and allowing us to compete with synthetic scents on attributes like longevity in a way that we otherwise couldn't.
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