Belinda Smith is the incredibly talented founder behind one of our favourite fragrance brands ST. ROSE. Belinda shares the creative process, her all-time favourite scent and a few of her ST. ROSE secrets with Superette…
Belinda Smith, ST. ROSE founder
When and how did ST. ROSE come about?
The ST. ROSE journey started from my own experience as a consumer hunting for something I couldn’t find. As a lifetime lover of fragrance, uncovering a whitespace at the intersection of clean, conscious, and luxury took me from being a customer to becoming a founder. Setting out to create what I wish existed as a total outsider in the fragrance industry was definitely a longer road but one I am thankful for as being naive meant I didn’t go about things in the traditional way. I personally started researching raw materials and where I wanted to source them. For ST. ROSE, our first priority is always starting from a palette of ingredients that uphold our ethos of ‘Good for you, good for the Earth.’
Named for the Patron Saint of Gardeners, creating in harmony with nature is at the core of our brand and the origin story of our raw materials, starting at the farm, is a core source of inspiration for the final essence. In addition to having a strict list of ingredients to work from in our clean, skin-safe formulations, I also demanded ingredient transparency so that I could pass that on to our customers. I received a lot of no’s from manufacturers before I found the amazing partners we have today.
While the work began in 2018 our signature collection launched at the end of 2019.
How would you describe the ST. ROSE customer?
Our collection of fragrances are intentionally created to be gender-neutral making them perfect for women and men alike. I think like myself, our customer doesn’t want to sacrifice quality for consciously made products. You can have luxury with the confidence that products are cleanly formulated without questionable ingredients and that are also sustainably crafted.
Any advice you would give to someone thinking of starting a brand?
Hold close two important things – 1. What sets you apart, always show up with your unique perspective and 2. Your why, it will keep you pushing forward through thick and thin.
What’s your design process and is there anything you do to help to get the ideas rolling?
Each of our fragrances start from something I am inspired by and also am craving to wear personally. ST. ROSE partners with one of the best fragrance houses in the world so we have truly the most incredible perfumers as the noses behind our collection.
It’s always a really collaborative process, sharing inspiration and allowing the masters to compose the notes that will ultimately become the final fragrance. As a clean brand with sustainability and transparency at the heart of the creation process there is always a big discussion around ingredients, where they are sourced, and ensuring that they are gentle to both people and planet.
What inspires your collections and aesthetic and how do you keep it relevant?
I always stay true to my Australian roots, with a mix of edge from our NYC base. I find inspiration in so many place – travel, art, being in nature.
I’ve always been highly visual so prior to presenting a creative brief for a new project I love working through mood boarding with images, colours, textures that shape the idea of this scent I have in my mind. I also love to work with music, the other invisible artform, by creating a playlist to help articulate the mood and energy of the composition’s essence.
With each new addition the goal is to always consistently distill the ST. ROSE spirit into every product, a convergence of considered luxury infused by nature with a rebellious edge steeped in the cultures of our two homes between Australia and New York. This ensures our collection, while offering unique scents for a broad range of palettes, share a consistent signature sensibility of feeling complex yet approachable, artistic but relatable, with an air of mystery and hopefully provocative of a bit of occasional bad behaviour.
Do you have a favourite fragrance that you’ve created over the years?
Truly I love and wear them all but Desert Nomad is a favourite child in the collection because of how it was inspired and the intention behind it. Named in honor and with permission of our friends at our sandalwood farm, the Martu Indigeneous community, whose ancestors are the last known nomadic people living in the vast central desert of Australia.
Dutjahn Sandalwood Oils were the recent recipients of the 2019 United Nation’s highly coveted Equator Prize. Honored for their innovative, nature-based solutions that are tackling climate change and poverty challenges through a 50/50 business partnership with the local Indigenous community. I actually had the honor of attending the Awards as a guest of DSO and was able to gift the very first bottles off our production line (we launched one month later) to their team.
In addition to our 1% for the Planet conservation partners, for each purchase we also donate to The K Farmer Dutjahn Foundation (KFDF) which is an Indigenous run not-for-profit foundation connected to the Aboriginal community working with DSO. The mission behind KFDF is to advance the interests of Indigenous people in the sandalwood industry and improve the livelihoods of Aboriginal Australians living in the remote desert.
It’s a pretty magical scent as well, earthy and sensual with our sandalwood as the heart and soul. Vetiver and palo santo are blended in the base bringing an added smokiness with a slight dry tone. Spiced notes of pepper and ginger add complexity and depth while clary sage adds an elegant amber tobacco sillage.
What is something not that many people know about you or your brand?
Something interesting that people might not know is from a gift that we learned from our friends and exclusive sandalwood provider in Western Australia that is 50% indigenous owned farm.
For over 40,000 years the First People of Australia have used dutjahn (sandalwood in the Martu language) burning the aromatic wood in sacred rituals. The smoke is believed to calm and protect mind, body, and soul.
We’ve applied this transcendent property to include sandalwood, exclusively from our WA farm, in each of our fragrances as a way to distil this beautiful philosophy into one’s daily ritual. A simple but powerful way to connect self with nature.
What has been the highlight of your brand/career to date?
There have been so many magical moments in our young brand’s journey. Honestly the regular messages from customers reaching out to share how much they love a particular scent is the highlight of my day, every day.
Something that is still a pinch me moment is that we were recently nominated amongst the Top Five finalists for Indie Fragrance of the Year at The Fragrance Foundation Awards, the industry’s top honour for olfactive works of art.
What are you listening to right now?
Well there is something special in the works (stay tuned) so I am busy working through that playlist to help inspire our perfumer but I also constantly have the Gypsy Cowboy playlist on rotation. It’s certainly an eclectic mix that speaks to my music inclinations from Fleetwood Mac to The Avener.
Describe your style in three words:
Laidback, timeless, tomboy.
What should every woman have in her wardrobe?
I am all about the capsule wardrobe, buying less but better. Items that will last the test of time and crafted of the quality to endure.
What’s your daily go-to outfit?
Being forever a jeans and t-shirt girl, one of my favourite aspects of fragrance is that it instantly makes you feel put together. A tee by Bassike, denim by Agolde, boots by Anine Bing or sneakers by Golden Goose completed with a spritz of one of our ST. ROSE parfums is my daily go-to.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Having an unwavering belief in yourself. At the start of my career in my early twenties my dad shared a poem with me that my grandmother had given to him. It’s called “Thinking” and was written by Walter D. Wintle, a poet who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. I keep it on my desk, below is an excerpt.
“If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win but you think you can’t…
It’s almost certain you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost,
For out in the world you’ll find
Success begins with a fellow’s will
It’s all a state of the mind …”
Where is your favorite destination of all time and why?
I love travel and draw inspiration from trips that have taken me throughout the world but coming home to Queensland is absolutely my favourite destination. Especially the beaches on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. My husband and I hope to buy a home in Noosa in the not-so-distant future.
Where to from here, what’s next for ST. ROSE?
We have some really exciting projects underway and I cannot wait to share them. There will be new scents and even within entirely new categories continuing to build our brand within the intersection of beauty and wellness … for both people and planet.Read More