Charlotte Tilbury $68
The artisan perfumer draws from philosophy, botany and global travel to create daring, evocative fragrances.
Written By PUNCH HUTTON
In a new series, VIOLET GREY profiles female beauty entrepreneurs who are considered industry game changers for their individual approach to business. Each one entered the conversation in her own manner and maintained a steady, if not unparalleled, trajectory with her indomitable spirit.
“Connecting to yourself and to nature is transforming and freeing, and it’s something I think we’re all really longing for,” says artisan perfumer Haley Alexander van Oosten. The Los Angeles native, who has traveled the world in search of rare, pure, and varied oils, is the antithesis of a mass-market fragrance creator. “Commercial predictable fragrances leave me sad and cold at best, and I sensed I was not alone in that feeling,” she says, explaining the impetus to launch her private practice, L’Oeil du Vert, from a studio in Malibu in 2005. “I am deeply fascinated by the plant world and its beauty and secrets, as well as what nature can teach us when we explore its essences,” she notes, describing her passion and dedication to understanding her craft.
Van Oosten creates custom fragrances for her clients based on their preferences, but not in the way you might think. For example, one would not sit down with her and say, “I want to smell like jasmine or roses.” Rather, she strives to create an olfactory experience in which the wearer has a connection or sensation derived from the jasmine—or any number of oils found in wood, flowers, and plants—put on the skin. She then crafts and customizes a specific essence that is as unique to its wearer as it is to van Oosten’s portfolio. Her scents are unlike anything you’ve ever smelled.
Van Oosten, who works with a chemist and a plant biologist, has also mastered the art and alchemy of distillation. “That is when I really came into a whole new understanding of what these essences were and what I could offer,” she says. In 2009, she grew her small operation into a full-fledged fragrance design studio. The name, L’Oeil du Vert (which translates from French to “eye of the green”), is the company ethos. “We strive to design fragrances and ways to enjoy them from the perspective or “eye” of nature, instead of from the “I” of man and his commercial and often ego-driven interests,” she explains. Lest you think you may not have the luxury of obtaining a custom blend, she also creates limited-edition batches of fragrances, all with beautifully made bottles, and there is talk of a L’Oeil du Vert signature blend—depending, of course, on the sustainability of its sources.
What is the atmosphere of your bedroom?
I like to keep my home minimal, almost empty, in contrast to my studio. So it’s all about the view of the ocean, sunsets, surrounding hillside and trees, and, of course, its subtle scent. The bedroom is even more so—ultra minimal, Donald Judd–ian spare, high ceilings with exposed wood beams, low light from a single Noguchi floor lamp, and the soft hum of my wood-and-bronze room scenter.
Please describe your bed and your favorite thing about it.
I studied for years in Japan, so I love a low bed just off the floor, with one big comforter infused with my favorite scent—my not-so-scrubbed boyfriend.
What time do you wake up?
Like clockwork, every morning there are two squirrels that jump from the trees and madly scamper across the flat roof of the house. The thump of their paws always wakes me up with a smile. No idea what they’re doing.
How many hours of sleep do you require?
I usually get about six or seven hours, but if I could I would sleep all day.
Any bedside beauty essentials?
I like to have a vial of the latest custom fragrance I’m working on next to my bed, or I run it through my scenter. The plant oils seem to guide me into a deep revitalizing sleep. I especially love night-blooming flowers that reveal their best beauty secrets while we dream.
Do you drink coffee or tea, eat breakfast?
I love morning coffee so much. The scents, each step of the way, take me to heaven.
Do you work out in the a.m.?
Not really. I live close enough to my studio that I walk there, which is rare in LA.
What is your morning skincare regimen?
Honestly, sometimes I don’t even wash my face. I’ll just spritz it with floral waters from distillations we’ve done recently, then I put on oils I’ve brought home from whatever project we are working on, and then sunscreen. I’m obsessive about ingredients and switch them out a lot, depending on the weather.
What makeup and products do you use on a daily basis?
I don’t wear makeup unless I have to go into town—which means anywhere in a car—and then it’s still pretty minimal. For eyes, I have my eyelashes and eyebrows tinted by Cinthia Lomeli in Santa Monica. That way I only have to curl my lashes with the Utowa curler—it’s my favorite. For lips, I own one Chantecaille lip gloss in this rosy color, and I created a custom lip balm with jasmine and frankincense that I keep making for obsessed studio clients. For skin, I’ll wear a tinted moisturizer. I love one from this obscure organic brand in Switzerland, and I love the skin glow from highlighters like the one in Charlotte Tilbury’s gold compact.
What’s your hair situation in the a.m.?
Wild and out of control. It’s long and curly and the beach air turns it into dreads, so I don’t even try to tame it myself. I leave color and cut to Linda Cho at Art Luna Salon, and I get blowouts before I travel and when I have to look like a civilized human being. I wash it maybe once every week or two with this custom organic shampoo and conditioner called Kāwili, which we make for the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Hawaii. And I rub our fragrances on the ends of my hair every day. The plant extracts and jojoba oil in the fragrances are super nourishing, and a little botanical fragrance lingers much longer in hair than on skin.
What’s the first thing you read each morning?
I quickly glance at emails to make sure nothing too dramatic has happened. I like to read a poem, which I know sounds ridiculous, but it puts me in the right headspace to create and work from my soul. Right now I’m obsessed with Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things. His observations on the sensuality of flowers, scent, and the ocean are pure inspiration.
What business do you conduct before 10:00 a.m.?
Like most peopIe who do their own thing as artist or entrepreneur—or like most women in general—I’m always working one way or another regardless of so-called business hours. Even when I’m sleeping I’m working out or dreaming up new formulas or object designs.
What time do you head to your office?
After my second coffee and before my first glass of wine.