We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Whitney Swales, co-owner and perfumer for Wit & West Perfumes. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Whitney below.
Whitney, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today To kick things off, we’d love to hear about things you or your brand do that diverge from the industry standard
Based in Colorado, Wit & West Perfumes is a small-batch artisanal perfumery that is solely owned and operated by myself and my husband. All of our fragrances are designed, formulated and bottled completely in-house in small batches using only the finest, high-quality 100% natural whole botanicals and naturally derived ingredients. From my perspective, the art of perfumery – just like any other artform – has different genres contained within the industry. Two of these primary genres are mainstream perfumery (e.g., large corporate-run perfume houses) and indie perfumery (small independent perfumers or small companies who hire an outside perfumer). The genre that Wit & West Perfumes falls into is indie natural perfumery, and my perfumer’s palette is based on natural ingredients simply because they speak to me personally as an olfactory artist. Just as in music or the visual arts, different tastes point people toward an affinity for different genres and the same is true in perfumery. For me, natural perfumery is an olfactory interpretation of an essence in its true form that elicits emotion, connects us to the natural world, and ties memories to the moments in our lives. So, while natural perfumery is not necessarily the standard in the industry, it is growing with consumer changes in preferences along with more small natural perfumers emerging each year. Natural perfumery may not ever be one of the larger segments of the market due to the high cost and limited supply of natural ingredients, but I am confident that it will continue to grow.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers?
I live in Littleton, Colorado with my husband Rob and our two dogs. Previously, I spent more than two decades in the corporate-world working for both large and mid-size companies in the financial services industry and for the last 15 years in the restaurant and hotel industry in finance and marketing leadership roles. About 3 ½ years ago, I told my husband (Rob) that I wanted to do something different. I always had a love for all things fragrant and had spent much of my life mesmerized by scent and perfume. I spent a couple of years both studying on my own as well as under some of the world’s most well-known and highly regarded natural perfumers including Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes, Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. and Anya McCoy of Anya’s Garden Perfumes and the Natural Perfumery Institute. From there, Rob and I came up with our vision for the brand and Wit & West was born. Wit is a play on my name, Whitney, and West is a play on Rob’s last name, which is Westendorf. In terms of what sets Wit & West Perfumes apart from others, I would say it is my approach to perfumery as well as West and my approach to our business in general. Our approach is based on a commitment to creating authentic, handcrafted perfumes developed entirely in-house with 100% natural whole botanicals and naturally derived ingredients including wildcrafted and organic essential oils, CO2 extracts, absolutes, naturally derived isolates as well as custom handmade tinctures and enfleurage extracts carefully selected and sourced from raw materials including those from our very own garden (tincturing is an artisanal method of extraction for perfumery that uses ethanol or 190-proof alcohol to extract scent from plants, while enfleurage, another method of extraction, uses odorless fats such as solidified coconut or palm oil to capture the fragrant compounds exuded by plants/flowers). To West and me, perfume cannot truly be experienced if treated as disposable, uninspired fast fashion. We believe perfume is an experiential, sensorial and olfactory artform – and our goal is to ensure we remain authentic to that artform in everything we do.
Can you talk to us about manufacturing? How’d you figure it all out? We’d love to hear the story.
All Wit & West perfumes and colognes are designed, formulated, bottled and packaged in small batches completely in-house in our studio in Littleton, CO. Luckily for Rob and I, deciding to do everything in-house was never a question nor a concern of ours. Avoiding high minimum order quantity requirements for things like packaging, maintaining quality control and staying authentic to our artisanal process are the reasons we have chosen to keep our production process in-house. We purchase the natural raw materials used in our perfume formulations from suppliers primarily in the US, as well as in Europe. We collaborate with our suppliers to verify there is origin traceability and information regarding the farming and cultivation process of our raw materials ensuring ethical and sustainable practices are maintained (including documentation on-hand where required). In the case of threatened or vulnerable species/raw materials, we look for alternative sources from other supplier(s) and/or we use similar alternative natural/naturally derived ingredients. We do not use pre-blended fragrance oils, ensuring we remain true to our focus on unique creations authentic to us that don’t smell like everything else. Our labels for our bottles are designed in-house by Rob and are affixed to each bottle by hand as part of our in-house bottling process. The only thing we outsource is the printing of our boxes (Rob designs the artwork for the boxes). While the cost ends up being slightly higher than if we were to outsource our box printing overseas, we chose to go with a printer for our boxes that is US-based in part because we wanted to work with a smaller, family-run company and also because we wanted to ensure we wouldn’t run into supply chain issues.
In terms of lessons we have learned about manufacturing our product in-house, I would say it is important to maintain a systematic and repeatable process. By day Rob is an aerospace engineer, which as it turns out, is quite advantageous for a small business that designs, formulates and produces all our products in-house. Every step of our process was mapped out by Rob from day one, and we continue to follow it to this day. We have a detailed raw materials inventory management process to ensure we do not run out of any ingredients and if we do, we know well in advance and can plan and adjust accordingly. For our small-batch perfume making process, we have a production timeline that accounts not only for the seasonality of sales online, at in-person events/pop-ups and with our retailers/stockists, but also on various supplier availability as well as with the perfume aging and filtering process (some of our perfumes require 12+ weeks for maturation via the “aging” process before they can be filtered and ready for bottling). We very rarely run out of product and this is due to our focus on maintaining a rigorous production process and timeline. The only perfumes we expect to ever run out of are our Reserve Collection perfumes as these are our limited-edition perfumes that contain either seasonal ingredients such as those harvested from our garden, or, ingredients that are difficult to source and only available from the supplier on a limited basis.
We’d love to hear about how you keep in touch with clients.
The world of perfumery is a passionate one. The community of perfume-lovers includes die-hard collectors, Instagram/YouTube reviewers and influencers, bloggers and writers, perfume-making hobbyists and more. Since launching Wit & West Perfumes, I have had the opportunity to meet a number of these passionate perfume-lovers. Some people I have met on Instagram because they are fragrance influencers or reviewers who followed us and wanted to learn more about our brand (several of them are now good friends of mine!). Others I have met through Facebook groups like the group Eau My Soul, a fragrance group focused on sharing their “Scent of the Day” with each other. Beyond the online community of perfume lovers, there is a local community here in Colorado I have been fortunate enough to meet through local pop-up events and markets including Firefly Handmade and the Jackalope Art Fair. For me, connecting to this community – whether local or online – is an important part of being a small business owner and one that makes me realize why Rob and I started Wit & West Perfumes to begin with.
- Website: https://witandwest.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/witandwest/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/witandwest
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/wit-west/
Photography by BlueSky https://www.photographybybluesky.com/