All-natural perfumes have been an incredibly elusive luxury for scent lovers like myself. I grew up sniffing my grandmother’s scents, kept on a mirror-topped tray in pride of place next to the door that led downstairs; when she was dressed to go out, she would stop there, check her hair in the large wall mirror, then choose just the right scent for the occasion and season. From Joy (her signature) to personally-prepared perfumes from Egypt (all kept in stoppered vials), whenever I apply perfume, I think of her.
But as I was growing up, I came to understand that most commercial perfumes are incredibly toxic, and while many natural beauty lovers eschew additional scent (or rely on bases like lavender or rose oils as perfumes), I am a bit obsessed with thoughtfully combined aromas. But there are precious few companies to serve people like me.
Enter the duo behind Lurk, Anne Sanford and Kristi Head, who not only are expert scent-creators, but make their perfumes with just essential oils with a base of jojoba oil (so no nasty chemicals whatsoever).
I got a chance to visit with Anne at her SoHo perfume studio just before Christmas, because I was curious to hear about how she and Kristi came up with the idea of Lurk, and I was, of course, super excited to smell the perfumes.
Anne told me all about how she and Kristi met in 2008, and that she had always been into scent creation. Interestingly, she said that most natural perfumes are aromatherapy based, with a sort of spa-like genesis to them (which make so much sense; rather than being like the glamorous scents we associate with perfumes, applying them is more like a trip to the massage studio—which can be lovely, but not always what one wants to smell like).
Lurk hasn’t gone the traditional beauty launch route; keying into the line’s name, the company has grown organically, slowly, finding fans via stores and boutiques that are more about the lifestyle of a potential Lurk lover—design, fashion and indy-inspired—rather than getting placement in venues already crowded with beauty brands. It makes total sense to me; the fact that the perfume in a way ‘seeked out’ its own fans via stores like Duo, Iko Iko and Erica Tanov, and limited-edition lines for fashion site Refinery 29 and Anthropologie, means that it has found some fans quietly, slowly, genuinely.
That’s probably because, unlike a traditional perfume, Lurk’s rests on the body differently; “If you walk into an elevator, you might not smell it, or it would just be a gentle waft,” Anne says. “Or when someone gets close to you—into your intimate space—then they will pick it up.”
The scents are luscious, crafted by Anne, and as she led me through the line I got excited in the way one does when something that’s entirely entrancing comes across the palate, in this case, my nose, which doesn’t get stimulated very often by anything (besides delicious food!). The beautiful packaging and design, each of which was figured around the scents, is Kristi’s forte.
BS003 might be my fave blend (I’m still deciding!), with a sandalwood base but a pop of bright citrusy-ness that brings the sandalwood out of the basement where it usually hangs out; PRJV1 is a combo of rose and a swoony funky jasmine sambac which takes the tropicality of the sometimes over-the-top flower essence and runs it through a muddy wetland TVPV1 is a black pepper and tuberose enfleurage combination (yep, its wonderfully spicy) AS01 is rosey and woody (and not too sweet), while RSW 005 is a tangy, androgynous scent.
Topmost image of Anne and Kristi, courtesy of Lurk; all other images by Starre Vartan.