ELEVEN SIX WOMEN | HEATHER D'ANGELO
Photography by Jessa Carta | @jessacarterinstant
Meet Heather D'Angelo: the founder, maker and creator of Carta Fragrances - a fragrance line that is steeped purely in an ecological and sustainable approach. Heather depicts Carta as: "a conversation of scent and place" - a phrase that spoke so powerfully to me when I discovered Carta's roots were also born and inspired by a trip to Peru. Not only does Heather create extraordinary and exquisite fragrances she is a talented musician and part of the band: Au Revoir Simone (that I frequented many an intimate NYC show of in years gone by). Earlier this year, I connected with Heather independently, when our love of Peru, and world's of knitwear and fragrance found each other - a connection the universe truly intended! Read on to discover more of Heather's path and the incredible journey of Carta...
How did the journey of Carta come about?
My journey towards perfumery first stirred within my Italian-American girlhood. Those memories are imbued by the heady aroma of my Great-Grandmother’s stewed tomatoes, the garden bouquets of roses wrapped in wet newsprint by my Grandfather, and the big heady 1980s fragrances worn by the chic women in my family, especially an Aunt who looked like a Sicilian Elizabeth Taylor. I developed an appreciation for creating and consuming beautiful things that I’ve woven into every aspect of my life.
A strange and serendipitous series of events led me to become a professional musician which was not my intended career path, having graduated from Parsons School of Design with a degree in photography, but I ended up spending over a decade of my life writing music and sharing it with the world in my band, Au Revoir Simone.
In the midst of my musical career, I did a full 180 spin and began working on another degree from Columbia University, but this time in tropical ecology. My research there focused on Malaysian rainforests, and gathering data for this scientific study required long sweaty weeks spent plunging sampling cores into the earth and stuffing fistfuls of musty leaves into plastic bags.
During that time, I cursed a lot and fantasized about being back on the road as a musician. But once home, I missed the sharp, ozonic aroma of oncoming rain and couldn’t forget the acrid scent of burning woods drifting through the air commingling with the sweet perfume of ripe blooms. I wished to create a kind of “scent map” of the rainforest and this desire was the impetus for Carta, which means “maps” in Italian.
For my debut fragrance, I knew I wanted to return to the rainforest that had first captured my heart—the Amazon. Through another series of strange and serendipitous events, I was connected to Robin Van Loon, founder of Camino Verde, a reforestation-focused NGO in the Peruvian Amazon. I spent a week on the farm, returned with a kilo of their essential oil, Moena Alcanfor, and got to work. I launched Moena 12|69 a year later.
We both share a love of Peru and that this special place inspired us to create our brands. How did Peru inspire you to start Carta?
It wouldn’t be too dramatic to say that Carta wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t found Camino Verde. That trip changed everything for me. When I first started out as a perfumer, I was concerned about the environmental impact of my art. Essential oils are resource-intensive and many are associated with environmental and social justice issues. But Camino Verde showed me how nature-derived products can replenish ecosystems and strengthen local communities, instead of depleting and exploiting them. After spending time on their farm, I developed a newfound passion for using my art to help fund their critical work.
Can you share how your channel sustainability through your brand ethos and product?
As an ecologist and maker, I care deeply about Carta’s impact on our planet and its inhabitants. To me, having a conscious business means always striving to find solutions that will take Carta a step closer from merely sustainable to regenerative.
I source every ingredient I use from farms, manufacturers, and distributors that I trust. These relationships are forged through shared values of conscious production and nurtured through ongoing dialogue as the bar continues to rise. By celebrating one botanical per perfume and sharing its story from plant to product, I seek to solidify fragrance as an agricultural product in my customer’s minds and foster a greater appreciation of the tremendous resources it takes to grow and distill plants. By visiting farms personally, I bear firsthand witness to the agricultural practices behind my ingredients, confirming they’re employed ethically and sustainably. These journeys also instill enhanced mindfulness for how I use resources as a perfumer and the potential shifts that may come in response to our ever-changing world.
Single-use plastic is also a huge issue in the beauty industry—eighteen trillion pounds of plastic have been produced to date, and eighteen billion pounds of it ends up in our oceans each year! That’s why I have strived to eliminate single-use plastics at every turn. My signature splash bottle features a fitted ground-glass globe stopper, eliminating the need for plastic pumps, caps, and tubes. Each one is hand-sealed using an artisanal technique called baudruchage, involving the application of a biodegradable wrap laced with silk threads and secured with a wax seal. This technique ensures that bottles remain both air and watertight during their journey and free from tampering.
I offer a refilling service to encourage my customers to keep bottles out of landfills by offering incentives to return or reuse them. My parfums are shipped using biodegradable and/or recycled shipping materials.
I recently changed my sample packaging, which was quite a feat! I eliminated the traditional plastic stoppers you usually see on sample vials with cork. The packaging is also fully recyclable.
Every decision I make with Carta is shaped by my commitment to sustainability—but the truth is, there is so much work still to be done. I’m constantly asking questions about every facet of my supply chain and how all those separate parts function together so that positives in one area aren’t offset by negatives in another. And there is very little transparency when it comes to some areas. That is why I founded the Coalition of Sustainable Perfumery along with a small group of likeminded perfumers. Our goal is to bring greater transparency to sustainability issues in our industry and to help other indie perfumers make better choices.
I originally discovered you through your music and then independently rediscovered you as Carta – how does the world of music and fragrance coexist?
One of the biggest surprises I found when I first began to draft a “scent map” of the rainforest was that perfumery required the same concentric mapping of the deeply personal, intimate, and emotional place I access through musical composition. Whether I’m composing music or perfume, I'm propelled forward by a force that comes “through” me rather than “from” me—there’s an inspiration-from-elsewhere driving the choices I make.
Musical notes and fragrance notes are both meditative tools that allow me to dive within and access the psychic space of universal connection. Like a traveler in a foreign land, I seek to retrieve a souvenir from that space – a song, a perfume. Both tell the story of where I’ve been, established at first with a beat and layered with textures and meaning. Both want a beginning, a middle, and an end and the storytelling can’t be rushed.
To listen to my music, to wear my perfume, is to know me.
How have you navigated Carta through COVID and have there been silver linings?
Covid has definitely been difficult for my business (as it has been for nearly all businesses!). Before the pandemic, I was regularly teaching perfumery classes at my studio in San Francisco—that obviously had to stop. But I was able to figure out how to offer my classes virtually which allows me to teach people all over the United States, not just locally, so that was a wonderful bright spot.
The slower pace of life has also allowed me to spend more time at home doing what I love—making music and perfume. While 2020 has been generally terrible, it’s also been a highly creative time for me, and I’m grateful for that.
During these uncertain times what has brought you inspiration?
I’ve been greatly inspired by the creative community at large—seeing how other artists have pivoted to offer their work in new ways and find alternative ways of connecting. My musician friends perform home concerts over Instagram, my artist friends offer virtual studio tours, my writer friends do book readings over Zoom. I don’t mean to sound Pollyanna-ish—we wouldn’t be in this situation if not for a gross lack of strong national leadership (New Zealand is truly inspiring!) but I do find it heartening to see artistic spirit endure—even thrive—in the darkest of times.
Do you have a daily mantra you live by?
I don’t have a daily mantra but I do remind myself every day that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline for CARTA?
I recently launched a new perfume, which is a big deal since I haven’t done so in over two years. The new fragrance is called Immortelle 43|17 and features Immortelle essential oils sourced from two small family-owned farms from the Dalmation Coast at 43° North, 17° East. The helichrysum italicum (Immortelle) plants were sustainably cultivated and harvested, with reverence for maintaining the biodiversity, ecological balance, water resources, and soil quality of their respective regions.
Like Moena 12|69, this perfume was a long time in the making. My journey to the Dalmation Coast was the last important one I took before the pandemic hit. Reflecting on it now, from the vantage point of my newly abbreviated world, my apartment in San Francisco where I’ve remained since March, I feel a deep longing for those unfettered days spent enjoying a glass of wine with newfound friends and exploring all the delights of an unknown destination. It feels like a lifetime ago.
What I love about Immortelle 43|17 is that it’s a conversation between the Dalmation Coast and my memories. Its marine notes reflect the Adriatic Sea, its radiance conjures blooming fields of sunkissed Helichrysum, and its deep richness evokes the fertile earth of the Bosnian hillsides. But I also hear my husband’s carefree laughter, my joy in embracing the new friends and I made during my travels, and so many moments of awe from scaling the ancient city walls of Dubrovnik to watching the moon rise over Mostar’s elegant Stari Most bridge. And I also hear my longing for those simpler times of pleasure along with my sincere hope that on the other side of this global disaster, there is so much more joy and beauty to behold.
Which pieces of ELEVEN SIX Fall 20 collection do you love and why?
The entire Fall 20 collection is a dream—I especially love the color palette of coral red, citrine green, jade, camel, and cream, and that there are options for monochromatic outfits which is my favorite way to style clothes. I love a head-to-toe color look. If I had to choose my favorites, I’d say the Sophia sweater with the Ava skirt in coral is my favorite look because it feels so put together and elegant but in an effortless way. The Ava skirt is also very sexy. It’s hard to do sexy knits but this collection really accentuates femininity. I also adore the Nama sweater with its unexpected texture. That piece could be equally appropriate for a wintry carriage ride through the woods or a cocktail party, it’s a head turner. Lastly, I love the Lian cardigan because it’s the softest, coziness cocoon and looks incredible with just jeans and a tee. And it has pockets!! The Lian has replaced all other cardigans in my daily rotation, as all San Francisco ladies have.