Did you know the kitty muses behind Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery were once lab animals?
From Lab to Luxury: The Story of Velvet and Sweet Pea
Velvet and Sweet Pea are Laurie Stern’s kitty muses – they are the lab animals who inspired her to build her perfumery and ultimately seek Leaping Bunny certification.
Velvet and Sweet Pea’s story begins in a Bay Area laboratory where their bodies were used for scientific testing. One day, an acquaintance of Laurie’s who oversaw the testing told her that she was brokenhearted that the cats were scheduled to be euthanized. The lab didn’t need them anymore. Laurie immediately bonded with one cat who reached up and put its paws on her heart. She managed to corral another cat—labeled “Unhandleable—who was terrified and hiding in the corner. She brought both of the cats home. Their new life together had begun.
Laurie named the first kitty Velvet. She named the second kitty Sweet Pea, though she didn’t see her for nearly a month after she brought her home. Velvet was love in the form of a cat. Sweet Pea was initially very scared and tentative, but once she felt comfortable and safe, she allowed Laurie to dress her up in a tutu and a tiara and photograph her among gorgeous fabrics and laces. Laurie was in the midst of a transformation herself—she had left behind years of 18-hour days that are typical in the wedding flower business and embraced the life of a natural perfumer. Velvet and Sweet Pea were the face of that transformation—their images are immortalized in Laurie’s elaborate, fanciful packaging that accompanies every product she creates.
A lifelong animal lover, Laurie became more conscious of the horrors of animal testing after she rescued Velvet and Sweet Pea. As she deepened her study of natural perfumery, she also learned that many commercial and natural perfumers used animal products, like musk and other secretions, as fixatives in their products. When she discovered the terribly cruel, species-endangering conditions under which animal musk are harvested, she made the decision that all Velvet & Sweet Pea Purrfumery products would be free of any musk or animal fixatives.
Laurie took this decision a step further and quizzed her suppliers about THEIR business dealings, as well. She asked the question: “Do you buy from businesses that do animal testing or harvest musk from animals?” Laurie gathered documentation from each and every supplier ensuring her that they were free from any business dealings that resulted in harm to animals. She presented her findings—hundreds of pages of documentation—to Leaping Bunny and became certified in 2008. Leaping Bunny audited her in 2014 and found that Laurie remains true to her word: None of her ingredients or her suppliers ingredients are tested on animals. Ever.
To this day, Laurie’s customers thank her for creating products that are gorgeous, all-natural, and 100% cruelty free with no animal testing and no animal byproducts (just beeswax and honey from the Purrfumery’s own bees).
Velvet passed away in summer 2011 and Sweet Pea followed in spring 2012. Their spirit lives on in the Purrfumery, which is now home to two cats – Buttercup, Truffle, and Kitty Magic – and four rescued, injured and delightful homing pigeons.
Laurie took great inspiration from Velvet and Sweet Pea’s philosophy of life – living in the moment, making the most of opportunities to relax and take care of yourself, and luxuriating in only the best of everything – and their deep enjoyment of and appreciation for nature’s gifts as they frolicked in the scent-drenched sunlight of the Purrfumery’s fragrant Perfumer’s Garden. They came from dire beginnings, but went on to found their own Internet perfume company! Let’s all take a lesson from Velvet and Sweet Pea and indulge in the sweetness of life and love! See you at the Purrfumery!