From Lab to Luxury: The Velvet & Sweet Pea Story


Velvet and Sweet Pea are Laurie Stern’s kitty muses – they are the animals who inspired her to build her perfumery after she left the wedding flower business. They changed her life forever and paved the way to a new consciousness about the horrors of animal testing and the use of animal musks in perfumes. Ultimately, the lessons Velvet and Sweet Pea taught Laurie became the pillars of her life and the principles behind her natural, botanical and very whimsical Purrfumery! The story of these two kitties is one of love and compassion. Their 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 some of the cats were scheduled to be euthanized because 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 who was terrified and hiding in the corner – a cat that had been labeled “Unhandleable” – and brought both of the cats home. She 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, 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 – 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. Later, 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. 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-  Truffle, and Kitty Magic– and four rescued homing pigeons.


Polka Dot, a beautiful gray and white homing pigeon, rescued himself when he sauntered through Laurie and Gary’s cat door – injured, but knowing he was in a safe place. Laurie took him to WildCare in San Rafael, a refuge and hospital for injured wildlife where she volunteered years ago. He hooked up with Pansy in the WildCare aviaries, so Laurie brought her home too! Laurie has expanded her rescue mission since Polka Dot walked into her life and built a beautiful redwood aviary just outside her Perfumer’s Garden. Watching Polka Dot and Pansy nest in their new aviary, she decided they needed some flock mates. She adopted Pearl and Horatio from Palomacy Pigeon and Dove Rescue, an incredible pigeon rescue organization in San Francisco. Pansy has since passed and Polka Dot has a new wife, Paloma. The pigeons also led Laurie to research and people who revealed that these birds are often used for animal testing. There is still so much to do… pigeons Laurie has always taken 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 perfumery’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!