Ethics + Aesthetics (Abel Perfumes Giveaway)

When New Zealander Frances Shoemack moved with her husband to Amsterdam in 2011, she left her career as a winemaker behind and embarked on a new olfactory mission – to create the world’s best all-natural perfumes. Together with fellow New Zealander Isaac Sinclair (once behind the counter at Smith & Caughey’s on Queen Street, now one of the youngest master perfumers in the world, and the only recognised master perfumer from the Australasia region), Frances has spent years developing the Abel family of fragrances.

I need to tell you a little more about what makes Abel so special. When you spray that Duty Free perfume on your skin, you’re generally just spraying chemicals onto yourself, scents created in a lab. Abel perfumes are 100% natural. Every note in every Abel fragrance is distilled from a flower or plant.

When designing perfumes with natural isolates, the creative process is much more challenging, because naturals don’t act in a linear way. They’re alive, with a myriad of facets that evolve in the bottle and even more so on the skin. Abel’s Golden Neroli, for example (using real neroli extracted by steam from white orange blossom flowers – very rarely seen in modern perfumery) took Isaac over a thousand trials to perfect. Actually, interesting side story – Frances was pregnant at the time of developing this fragrance, and found she was attracted to neroli in an almost addiction-like way. After launching Golden Neroli, they noticed other pregnant women were drawn to it in a similar way. Turns out, neroli has a long history of use in reducing the symptoms associated with hormonal changes in women.

Did you know that synthetic musk, used in 99% of all perfumes (it’s a fixative and an overall fragrance enhancer) is widely acknowledged as toxic to humans and to the environment? Not. cool. Frances and Isaac have sourced a natural musk alternative, isolated from a seed inside hibiscus flowers. That’s only one of the many ethical choices Abel has made. Another is in their sourcing of sandalwood from sustainable East Indian plantations, which assists in the re-establishment of a sustainable eco-system in sandalwood’s native home. East Indian Sandalwood, like many essential-oil bearing plants, is a threatened species (due to decades of exploitation). The more you know, huh.

I first heard of Abel back in 2013 when Frances launched her first fragrance. Recently, I’ve been searching for a signature scent for myself, found myself seeking out Abel, and noticed the brand had had a complete re-design. I love that it’s world-class but designed by a New Zealander, I love the minimalist contemporary packaging, and I love something that doesn’t compromise on ethics or aesthetics. I was excited to see the Abel collection has now grown to seven fragrances, has been noticed by the likes of Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Monocle and Esquire, and has stockists throughout the world (including 15 stockists in New Zealand).

I’ve ordered one for myself, and after chatting with Frances, we’re giving you the chance to win an Abel Fragrance – of your choice.

Each fragrance in the collection is named after a natural note or accord – White Vetiver, Golden Neroli, Red Santal, Cobalt Amber, Grey Labdanum, and the newest fragrance, Green Cedar (< P.S: Click each of those links, and the fragrance notes will open for you in a new page. Or visit the Abel Instagram to see Highlights explaining each scent.)

The Abel philosophy is to find the purest, most exceptional version of that natural ingredient and build it up into a complex but harmonious, distinctive and long-lasting perfume. Described as a living fragrance, they evolve on your skin, working with your body’s own natural chemistry to create a unique scent that will continually evolve throughout the day.

Competition now closed, congrats to Samantha Evans!


The Night Shift

Triumph & Disaster started out as a distinctly masc. grooming line. But the appeal of simple, super effective products, laden with ingredients from nature is a universal one. So over the past couple of years, the internationally-loved New Zealand brand has consciously become more unisex, developing more high-functioning skincare products and presenting them in more pared-back, contemporary packaging. Highly approve.

They’ve just launched two new heavy hitters – Dichotomy eye serum and Dark Moon night cream.

Get you skincare that can do both –  look beautiful on the outside and be beautiful on the inside.  These two fit the bill, with their minimalist, modern, monochrome (all the M’s) aesthetic, and – more importantly – the ridiculously good formulations that have taken Dion and his team a year to develop and refine. The science they use is clinically proven, the ingredients traceable and sustainable.

Dichotomy Eye Serum is stacked with the supernatural benefits of ingredients like Kakadu Plum (a Vitamin C superhero for brightening and tightening), Norwegian Kelp, Persian Silk and Gotu Kola (combined, they work to firm and lift sagging skin), Swamp Maple (the bark extract is clinically-proven to increase collagen production and improve skin elasticity), and Horopito (found only in New Zealand, it’s one of the world’s oldest flowering plants, surviving for over 65 million years thanks to its natural chemical defence system. Rich in antioxidants and an amazing toning and conditioning agent). I could go on. Suffice to say, this little black bottle flexes big.

Dark Moon was designed to work with our body’s natural rhythm, applied when our skin is putting in its best recovery and repair work – on the night shift. More than a hydrating cream, it’s been scientifically-engineered to deliver powerful antioxidants to your skin, and to enhance collagen production using ingredients like Kakadu Plum (Aborigines have used this superfood medicinally for thousands of years – it has 100 times more Vitamin C than oranges), Swamp Maple, Rosemary and Horopito. It feels effortlessly fresh and light on the skin, and a little will go a long way. Oh, and it looks beautiful on your bedside table.

A New Zealand brand, delivering a beautifully-designed product, that’s also beautifully-considered on the inside. Not at all sponsored. Just my idea of perfection.


The Luxury of Sleep

This is another of those products where the beautiful design on the outside is bested only by what’s on the inside, and how it came to be.

The story starts with New Zealand marketing professional and mumma Claire Beatson, and her own often-desparate search for deep, relaxed sleep. She found her options weren’t really options at all – natural formulations were too mild to be effective, and pharmaceuticals were too addictive. So Claire began a three year journey, working with New Zealand’s top medical herbalist, to craft a potent (significantly stronger than anything else on the market), #plantsnotpills sleep drops formula. It’s transformed Claire’s nights – and her days, too. She says Nod is her fourth baby, the only one she’s raised that let her sleep through the night.

Each little bottle of Nod is a blend of clinically-effective levels of super-sleepy sedatives including Californian Poppy, Passionflower and Valerian, with calming herbs like Chamomile, Lemon balm, Manuka and Organic Rosewater. The botanics are distilled the old-fashioned way, in copper stills, bottled in top GMP grade facilities, then blended in small batches. The result is a very potent, nothing-but-plants formula that promotes sleep, supports relaxation and relieves anxiety for a deeper level of uninterrupted Z’s. And you’ll wake up refreshed – no sleeping pill hangover.

The whole brand experience was designed to be as luxurious and thoughtful as possible. From the imagery (all shot during early evening and at night), to the way the Nod packaging opens (the box slides out, your Nod laying inside as if in a bed). The bottle itself is beautiful – a lovely heavy black glass, with as little printing on it as possible. Everything has been designed to be quiet and restful and beautiful, like your sleep on Nod. And did you spot the little waxing moon in the Nod wordmark? Nice.

Kudos for the visual identity goes to Claire’s partner, Art Director Tony Bradbourne. Dream team.

Nod online store


Beauty Inside and Out

Intensive Omega Treatment Oil packed with essential fatty acids for intensive hydration. Use on its own or add a drop to your moisturiser for a boost of lipids

The Multi-Vitamin Body Oil has a gorgeous bespoke scent (green fig and tea leaves) that Maryse had specially formulated Grasse, France

Some of the most beautiful skincare packaging I have ever (ever ever) seen.

Illuminating dew for your glow up

The brand’s debut product is a potent blend of botanicals designed to keep skin supple and soft, hydrating and conditioning whilst also delivering powerful antioxidants.


Come for the stunning minimalist packaging, stay for the even more stunning formulations inside.

While natural beauty specialist Maryse O’Donnell loved the skincare brands she worked with over her career, she felt there was something missing – a space for super effective, natural and organic skincare preparations, made in New Zealand. So she created them herself – formulating a family of eight products each packed with highly-concentrated, highly-nutritive ingredients from nature.

Ingredients like manuka leaf – harvested from wild-growing native manuka trees here in New Zealand. Manuka leaf is exceptionally antibacterial and massively beneficial for the skin due to its detoxing properties – it’s included in the Maryse exfoliating polish.

Even as the brand has grown (now sold internationally – including in the US, Switzerland and Australia) Maryse still formulates everything by hand herself, in small batches, right in her studio in Ponsonby, Auckland. She is currently deep in development on new lip and cheek tints in various shades – all organic, super subtle yet buildable colours, for a hint of glow in a pink and apricot hue. Yes please!

The packaging was designed by Maryse’s partner, Art Director Campbell Hooper. Maryse wanted the brand to feel simple yet effective, clean, and modest – no tricks. Just like the skincare inside.

Maryse Beauty website  /  Instagram


Maryse is available online from our friends at Blackbird Goods, as well as from Everyday Needs and Simon James Design. Contact Maryse for your closest international stockist.

Image via Blackbird Goods, our fave NZ stockists of Maryse

© The New