My name is Mei and I make soaps and bath and body products scented with my own unique blends for my shop, Vice & Velvet. I whip up everything from scratch in my little apartment in Melbourne, Australia.
I’ve been making soap and body products for my family since I was young. My background is in physiology and health sciences, and for a while, it didn’t look like my career would have room for creating nice-smelling things. I originally started Vice & Velvet so I could fund my hobby, but when I realized how much I enjoyed running a soap company there was no turning back. Doing what I love every day, seeing happy customers, and whisking to the beat of my own drum makes all the challenges worthwhile.
All of my products are created from scratch. I use minimal preservatives, and prefer to make smaller batches more frequently. The idea is that customers get fresh products that they can use while the ingredients are at their best. I don’t believe in hoarding. I put a lot of time into formulating recipes and blending unique scents that represent “me” so that my creations can be enjoyed. It thrills me to think of my customers enjoying all the different elements in my products, and even better, sharing them with their family and friends.
My aim is to make beautiful products with simple packaging, not the other way around. To me, this means that long after the jars are opened, the labels are peeled off, and the boxes thrown away, my products should still smell beautiful, feel beautiful and work beautifully. I love what I do because I get to be a scientist, artist, perfumer, and chef all at the same time. There are so many avenues for creativity when I’m making my soaps and body products. It starts with the visual element – the designs, colors and textures, and then the tactile aspect, which includes how a product feels on the skin during and after use. Of course, there is also the scent itself, and the memories evoked by certain scents.
When I was setting up Vice & Velvet, I spent months testing ingredients and perfecting my recipes. I repeat this process each time I come up with a new formulation. My soaps are made with a standard blend of olive, coconut and rice bran oils, but I tweak the ingredients depending on the scent. I also sometimes add macadamia oil, shea butter, teas, clays, and so on. On top of my permanent catalog of scents, I continually experiment with new blends and release seasonal and limited-edition products. I don’t follow any perfumery rules when blending; I just follow my nose and it has worked well for me!
My favorite product to make and use are my Bathing Whips. After I launched my shop, I was surprised to discover that a lot of my customers don’t actually use solid soap, and many don’t even have a soap dish in their home. I decided to formulate a soft “soap” that comes in its own dish (or jar) and could be used in the shower or bath tub. The result was the Bathing Whip, which comes in my most popular scents and, as I discovered when I ran out of shampoo one day, works well for cleansing hair as well.
Being able to offer custom or personalized items easily is one of the perks of selling on Etsy, not to mention a service that works really well for small businesses like mine. It adds another dimension to my product range, and is also a really great way to establish that initial connection with long-term customers. Most commonly I’m asked to customize wedding or party favors and gift sets, but I’m always interested to see what else buyers come up with. It feels really wonderful to see my products become part of a customer’s special occasion.
For me, Etsy is an escape – it brings together beautiful things from around the world and the people who make or find them. Being part of the Etsy community means being among like-minded peers who appreciate, support and campaign for small businesses like my own. In the “real world,” it would be difficult to put myself in the company of so many great artists, but on Etsy it happens every day. It’s a refreshing, inspiring place that lets my creativity thrive. I appreciate solo-operated businesses and what they stand for more now than ever before.
All photographs by Vice & Velvet.