“I’ve got to show you the back room,” Allison Audrey Weldon says to me, seated on the couch in her cozy English Bay apartment. “It’s pretty funny.”
Lean and blonde, with her baby daughter Penelope in her arms, Weldon pads from her living room into Penelope’s crib-filled space and opens a thin window-like door that sits about three feet from the creaky floor. “I’ll let you poke your head through there,” she says, inviting me to peek. It’s a glorified crawl space back there, no more than three feet wide but fairly long and tall, and it is filled with flats of bottles and jars that Weldon uses for Sangre de Fruta, her line of essential oil skin care. When I ask her how she gets back there, she answers with a smile: “I just climb through.”
If Sangre de Fruta were a large operation, one might call that the warehouse; Weldon’s living room, then, would be the factory floor.
But this is not a large operation. Until very recently, Weldon was a one-woman show, doing all of the mixing, the marketing, the designing, the labelling, and the customer servicing herself. (She admits to having a bit of help from her mother, “mostly just to take Penelope” while her partner Andy is at work, and from some friends who lessen the packaging burden when they can; and in early March, Weldon welcomed two business partners.) Sangre de Fruta is a company born in this very West End apartment (the actual blending is done in rented commercial kitchens, however), and the clues of its owner’s dedication are scattered everywhere: the boxes of product stashed in the living room corner; an antique golden tray displaying a few favourite creams and oils; the desktop computer used to design the brand’s logo. But spraying a bit of Rose No. 1 face tonic, or smoothing hands with some Vetiver & Fleur body cream, it is hard to imagine that this sleek, luxurious, unique line comes from such modest beginnings.
Born and raised in the Lower Mainland, Weldon studied fashion at Ryerson University in Toronto, and held many jobs during her formative years—from graphic designing at Topshop, to working in costuming for films, to co-founding an East Vancouver restaurant-slash-yoga-studio—but Sangre de Fruta is different. It’s absolutely hers.
Weldon had experimented a bit with essential oils during her brief tenure as the co-owner of that yoga studio, but her true passion for botanical wellness blossomed when she began learning from family friend Elena Orrego, former co-owner of the West Side’s Gaia Garden apothecary. “At her house she has this cabinet of beautiful rare oils and we’d just pour things in,” Weldon recalls. “We just had so much fun throwing in ingredients, and made some beautiful creams. We kept giving them as presents and realized that too many people started asking for them. We were like, ‘Well, we can’t keep giving these away,’ so then I decided I might want to make a business out of this.” Since launching officially about two years ago, Sangre de Fruta has been picked up at a number of boutiques across the United States, and a few places in Canada as well, including Litchfield in Gastown and Clarité on Granville Island. Impressively, these beautiful products—weighty apothecary-style glass bottles and jars with simple labels—are even carried at Neiman Marcus and through Gwyneth Paltrow’s online retailer Goop.
The ingredients are what make each item so easy to love. There are no fillers, no fakes; every scent comes from the actual plant oils, meaning the skin benefits from their healing properties. “The creams are pretty unique because there’s no water in them, so it’s a really intense concentration,” says Weldon. “My cost of goods is really high and I’m okay with that because I love that they’re all the real stuff. I have a lot of fun sourcing the ingredients.” Her lavender, for example, comes from an organic farm on Salt Spring Island.
Salt Spring is one of her favourite escapes, and she vacations there often. I can only imagine it provides her with a deeper link to nature, being out there surrounded by the trees and the ferns. Then she can come back to the city, to her little apartment, and climb into her storage room or label bottles in her living room, thus helping others find their own sacred connection to the wild.
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