“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting”– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Beauty is not just physical thing. If Emerson is right—and we know he is, the poet he is—beauty can be found in a fragrance, a piece of music or even the delicate, dusty touch of driftwood. While an object itself can be the source of beauty, many times it is the experience of an object—and in it, the sweetness of delight, wonder, contemplation, or even aching sadness—or the very idea of it that is beautiful.
And so when I say let’s talk about cupcakes and aromatherapy, what do you think about? Maybe hazy recollections of childhood Willy Wonka-style where being given a cupcake in all its sugary, creamy prettiness is a rare and very, very important and slowly-to-be-savoured sweet treat from icing top down to the last fluffy crumb; or the invisible swirls of a heady, flowery, grown-up fragrance drifting from mother’s boudoir—did you, like all the rest of us, occasionally in secret open the drawers, caress the glass bottles and then carefully spritz a little of those precious elixirs in curiosity. Or maybe, a trip away from the cacophony of the work world with the sound of waves rolling across the beady sand, the salty air and the near taking over of the senses at the hands of the masseuse?
One is all about being a child again, and the other is all about being all womanly and taking on a relaxed state of mind. But for sure, they both tantalise the olfactory senses and embody the idea of sweet indulgence. And they are both lovely things to give mom, so thinks Alli Sim of boutique beauty brand Mmerci Encore and creator and baker of the popular Plain Vanilla Bakery (PVB), Vanessa Kenchington—two beautiful women with such positive and empowering outlooks on life. For Mother’s Day this year, Alli created two bespoke, limited edition products that is now selling at the cosy Plain Vanilla Bakery in Tiong Bahru (while we do think gentrification has gone over its head in the area we can’t help but love coming into this Outofstock-designed store for all its cupcakey-beauty), available only until the end of May. We caught up with Alli and Vanessa to find out more about this sweet—did we use the word ‘sweet’ again?—collaboration.
How did this collaboration with Mmerci Encore come about?
I have been following the wonderful work that Alli does with her all-natural, handcrafted aromatherapy treats for a while now but never found the opportunity to work together as our in-store retail range is very much kitchen and homeware focused. When Mother’s Day rolled round this year, we thought it would be an apt occasion to feature a range of home spa products and the first brand that came to mind was Mmerci Encore.
What were you trying to achieve with these unique PVB x Mmerci Encore products?
We regularly see, amongst our customers, a large proportion of young women frequenting the store. Often they are women who exude a sense of independence, worldliness, and are strong spirited—be they working mothers or homemakers—so many of them share an understanding of the value of handcrafted products and an appreciation of beautiful aesthetics. We wanted to offer something in-store for these women—spa treats that are wholesome and reflect an artisanal consciousness, treats they would want to pamper themselves with.
What is a favourite childhood memory of yours to do with scent, if there is one?
As you would expect it is food related! There was a period when my older sister and I regularly devoured Mrs Fields Brownies This was during our school holidays, around the time when Mariah Carey released her Butterfly album (we are big Mariah Carey fans). It was, by any measure, a wonderful holiday, one of those where we didn’t have extra-curricular classes because the year-end exams were over, Christmas was round the corner and we generally didn’t do much more than hang out, listen to Mariah Carey and eat brownies. Whenever I smell Mrs Fields Brownies— even now—I am brought back to that time of idleness and youth.
Which of Mmerci Encore’s products are you a big fan of and why?
I love Alli’s ‘Awakening Organic Sugar Scrub’—such a detox, rejuvenating treat for the skin—and the limited edition ‘Calm & Centered Aromatherapy Blend’ perfume specially concocted for us. I love that scent; I could smell it all day long!
And here are some of Alli’s thoughts:
What inspired the special product for this collaboration?
Mmerci Encore created the following two products for PVB in celebration of mothers. We wanted to offer beautiful ladies great multi-tasking products that are super easy to use. One is the all-natural ‘Calm & Centered Aromatherapy Blend’ perfume, which is portable. The other is the ‘Lit-from-Within Body Serum’ that comprises of a lot of nourishing oils with a citrus accord to not only moisturise the skin but also offer it essential vitamins and minerals thanks to the blend of plant oils within.
And of course, we have to ask: what’s your favourite cupcake flavour?
Plain Vanilla’s Strawberry White Chocolate is my weakness.
Do you have a favourite memory from your childhood involving scent, and cupcakes or sweet treats?
My mum used to make these amazing New York cheesecakes; I would be mesmerised watching and ‘helping’ her. I recall the gravel-like crunch as we took to the rolling pin to the arrowroot biscuit to make the base, the way the butter would bubble just before we’d pour it to bind the biscuit crumbs together or the sound of the KitchenAid folding sugar into blocks of cream cheese. I can still remember the zest of the lemon garnish and the tart taste of the passionfruit pulp.
What’s the story behind the name of your brand ‘Mmerci Encore’?
Mmerci Encore started life as an online gratitude journal, a way for me to catalogue and count my blessings as it were (hence ‘merci’ + ‘encore’ or ‘thanks again’ in French). I loved my role as a beauty editor at Harper’s BAZAAR, but found myself writing more about great serums and hair trends than other aspects of what made us truly beautiful: happiness, a beautiful poem, an inspirational story, a beautiful song. At the same time, I returned to blending essential oils, something I used to do while growing up in Australia, and would make these home spa goods for friends. The first product I unwittingly created was the ‘Awakening Organic Sugar Scrub’, which friends eventually bought for their friends as gifts, and that’s how things took off.
Melbourne, Singapore, Paris are your frequent cities of travel. Can you share products from Mmerci Encore that to you encapsulate each city best?
Singapore: I love that it’s modern and dynamic, but at the same time, celebrates its roots. I get a great feeling of relief (!) and contentment wash over me every time my plane touches down here. I’d pick our ‘Invigorating Facial Mist’ for Singapore—a comforting hydrating spritz that’s infused with healing rose and chamomile, so it calms even the most sensitive complexions. It’s a light and delicate pick-me-up especially when you use it after pilates or on a really warm day.
Paris is all about au natural beauty to me. Some of the most beautiful women you’ll find here haven’t a slick of make-up on, but are totally radiant and polished. I hate dry, scaly skin, which is why I travel with the ‘Lit-from-Within Body Serum’ to maintain soft, luminous skin. It’s just the thing you need especially in drier climates to cocoon and nourish your skin. Plus, the essential oils within help with blood circulation and drainage, so your limbs especially don’t feel so heavy and tight.
If there’s one city that makes me feel grounded and balanced, it’s Melbourne. I love returning to home to visit my family, eat amazing food, check out beautiful art and celebrate life. Mmerci Encore’s ‘Afterglow Elixir Aromatherapy Perfume’ reminds me of this bohemian, almost European city in this way. With cedarwood, a touch of lavender and rosemary, it really helps you to chill, rebalance the emotions and de-stress, which helps you experience and appreciate more in turn.
More about the products:
‘Calm & Centered Aromatherapy Blend’, (8ml), 32
Feeling frazzled? Recover your energy and get grounded with this stress rescue oil. Blended with the finest French lavender, vetiver and citrus notes to ease anxiety, melt anger and rebalance emotions. Calm & Centered is an all-natural aromatherapy perfume handcrafted with pride and passion. Contains the finest raw ingredients, without parabens or synthetic fragrances.
‘Lit-from-Within Body Serum’, (100ml), 64
The essential body hydrator, bath and massage oil-in-one. Step out of the shower and slip into this luxe-touch body oil (100ml). Formulated from a carefully selected blend of premium antioxidant-rich plant, nut and seed oils. Designed to replenish, intensely moisturise and promote baby smooth skin. Mist all over and massage into skin to cocoon the body in a healthy, youthful sheen. Crafted with cold pressed oils of non-GMO soy bean, extra virgin organic coconut, sweet almond, apricot kernel, jojoba, evening primrose, wheatgerm, organic rosehip and natural vitamin E. This unadulterated blend of quality oils feeds the body with beneficial vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids to help in skin repair. A synergistic blend of grapefruit, mandarin, fennel and juniper essential oils work to banish water retention, tone skin and naturally lighten the appearance of stretchmarks.
+ images courtesy of Mmerci Encore and Plain Vanilla Bakery