When Candice Batista's husband complained about the perfume she was wearing, telling her it was making him sick, she smelled a problem.
Beyond getting rid of the offending scent (and saving her marriage), Batista wanted to know why perfume in general was creating such a stink.
She had already read the signs at her doctor's office outlining the health risks of seemingly benign daubs of eau de toilette. Even on the Toronto subway she was confronted by ads warning citizens that the perfume they love might be poison to the person standing next to them.
"Conventional perfumes are toxic chemical cocktails," a wiser and better informed Batista says two years after beginning her research into the ill effects of commercial scents. "Most are quite potent and, in many cases, are overbearing, actually weakening the immune system."
A producer and in-house eco-expert for The Marilyn Denis Show on CTV, Batista has since used her knowledge of health and perfume to launch her own line of scent.
Evoke, created by Batista in consultation with leading biochemists, aromatherapists and traditional Chinese-medicine doctors, is part science, part beauty.
"All five scents are deeply layered, with base, middle and top notes. That's the science part," Batista explains. "They are also luxurious perfumes that women love. That's the beauty of it."
Launched in the spring and already nominated for a beauty-industry award for being one of the year's most innovative products, Evoke is produced in a west-end Toronto facility using pure oils derived from botanicals and formulated according to key principles of traditional Chinese medicine.
The collection is rooted in the theory that the five basic elements in the natural world – fire, water, earth, air and wood – are linked to internal organs of the human body. Emotional states are associated with those organs, and Chinese-medicine doctors – as well as aromatherapists – will use specific smells to trigger the flow of energy (or chi) and impart a feeling of well-being.
With her new fragrance line, Batista is hoping to do the same. In particular, the metallic scent in the Evoke collection relates to the lungs and is meant to evoke happiness, the woodsy scent relates to the liver and is meant to evoke harmony, the clear water-like scent relates to the kidneys and is intended to evoke wisdom, the fiery scent, relating to the heart, is meant to evoke joy and the earthy scent, relating to the stomach, is intended to evoke peace.
"They are healing fragrances," Batista emphasizes. "The essential oils used to make them have a direct impact – physiologically and psychologically – on the human body."
Each scent is bottled by hand, and every aspect of the business is green, including the packaging. "The boxes," Batista points out, "are made from recycled materials and are printed by a company in Toronto that is the only one in North America not using water in the printing process, so there are zero chemical emissions."
Sustainable business practices are important to her. Before Batista became an accidental beauty entrepreneur, she created, hosted and produced four eco-themed TV shows, including A Greener Toronto, a finalist in the City of Toronto's 2011 Green Toronto Awards in the category of environmental awareness. In 2010, she was trained by Al Gore to give the Inconvenient Truth presentation in Toronto.
Batista began her career at The Weather Network, where she was the senior weather anchor covering breaking weather stories worldwide. She has been reporting on environmental issues ever since. Now, though, she also smells good doing it.
"I never wanted to create just another perfume line," she says. "I wanted a natural scent that smells amazing and is good for you. I think I've achieved that."