Even when the creative director Scott Formby was working around the clock for fashion and interior brands like Ralph Lauren and Frette, he would find a way to put himself outside. âI would have a photoshoot in the middle of a garden on the Amalfi Coast,â he recalled recently from his home in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles. When he bought this 1920s Spanish colonial-style home 15 years ago, his 2,500 square foot terraced garden, on a connected but separate lot, was a big part of the draw, and after the drought which hit the region in 2014, he transformed it to reduce its water needs. âI kept the old lemon trees but added a lot of cacti and, inspired by the Mediterranean, fig and mandarin trees,â he said.
About two and a half years ago, Formby’s frequent trips between New York (where he has an apartment) and Toronto for his then job as creative director of Canadian bookstore chain Indigo – and the lack of of garden time that resulted – was beginning to exhaust it. To distract himself, he started talking with his colleague Jennifer De Klaver, who is now his business partner, about the idea of ââworking together on a small wellness business that would celebrate the beauty and healing properties of plants. “Just talking about it seemed like oxygen to me,” he recalls.
When he finally quit his job at the end of 2019, Formby decided to spend more time in Los Angeles, where he hoped to recharge and putt in his garden. Weeks later, the pandemic hit the west coast and, due to the lockdown measures, he had more free hours to tend to his plants than he had ever imagined. At the end of that spring, he had a bumper crop of citrus and avocados and started selling them at local farmers’ markets. Sometimes he would just leave a basket of lemons by the side of the road with a sign saying “Free Vitamin C!” “It was like therapy for me,” he said. “It was also around the time when we decided to turn our idea into something real.” He and De Klaver found a lab in Colorado to help them formulate the natural, herbal-laden oils and creams they’d envisioned during their years of commuting – products that would combine the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids with powerful organic ingredients, like Echinacea and Evening Primrose, and combine Old World herbal knowledge with cutting edge science.
The visual concept for Apothecary Figaro, as the pair named the brand, later focused when Formby saw an image of âLandscape with a Cowbird,â a serene rendering of the Italian countryside painted around 1637 by French artist Gaspard Dughet, online. âJennifer and I wanted to talk about the healing properties of art, in addition to those of plants, and this painting became a definitive starting point,â he said. In fact, they liked it so much that they decided to allow the work to be used in their branding. Much of the packaging in the wellness area, Formby said, is “white, clean and clinical and we felt it didn’t work visually for our serums, which are so filled with organic herbs.”
This month, the line will launch its first two products: the Botanical Serum and the Relief Balm. Both formulas contain a potent combination of organic green echinacea extract from a farm in upstate New York and CBD; some research has shown that the two ingredients can work favorably together to reduce inflammation of the skin and muscles. âWe don’t market ourselves as a CBD business,â Formby explained. “But Echinacea is a powerful booster for CBD and its properties may work well on the skin.” He says the serum, which includes 30 other botanical ingredients such as wild geranium and patchouli, improves radiance and has a calming effect, while the balm, which includes arnica and extracts of mint and wintergreen. , can soothe muscle aches and pains. Coming up, and expected to arrive in the spring, a moisturizer for the face and a tincture infused with ginger, turmeric and elderberry which is designed to help the immune system and improve the quality of sleep.
All the while, Formby continued to tend his garden, even adding a new area for medicinal herbs such as wild marigold and chamomile which he describes as a “kind of laboratory.” He also found new uses for his abundance of products. Last Christmas he made a huge batch of fig compote and sent 50 jars to friends and family on the East Coast and Texas, where he grew up. The recipe, which he shares below, was inspired by a version he tasted years ago in Turin, Italy, and he likes to use it as a garnish for yogurt or toast, serve it with hard cheeses or pour it over rose ice cream. “As a child in Texas, I never knew what a fig tastes like, âhe said. âIf you had said 15 years ago that I would make my own herbal jams and tinctures, I would have rolled my eyes and said, ‘What are you talking about? But the garden has become a real refuge for me. I realized how healing and empowering it is to watch things grow, especially during such a tragic time.
Scott Formby Bourbon Fig Compote
1. Place the figs, balsamic vinegar, orange zest, orange juice, sugar, salt, vanilla bean, rosemary and cinnamon in a medium heavy-based saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. (It may look dry, but don’t worry.) Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
2. Lower the heat, add the bourbon and simmer, uncovered (you want the little bubbles to be visible throughout the pot, not just around the edges) for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until until the figs fall apart and the mixture has the consistency of red fruit jam.
3. Discard the vanilla bean and serve or refrigerate the compote. It will keep for about two weeks in the refrigerator.