The raw power of nature

Haley Alexander van Oosten takes an artisanal approach to scent.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

In today’s creative scene, where art, fashion and design converge, Santa Monica fragrance designer Haley Alexander van Oosten is adding scent to the cultural mix. Collaborating with everyone from style maven/photographer Lisa Eisner and designer and artist David Wiseman to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Maxfield and Commune design, Van Oosten is making a name for herself by challenging traditional notions of fragrance.

“I find commercial perfumery to be a very limited medium,” says Van Oosten, whose company name, L’Oeil du Vert, means “eye of the green.”

“It needs to cost this much. It needs to wear this long. It needs to be mass producible, replicable and have synthetic chemicals in it. I want my perfume to just be what it is. ... Nature can’t be put in a box.”


Van Oosten takes an artisanal approach to fragrance with limited-edition, small-batch blends that are 100% botanical. She travels the world to source raw natural materials and distills them into oils, some of which are then contained in sculptural “vessels” that she crafts from rare woods. Some of her scents are used to infuse art pieces, public spaces and private homes, a process that Van Oosten hopes will inspire a closer rapport between humanity and nature.

This philosophy extends to Van Oosten’s beachside work studio just off Pacific Coast Highway — a haven decorated with wooden and woven furnishings, sheepskin rugs, burlap curtains, white feather-bedecked lampshades and sequined pillows that sparkle in the sun. The space is filled with the aroma of her first L’Oeil du Vert signature fragrance, an earthy blend with key notes of sandalwood, frankincense and myrrh, available later this month at Maxfield.

Some of her work involves larger custom fragrance projects for design companies and artists, with a focus on atmospheric scenting — projects that are spreading Van Oosten’s vision much further. (She says it all started with the light-box diffuser “scent sculptures” she created in 2010 for Eisner’s “Psychonaut” exhibition at M&B; Gallery in Los Angeles and Art Basel in Miami, transforming art into a multi-sensory experience.)

For her new partnership with Maxfield, Van Oosten will offer the L’Oeil du Vert scent as a perfume rollette bottle (from $300) and a sculptural “ambient scenter” (from $2,500). The minimalist designs are crafted from rare and reclaimed woods, such as California buckeye burl and 200-year-old mesquite.

Van Oosten has created a redwood version of the “ambient scenter” and an exclusive custom fragrance, inspired by the Schindler House in West Hollywood, for design firm Commune to place in residential projects and sell, along with her L’Oeil du Vert fragrance, at

Van Oosten notes the influence of Schindler and other early modernist architects, who also worked with natural materials in California.


“I’m obsessed with architecture,” she says. “Everything that L’Oeil du Vert is doing is about a blurring of boundaries. It just so happens that plants are my raw material.”