I recently discovered the most adorable line of handmade soaps and other fabulous smelling bath and body products from Dot & Lil. Based and produced in Montréal, I met with aspiring soap empress Anne Dardick, and had to smell absolutely everything in the showroom! My senses were in heaven when Anne introduced me to what immediately became my favourite scent and one of her best-selling – satsuma.
Walking into the atelier, it feels more like your mother’s kitchen but smells even better and is complete with antique furniture. Absolutely everything is made in the atelier, an extremely welcoming environment, which might have something to do with the lovely Anne herself. All done by hand, there are different stations for each phase of the soap-making process. There is a moulding and production area, a cutting area, a packaging and wrapping “department”, all within this homey setting, recently renovated to reflect the company’s vintage aesthetic.
We’ve all seen pretty products but Anne has taken packaging and soap design to a completely new level. For those of us who still enjoy “girly” things like high tea and etiquette, Anne’s products are a must! Perfect as gifts, they would instantly beautify any bathroom or guest bedroom and any girl would be thrilled to receive these no matter what the occasion. She even hosts themed events such as tea parties and new collection launches, and if you purchase the lilac, green tea and linden flower or mini “Tea Party” gift sets, they come with fine bone china tea cups and saucers – from Royal Doulton no less.
What really caught my eye was the rice flower soap, instantly recognizable for its pastel swirl and delicious aroma, and the limited edition “Springtime in Paris” lilac soaps, complete with the Eiffel Tower – chouette!
Viewing the precious packages in the showroom, it wasn’t hard to see that Anne is a fellow product junkie. I think I may have found my newest addiction – Dot & Lil’s body butter. I have always been a fan of “another company”’s body butter, buying jars at a time, but I think I may have been converted. Anne uses eighty percent shea butter which creates a barrier between your skin and the elements – you only need apply a tiny bit for maximum effects. In bergamot, lavender, satsuma and unscented this highly concentrated whipped moisturizer lasts a long time.
If you want a very special treat, take a luxurious soak in the tub with one of the fizzing bath truffles!
One thing is clear – this business is one very close to her heart. With her mom baking shortbread cookies for the showroom and her roots in the Arts and crafts, she grew up appreciating the true quality of handmade products. In the beginning, Anne used rose petals from her parents’ garden and she also attributes her keenly developed sense of smell to her mom. The company was originally started with her sister and because they are both fans of old classic films, they decided to name the venture after Dorothy and Lillian Gish, mostly silent era stars of the silver screen in the 1910’s and 1920’s.
What a perfect name to reflect this vintage inspired concept. Other than incredible soaps and body butters, yummy smelling products include: lip balms and glosses, bath salts, bath truffles (individually wrapped), milk baths, shower lotions, shower scrubs, perfume oil sprays and the sweetest gift sets.
Because Dot & Lil products are non-aqueous and vegetable oil based (contain no water) they also have no preservatives, which appeals to their many environmentally conscious consumers and fans. Anne also uses upcycled materials, such as beautiful linen table napkins as packaging and the plastic she does use is bio-degradable, of course. Using local ingredients is very important to her (lavender and calendula farms in Québec for example) as is the clarity of those ingredients on the labels. Anne finds the handmade community in Montréal to be very supportive and the clients loyal.
The soap-making process is not an easy one, but Anne does her best to simplify it. By keeping the ingredients basic but lovely, she is able to control and tweak the quality of her products. A very enterprising young woman, constantly researching data, educating herself and paying close attention to peer reviews, she has created some of the most appetizing scents I’ve ever smelled.
Not only does she carry perfume oil sprays in grapefruit, vanilla, honeysuckle and rose which absorb quickly and leave a silky finish, but she can also customize scents for her clients. Men need not feel neglected – there’s a terrific mint shaving set available!
Dot & Lil releases seasonal and limited collections – I’m told that vanilla and calendula along with sugar and spice are very popular in Winter, but Anne was very tight-lipped about her new scents which will be revealed in a couple of weeks – I’ll keep you posted when I get it out of her!
Apart from all satsuma products, I’m absolutely loving the lemon and sage soap and it’s a tossup between the grapefruit and the honeysuckle perfume oils. I would highly recommend the mini soap sampler or the “Vintage Soap” gift set as a great introduction to this sumptuous collection!
Dot & Lil products are available in Montréal at: Boutique Onze (three locations), Dans Ta Bulle, Mood Corps et Accessoires, Galerie Boutique Zone Orange, General 54, Jewish General Hospital gift store, La Tasse Gamine, Boutique Anne de Shalla, Les Coureurs de Jupon, Coop La Maison Verte and Aliments Naturels à Votre Santé.
(Also available at other select locations across Québec and Ontario)
Thanks Anne – I will be back for more!