When people think of beauty botanical farms, they often picture fields of lavender in the south of France or palm forests in Brazil. Little do they know there’s a botanical farm growing on the rooftops of Brooklyn. This budding farm is called Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals. Its mission? To bring botanical beauty ingredients and products closer to home.
The concept was founded by Liana Blomquist—a beauty industry insider and certified horticulturist—who says it was born out of her passion for gardening and beauty while re-evaluating her consumption habits and the way they affect the planet. Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals (or BRB for short) is New York City’s first and only rooftop beauty farm, currently spanning three rooftops and growing and processing more than 50 botanicals to create extracts and beauty products.
Blomquist was born in Geneva, Switzerland and grew up between Grasse in the south of France (the perfume capital of the world), London and New Jersey. Her decade-long beauty experience has included launching top-selling celebrity and designer fragrance lines in the UK and managing the global marketing strategies and product innovation calendars for Elizabeth Arden in New York. These experiences helped her to understand where ingredients actually come from, how they are made and which ones are effective and safe.
Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals is not only on physical rooftops, it also has a strong digital presence. On social, Blomquist creates content for TikTok, Instagram and BRB’s blog. There, followers can learn about different botanicals, how they’re grown and how they’re processed. On the website, you can find products like the seed-to bottle Rose & Chamomile Gel Moisturizer, which is formulated with rooftop-grown rose and chamomile extracts to soothe skin problems caused by environmental pollutants. It’s the first of many rooftop-grown products to come.
Here, we caught up with Blomquist to find out what motivates her, what you need to know about green (not clean) beauty and her tips on travel.
My Motivation: “When you’re starting your own business, you’ll come to learn that successes in the beginning are very few and far between, so I’ve come to understand that in order to continue to do what I’m doing, I have to keep thinking about my mission and the real reason I’m doing what I’m doing,” says Blomquist. “Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals isn’t just a rooftop farm that grows and processes botanicals, it’s a change-driving initiative that could benefit the entire city and future generations to come, so that’s what I hold onto each and every day when times are rough.”
The Importance of Urban Gardening: “While city dwellers will always rely on rural farmers for raw materials, 86% of the United State’s population currently lives in urban areas, and based on the UN’s predictions, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. We therefore must rethink how we’re going to supply our raw materials and essentials in a more sustainable and secure way,” says Blomquist. “We also need to be aware of the obvious—cities are going to be even more polluting than before, so we need to to offset this.”
New York City’s Rooftops: “Did you know we have more than 40,000 acres of available rooftops in New York City? That’s 47 Central Parks,” says Blomquist. “By farming and processing botanicals on otherwise unused rooftops, we’ll be drastically reducing the carbon emissions emitted from processing and shipping these raw materials from halfway across the globe. Having rooftop farms in cities also helps to reduce toxic and damaging storm runoff, improves urban ecology, enhances quality of life, creates jobs and provides environmental and agricultural education to those of us who live in and love cities.”
What the Future Holds: While currently not open to the public, Blomquist has lofty goals for Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals. “I want it to become a community space where people can connect, get inspired by new ideas, take steps to shop more locally and find out how to live more sustainability,” she says.
Natural Farming Close to Home: Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals employs natural farming practices on all its rooftops, which helps promote a diverse ecosystem. “By reducing the amount of human intervention and refraining from applying synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, our botanicals become enriched with nutrients and provide the maximum health benefits to every participant in our ecosystem—from the smallest insects to our end user,” says Blomquist. “By growing our own botanicals on our rooftops, we’re bringing raw materials closer to home, which means we’re reducing the amount of carbon emissions previously used to grow, process, transport and produce those same botanicals grown halfway around the world.”
Clean Beauty vs. Green Beauty: “Clean beauty had a good run for its money, but it doesn’t really mean anything. Clean beauty and all the language developed around it is fear-mongering marketing language,” says Blomquist. “With the fall of clean beauty, we now have the rise of green, sustainable, eco-beauty, which has helped push aside the beliefs around excessively scrutinizing the safety of ingredients and replaced them with more conscious thinking around the sourcing of ingredients.”
Advice for Other Entrepreneurs: “When times are tough, re-look at your path, focus on the things you can do right now and go full force on them to keep moving you forward—even if they take you out of your comfort zone—because that’s what’s going to take you to the next level,” says Blomquist. “Before the pandemic, I didn’t care for social media because I didn’t want to deal with the repercussions of putting myself out there. Then the pandemic hit and a lot of my original plans took a standstill, so I looked at how else I could gain awareness to grow, and Tiktok was an avenue. In the end, part of the reason I’m where I am today is because of Tiktok.”
Make a Difference: “It’s a literal jungle out there and everyone is trying to make their mark,” says Blomquist. “To make a difference and be a real change driver, you need to think about what’s happening in a social and economic sense as well as look to the future to see what you can solve. Being completely transparent and authentic is also the only way forward.”
Top Travel Beauty Tip: “I practice slugging while traveling, especially on an overnight flight to France. It’s funny this is trending now because I’ve literally been doing this for years, especially at night in the winter and when traveling,” says Blomquist. “The concept is you apply your usual routine, but then end it by applying a fine layer of Vaseline to help lock everything in to reduce transepidermal water loss. Because the air on airplanes is so incredibly dry, this is where I think this practice helps tremendously. By first washing your face and then applying a layer of moisturizer with hyaluronic acid and soothing botanicals, like our Rose & Chamomile Gel Moisturizer, you’ll be left feeling even more plump and refreshed.”
Gardens Around the Globe: Over the years, Blomquist has visited many beautiful perfume and botanical gardens nestled between her childhood home in Grasse, France and close by in Alassio, Italy. These gardens also helped to inspire her rooftop beauty-growing dreams. Some of her favorite include:
• Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild – Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France: “Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild was built by Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild in the early 1900’s and every single detail of the garden was carefully thought out and designed by her,” says Blomquist. “What I liked about the story of this garden is that the location at the time was not deemed ‘conducive’ to building a garden due to the rocky landscape and extremely windy location, but Beatrice did it anyway. I guess that stuck with me because she decided to build this garden against all odds, and I guess that’s what I’m doing with my rooftop beauty farm.”
• Villa De La Pergola – Alassio, Italy: “Villa De La Pergola is a beautiful botanical garden but also a hotel with a seriously amazing restaurant. So if you get the chance to visit this charming beach town, do not forget to stop by this place to visit the gardens and have dinner there,” says Blomquist. “What I really loved about the gardens is their extreme dedication to agapanthus and wisteria. While not in bloom while I was there, I still got to check out their impressive citrus tree collection that took my breath away.”
• Jardins du Musée International de la Parfumerie – Mouans-Sartoux, France: “Jardins du Musée International de la Parfumerie is a true beauty botanical garden and museum and that’s why I love it so much. By visiting, you have access to 80% of the world’s beauty botanicals. And for me, I’m like a kid in a candy store. I want to smell, touch and take pictures of everything while there. Needless to say, my phone quickly runs out of space and power whenever I visit.”
A Garden Close to Home: Looking for a botanical garden closer to home? Blomquist also loves to spend her time at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where she acquired her certificate in horticulture. “What I love about the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is that it’s fairly small so it’s easy to walk around in, but it’s also incredibly well-designed,” she says. “It truly shows each botanical or plant in its best light and I often find it to be a super relaxing and thought-provoking experience.”
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