Given a bird's-eye-view of Williamsburg, you might look down to see a rooftop in full bloom with flowers — roses, chamomile, hyssop and more — and former beauty executive Liana Blomquist in her upstairs lab, turning the plants into botanical extracts.
Blomquist is the founder of Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals, a new rooftop farm growing crops that will be turned into beauty products.
In 2019, Blomquist left her job as an executive at Revlon in order to get out from behind a desk. For the last nine years, she'd worked across London and New York doing marketing for global beauty brands, including launching celebrity fragrance lines for Justin Bieber, Nikki Minaj and Britney Spears.
But the outdoors called.
Blomquist had recently got into gardening, and was growing tomatoes and other seeds on her rooftop for several years when she had an idea.
"I thought, it would be great if i could mix my beauty experience with gardening, and grow beauty botanicals and create extracts and create my own products."
Many cosmetic products contain extracts from plants — like herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, leaves or seeds — that work in the product to give some desired effect. For example, chamomile and rose have both long been used to treat inflammation.
Blomquist said one of her motivations was in being more thoughtful about how we source beauty products.
"When working in a huge company you realize how much is being produced and the carbon footprint and the non-recyclable aspect pushing into this world," she said.
She started building out her rooftop with all sorts of plants that can be used in beauty products, with beneficial properties, and experimenting with them.
Now, Blomquist has two rooftop beauty farms in East Williamsburg and one in Downtown Brooklyn, taking a total of 2,000 square feet of roof space.
Like Sunset Park's Brooklyn Grange, she said wanted to transform "wasted space" in the city into green space, both reducing the heat island effect and producing beauty products closer to home, where people can actually come and visit and see how they're made.
"The main mission is trying to make people really think about where their products are coming from," Blomquist said. "Having people understand how things are being grown, where they're sourced, and when they're making a carbon footprint."
After several years of growing, research and development, Blomquist is looking forward to launching her Brooklyn-made beauty products in the fall.
The process has involved buying all the required materials, teaching herself through books and videos, and working with a formulator to make sure everything is tested.
"People think there's this crazy science, but actually creating extracts is very simple," Blomquist said.
"Really what I'm trying to do is take the best of both worlds — take the botanicals that have known research and are safe, and use powerful synthetics such as hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid and meld them together."
She said she's planning to sell her products direct to consumer on her website, plus is also looking at additional rooftops, particularly spaces where people can events and come and see what she does and learn.
"I have lots of ideas, but I wanna go big, and I want the whole Brooklyn community to be involved."