Interviewed by Kelsey Harper Parker, Owner of Matriarch LA
I met Whitney a few years back shortly after I started my company Flower Girl Los Angeles. Whitney was a bride and I made her a flower crown, gave her some tips for her wedding day, and stayed in touch over instagram. When she started Rowsie Vain, I was over the moon! Whit has an incredible eye for design, and being an Ojai native, she is naturally an outdoorsy girl who's not afraid to forage for sage! She shared some of her favorite places in Ojai in our interview below.
Tell us who you are and why Ojai is so special to you.
I am Whitney Smith Morales, the owner and creator of Rowsie Vain, Mother to Daisy Monroe. I grew up in Ojai, the Valley of the Moon, and it has been my home for my entire life. Ojai is special to me for so many reasons, but mostly because it is where I feel the most comfortable, the most safe, and feel as close to nature as possible. Ojai is historically a sacred place, forever magical, and the most beautifully inspiring place I know to exist.
Where is your favorite date spot in Ojai?
My favorite date spot and restaurant in Ojai is Boccali’s in Upper Ojai. They grow their own ingredients farm to table, the food is phenomenal and the location is beyond gorgeous, with views consisting of citrus orchards and pink moment sunsets. It's best to go during strawberry season, and always say yes to dessert. I also just found out that our vintage deco-style (only) movie theatre in Ojai, Ojai Playhouse, that has been closed for the last almost four years, will be under construction soon and reopening, so I am super excited as I am sure most of Ojai is. Dinner and a movie will soon be possible again in Ojai!
Do you have a favorite experience or place in nature you’d like to share?
You can’t really escape nature when in Ojai, my favorite way to experience it is getting lost in the hills, hiking off the trails even where I shouldn’t. As a child my Grandmother took me on nature walks and she would point out flowers, plants, and taught me how to appreciate and respect nature; this stuck with me forever. My favorite place in nature, in Ojai is Chief’s Peak. You can see the Chief from mostly everywhere in Ojai The legend behind him inspires me in such a nurturing and protective way, he is always watching over us in the valley.
How has Ojai inspired your work/helped shaped you as a mother?
The Chumash Indians first lived in Ojai and used the native plants and resources for medicinal and healing purposes beyond everyday necessity. Learning about the land I grew up on and how it was used centuries before us inspires me to recreate modern day versions of those traditions. Ojai has a perfect mediterannean climate and a beautifully wild quality that connects people to its spirit through plants. Ojai not only inspires me to create earth-grown skincare solutions using what is native, organic, and ethically available, but also inspires me to sustain, preserve, and protect its recourses. Giving back what we take only allows for a sustainable process, as an active member of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy Group, a percentage of all ROWSIE VAIN sales are donated to the organization which funds the protection and management of Ojai Valley’s open spaces for public use. When you purchase ROWSIE VAIN products, you are encouraging healthy relationships with the natural earth and helping to preserve Ojai’s views, trails, water, and wildlife for generations to come.
As a Mother, Ojai has taught me importance of kindness, slow living, to observe the beauty around me and to appreciate the tight-knit community where people are happy to help each other. Ojai encourages growth and learning through nature, art and science and I am so grateful to be able to share Ojai with my daughter, knowing she will get the very best education and be able to express herself in an accepting and nurturing environment.
I came across this quote the other day and it reminded me of Ojai’s spirit:
“Seeing beauty in a flower could awaken humans, however briefly, to the beauty that is an essential part of their innermost being, their true nature. The first recognition of beauty was one of the significant events in the evolution of human consciousness. The feelings of joy and love are intrinsically connected to that recognition. Without our fully realizing it, flowers would become for us an expression in form of that which is most high, most sacred, and ultimately formless within ourselves. Flowers, more fleeting, more ethereal, and more delicate than the plants out of which they emerged, would become like messengers from another realm, like a bridge between the world of physical forms and the formless. They not only had a scent that was delicate and pleasing to humans, but also brought a fragrance from the realm of spirit.” ~Eckart Tolle
If you could choose a certain flower or plant that’s scent or image reminds you of Ojai what would it be and why?
Ojai has so many iconic plant staples, of course everyone knows Ojai for its oranges, and the beautiful, native Oak Trees. The scent of neroli, jasmin, sage, and lavender are the most reminiscent of Ojai. However the flower that most reminds me of Ojai is the Matilija Poppy. Named after Matilija Canyon in Ojai, Matilija Poppies are said to protect the grave of the (Chumash Indian) Cheif’s daughter. The Chumash people believed that the petals of the flower were made from the soul of a maiden who died of a broken heart, and that the Chumash gods transformed her into the pure white petals.
Anything other hidden gems or favorite shops?
Topa Mountain Winery has a to die for Rosé, their vineyard is located in the Topa Topa Mountains which makes it even better.
DeKor & co. is my favorite shop for lifestyle goods, furniture, and gifts ( they also sell my products and have a new location in LA).
Seafresh & Sakura are my favorite spots for Sushi, Papa Lennon’s has amazing farm fresh pizza as well. Casa De Lagos has been our go-to family dinner restaraunt since 1986!
Rainbow Bridge Marketplace is my favorite place to pick up gifts, and has a great selection of healing crystals and gems.
I also love shopping in Ojai Baby for my daughter, they have the cutest new and used consignment and vintage baby goods.
Wachter Hay & Grain is a fun place to take the kids to see their fish tanks and bunnies, or pick up gifts and pet supplies.
Oh and I can’t forget Ben Franklin, Ojai’s original arts & crafts store where Ive spent ridiculous amounts of money on Christmas ornaments and fake flowers!
To learn more about Whitney and Rowsie Vain visit www.rowsievain.com or @rowsievain