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The First Rule of Soap Club

The First Rule of Soap Club

Zibby Aitken-Valtenbergs is the papier-mâché artiste, sometimes-bartender and all-time killer founder of boutique Melbourne company Soap Club.

Using natural products and doing her best to choose outfits that go with protective eyewear and hairnets, Zibby creates artisan liquid soaps and high quality soap products that have both discerning Melburnians and internationally acclaimed soap experts quite excited.

Zibby's studio is tiny– but it's enough to make soaps that are completely different to anything else on the market.

“It's not my style to advertise what the soap doesn’t contain on the label, like 'no SLS/SLES/PEG/Palm oil' and so on. I think people should expect a product to not contain bullshit,” Zibby says. So she's made it pretty simple and accessible.

“The ingredients are written on the front - and there’s only, like, seven of them.”

They're herbaceous ingredients like apricot kernel oil, orange blossom water, shea butter, black pepper essential oil, and aloe vera – among others. Stirred by hand and preserved with natural essential oils, Zibby mixes her signature combinations together to create an incredibly luxe, soft and nourishing soap – the likes of which we'd never ever seen before.

Among a million other things, it was the cracked bar of imperial leather on her Dad's sink that inspired Zibby to make soap.

She made her first batch in jelly moulds at her best friend's house because she didn’t have a proper kitchen, and gave them to her friends all wrapped up in newspaper.  But when she decided to get serious, there were no corners cut.

“I felt like I was wasting my time if I didn’t start doing something about soap and making my own business, making heavenly stuff,” says Zibby.

“I looked up soap courses all around the world - Australia included. I made the commitment to myself that if I was going to give it a go, it was going to be all- in and I wanted to be killer at it.”

Which lead to her adventure in the Dordogne with world-renowned soap expert Melinda Coss. 

From her home in Bergerac in the south west of France, Melinda - the 'grande dame' of soap - gave Zibby one-on-one training and the two formed a close friendship. Little wonder Zibby's secret-ingredient soap has developed such a cult following at home.

Soap aside, Zib is becoming increasingly famous for the giant papier-mâché art she produces for the best boutique music festival in Australia right now: Boogie. Last year she made an oversized dragon fruit, a lemon, a watermelon, a pineapple and a lime. This year it was a huge rocket.

“The last I saw of it was it sitting flat underneath a 3am picnic of people at an abandoned stage once everyone had moved to the fire. Someone I was standing with politely asked them off it and got inside, reviving the saggy walls for one last hurrah.”

Zibby has been a bicycle postie, manned lemonade stands, hosted the bingo, and driven some of the world's most famous touring musicians from their hotels to their gigs. More recently, she's collaborated with English potter Hannah Lawrence, who has created the gold lustre stamped pinch pots for Zib's citrus soy candles.

But it's soap, the possible combinations of textures and scents and the effects her products have on people that makes her tick.

“They are small experiences, showering, putting on face cream, washing your hands... but I think all these things are a lot about enjoying scent and what scent can do for your mood,” says Zibby.

“Having an essential oil shower in the morning and putting on a lightly scented neroli face cream is just a great start to the day.

That sort of stuff can be controlled - even when the weather's shit or the news is shit or your life is shit, cypress and cedarwood or black pepper and geranium are always going to be good.”