Flower Power, Perfumes, and How to Create Powerhouse brands
Cool, edgy and sustainable, Michelle Feeny is pushing boundaries in the cosmetic industry with her latest venture – Floral Street.
After 30 years of moving around the globe, leading powerhouse brands and groups in top executive roles, Michelle has returned to her stomping ground to launch a fragrance line that disrupts the traditions of sex appeal, but rather encapsulates the expressive boldness of a London girl. Admirably, eco-responsibility echoes throughout the brand to drive environmental change, leading the way by exemplar of how large conglomerates should also be following suit.
Following your tenures as the Vice President of MAC and CEO of St Tropez, what was the pivotal point to move into creating your own fragrance line?
The inspiration for the name came in a flash. I was in Covent Garden, London, which was the original Victorian Flower Market (of My Fair Lady fame), I looked up at the street sign ‘Floral Street’ and thought that would be a great name for a fragrance brand. The inspiration for the brand itself came from the streets of London and its vibrant mash-up of cultures and traditions that have created powerful young women who can be themselves. I realised there wasn’t a fragrance brand that inspired women to be expressive and gave them the option to be able to change their perfume as often as they changed their shoes. I also felt after 30 years of experience and building cult brands, I would do it for myself! I launched the brand when I was 53, which shows you don’t have to be a young person to take a chance.
There is a strong sustainable movement within Floral Street – you were the first fragrance brand to create recyclable and biodegradable packaging and sugar cane bioplastic to ensure recyclability. Is this a relatively easy process that all cosmetic brands could opt into? Can you give us insight into how it works and why you went down this route?
I have been in the beauty industry for over 30 years. In 1993, I launched Bumble & Bumble products in a recyclable bottle. When I came to launching my own brand 25 years later, I am shocked that a small, new brand is leading the way in recyclability. It was absolutely imperative that Floral Street had sustainability at its heart and therefore we set about challenging ourselves to ensure we could be transparent about the ingredients in the perfume, but also that our packaging aim was either reusable, recyclable or compostable.
There are small elements of the packaging for which we are dependent upon manufacturing capability. Unless this manufacturing technologically moves on, it is impossible to source some elements of the packaging that will deliver well for the consumer and tick all the recycling credentials. This is where much larger beauty giants have the power to drive change. I am shocked that these same beauty giants are only just announcing a five year plan to tackle how they evolve their packaging to be more sustainable. Where there’s a will there’s a way – it just costs time and money. Big brand perfumes spend a disproportionate amount of money in advertising, whereas we put all our budget into tooling a pulp box.
The fragrances itself are so unique, like the electric rhubarb eau de parfum. Where do you draw inspiration for your scents? What is your creative process?
I work really closely with Jerome Epinette, our master perfumer from Robertet fragrance house. When I created the original eight fragrances, I briefed Jerome with mood boards of what we call our ‘muses’. I wanted to create a fragrance that evoked a feeling and expressed the way you want to feel that day.
With Electric Rhubarb, it was actually a little different, we had been approached by the Royal Horticultural Society (the RHS), to create a fragrance with them. The RHS are a 250-year-old organisation that have protected gardens in the UK, where they sustain many plants that might not survive. Working with them, we were inspired by the heritage Rhubarb collection at Wisley Gardens. Jerome used this inspiration and built on it to make a modern white floral.
What fragrance trends do you foresee coming into the limelight?
I think trends are created by the fragrance industry, but can also be geographical too. A key ingredient may become dominant and then everyone starts to think they should use it. I think the niche fragrance world – which is centred around the perfumer and develops many choices of unusual perfumes – is where I have taken my inspiration from. I think the trend for the future will be about transparency of ingredients more than a particular way forward.
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