Scents and Sustainability

·6 min read

LONDON — Michelle Feeney launched Floral Street in 2017 as a fragrance house with an earth-friendly message, and while the industry may have been interested in the scents, they weren’t so impressed with the sustainability angle.

Feeney, a marketer to her core who helped supersize MAC at Estée Lauder, and St. Tropez at PZ Cussons, was determined that Floral Street, her new, self-funded venture, be sustainable, as well as accessible — and beautiful.

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From the start she used vegan, cruelty-free ingredients and packaged her scents in white pulp boxes so green they can double as seed trays before biodegrading.

There is no excess packaging — such as cellophane wrap — while each refillable glass bottle showcases an original flower mural by the photographer Matthew Donaldson.

Feeney has been working with Jérôme Epinette at Robertet, which uses raw, natural ingredients, to create fragrances that could be traceable from source to scent.

Now that lockdown is ending and sustainability and clean beauty have both emerged as hot industry trends, Feeney is feeling vindicated, on a number of levels.

In a Zoom interview she admitted that getting press and retailers interested in the virtues of a vegan, cruelty-free fragrance with eco-packaging in the past was an uphill battle.

“But now the world has woken up, and retailers have realized the consumer wants” clean, sustainable products. She also believes the consumer is looking for sustainable, clean home fragrance, too.

That’s why it’s her moment to strike — again. Feeney is expanding her approach to home fragrance, which will launch on July 1 in the U.S. at Nordstrom, and on floralstreet.com.

Feeney said she and her team have tried to keep the four variations of candles and diffusers as clean as possible. Room sprays will launch later this summer priced at $30.

The candles are made from a soy and rapeseed vegan wax blend, with natural wicks, and are hand-poured in the U.K., while the vegan oil diffusers are alcohol-free and naturally derived.

According to Floral Street, the candles are 12 to 14 percent fragrance oil, compared with the market average of 6 percent, have a 40-hour burn time and are free from parabens, bleaches, dyes, palm oil, lead and tin.

Both the candles and the diffusers come in reusable glass vessels and wrapped in responsibly sourced, recyclable FSC certified packaging.

The four home fragrances are called White Florals, Rose Garden, Urban Bloom and Dark Florals. The 7-oz. candles and the 100-ml. diffusers are both priced at $46.

The products will be sold through 100 Nordstrom doors, including 57th Street in Manhattan, and online, with a wider variety of home products set to land around Christmas. A select number of Nordstrom stores will also be picking up the fragrance line, too, she said.

Anthropologie will begin selling the fragrances through more than 150 doors and online in the U.S., and Feeney said she is in talks with them to carry home, too.

Sephora U.S. is already a stockist of the fragrances, and has also tapped Floral Street for its European Good For initiative, and will be rolling out the fragrances to more than 40 doors including the Champs-Élysées store.

Retail revenue is in excess of 15 million pounds, with Feeney expecting that figure to hit 20 million pounds in fiscal 2021-22, bolstered by home and other fragrance launches. She added that home will rise from the current 8 percent of turnover to 20 percent of turnover in fiscal 2021-22.

Floral Street first launched at Harvey Nichols in London in 2017 offering eight floral scents created by Epinette and produced by Robertet.

The collection plays in the premium space, with Feeney adamant about keeping prices accessible, while also offering a compelling narrative, a green angle and a lifestyle proposition she could pitch directly to the consumer.

“I realized there was this massive gap between Lush and Jo Malone, and I wanted to offer fine fragrance at an affordable price, in a different way, to a younger customer,” Feeney told WWD in 2017.

She later opened a stand-alone store in Covent Garden where, pre-pandemic, she encouraged visitors to experiment, layer and consider buying for themselves, and as gifts.

During the pandemic, with the Covent Garden shop closed, Feeney has also been conducting “Scent School in a Box” masterclasses in line with her original aim of helping the customer become a fragrance “connoisseur.”

In addition to the home fragrance collection there is a host of new products — and deals — in the works, too.

In a few months’ time Floral Street will become the official scent supplier to the newly redeveloped headquarters of BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, at 195 Piccadilly in London.

The refurbished building will open early next year as a creative center for film, games and television and be the central hub for BAFTA’s U.K.-wide, and global, learning and talent development program.

Floral Street will scent the space, and will be the exclusive supplier of hand wash and hand cream for visitors to the building. Later next year the brand will begin selling those hand products as part of the new home range.

Feeney is also launching a pop-up this summer at Bicester Village in Oxfordshire, England, and will mark a major milestone in August when Floral Street becomes the first fragrance partner of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Feeney has inked a four-year deal across fragrance and scented home products that looks to celebrate the works of Vincent van Gogh, and excite audiences globally in appreciation of “fine art and fine fragrance.”

The first fragrance will launch in mid-August, inspired by one of the artist’s most famous works.

Feeney said Floral Street’s future will be about partnerships, be they with cultural institutions, such as BAFTA and the Van Gogh museum, or with retailers such as Nordstrom and John Lewis, one of the brand’s partners in the U.K.

These partnerships, while commercial, should also be creative and based around telling Floral Street’s scent and sustainability stories.

For the moment, Feeney is keeping the Covent Garden unit open. The lively London neighborhood has begun blinking back to life after stores and hospitality began reopening in April and May, although the international tourists are still missing due to severe restrictions on travel to and from the U.K.

Feeney said that pre-pandemic, 80 percent of visitors to the shop were international tourists. While Feeney likes the idea of stand-alone shops and said she’d ideally like to have one in the U.S. and each major territory, “I think my strategy going forward is online, pop-ups — and good partners.”

The future will also be about expansion into more categories, such as bath and body, and continuing on her clean beauty journey. Feeney also believes that, nowadays, fragrance doesn’t have to be “distribution channel defined. Modern consumers find you, wherever you are in the world.”

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