The Guerilla Perfumer - Simon Constantine, Lush
PUBLISHED: 09:39 12 January 2015 | UPDATED: 09:39 12 January 2015
Simon Constantine grew up in a home filled with fragrance, so it's no surprise he followed his nose into the family business.
Lush was founded in 1995 by Liz Weir and Mark Constantine, but the story of one of the UK’s best known brands starts way before this, with the couple concocting fabulous natural products in their kitchen and attracting the attention of Anita Roddick as she founded The Body Shop.
Simon says: ‘Some of my earliest memories are of fragrance. You could smell my home from the end of our road when my mum and dad had been creating new batches of soaps or creams.
‘My parents had set up for themselves with the idea of finding natural ways to do beauty and hair treatments. Initially everything was made at home, but as the business grew they eventually moved into more appropriate premises!’
In 1984 they sold their business to The Body Shop and wondered what to do next. In 1994 they started again – making their own products by hand, on the premises – and opened a shop in Poole. Lush was born and, well, the rest is history.
Simon first joined his parents’ company as a perfumer, seeking a creative role but soon realising that there was far more to the job.
‘It quickly became apparent that I needed to know a lot more about the various ingredients we use. Lush operates on vegetarian principals and never tests on animals. We take a similar approach in our sourcing – we ask lots of questions and spend a lot of time visiting the various countries and growers we source from. This opens up opportunities for us to support local communities.
‘I’ve just got back from a trip to Kenya, for example, where I was following up on a new type of aloe found in the Masai lands there. It’s a lovely plant and we’re now working with the local community to develop sustainable farming methods, which will give them a stake in the environment and help build a future for them too.’
Internally Simon is known as the Gorilla Perfumer, because he’s big and hairy (I quote!), but spelled differently, this epithet could apply to the whole Lush ethos: use guerrilla tactics to make a big difference in small communities. Spread wide, it’s a powerful tool for change.
Take for example their Charity Pot product, a body lotion where 100% of the price (less taxes) is donated to small, local projects that make a big impact. The three Manchester stores alone raised £34, 234 in 2013 and look set to beat that in 2014. To add to the joy, the Charity Pot contains seven ingredients sourced from projects overseas supported by Lush’s Sustainable Lush Fund (SLush Fund.) Lush donate 2% of the amount spent on raw materials and packaging to the Fund, which to date has raised £1.2 million and supported the development of 32 projects in 19 countries.
Simon still spends time developing new perfumes however and I asked what his favourite fragrances have been over the years.
‘There are a number of scents that snap me right back to my childhood,’ he says. ‘Fragrance can do that in a way that nothing else can, triggering an emotional response that people can’t always explain. But I have to confess, my favourite scent is one I created called Breath of God. It was inspired by a visit to Tibet. It has a smoky incense base and a grassiness inspired by the Tibetan grasslands. It’s not just a lovely scent – it won five stars in a review in a specialist book [Perfumes, by Luca Turin & Tanya Sanchez) and my dad’s perfumes listed in there didn’t!’