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“These are the ones you really want to know about, aren’t they?” Mark laughs gesturing to the latter. “But… I’m going to talk about these ones first.” He reaches for two bath bombs, one in the shape of a tree and the other a powder-blue bottle with a handwritten tag.
Under The Umbrella Tree we’re informed, is inspired by the Japanese idea of bathing with your umbrella up and the tradition of ‘Shinrin-yoku’: the practice of "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing." In the mossy-green water, Epsom salts and pine needle powder sparkle and effervesce. The perfume, recognisable to some, is Breath Of God: a tranquil and meditative blend of cedarwood, ylang ylang and neroli, reminiscent of quiet Tibetan monasteries and woodsmoke. Holding an open umbrella over the bowl of water, Mark demonstrates how he’d like customers to use it. “The idea is you take a brolly in with you, and lower it over your head to get the full benefit. It’s like a walk in a lovely place - it could be anywhere but in this case it’s Tibet.”
Those who have experienced the Synaesthesia treatment will be reminded of the fragrance bottles that line the shelves of the Lush Spa kitchen when they see Mark’s next product: Little Bottle Of Calm. “Have you ever seen Black Books?” he asks. “There’s the clip where he swallows the Little Book Of Calm. It’s a joke based on that really, but instead here’s a bottle you can drop into your bath. This is a sleep super mix: chamomile blue, Roman chamomile, lavender oil, tonka... I’m very happy with it. I find it very calming, You don’t have to necessarily use it in the bath, it can just be there.”
Did recent reviews turning Sleepy body lotion into a cult product for insomniacs prompt Mark to create more products to help customers struggling with sleep? He pauses. Then: “I’ve written back to people who ask me whether these products really help you sleep and I say, well, it’s not going to stop Trump being president, if you have genuine worries, it’s not going to deal with those, but if you stop and you take a bath and you relax that’s going to help and this all complements that. Sleep is so subjective. But I like the fact that people see us as purveyors of things that do something. I like the idea that people have been kind enough to think that we help them sleep.”
He picks up the next product: a reusable bubble bar with a shape inspired by the fidget spinner trend called Spinning Plates. Under the running water, the perfume is rich and inviting - a spicy, hypnotic blend of fire tree oil, lemon myrtle, lemongrass and orange flower. “When we first made the spinners,” Mark muses, “we did them a bit like kids’ toys but that isn’t really what they’re about. They’re grown-ups’ toys. You let that spin around and the bath’s filling up with the fire tree oil and you’re calming down. Often in my experience, you get busier and busier and busier when something’s coming up that emotionally you don’t want to do or face. The whole idea of this is that you calm down and you let it surface.”
#LushMood products, however, also caters to customers without the option of a relaxing soak in the bath, with products to make showering far more sensorial and special. Enter shower bombs: a foaming, softening sodium bicarbonate bomb you’ll recognise from the classic bath category, but with added seaweed and starches to create a silky, cleansing mousse that can be swept over the body while you shower.
Fans of Sleepy body lotion will be excited to try a shower bomb incarnation of the revered malty lavender and tonka perfume, with added oatmeal for extra softness on the skin. When swept over the body, clouds of steamy lavender infuse the air - the perfect lullaby to unwind after busy days and relieve busy minds. Alternatively, Not Sleepy is the perfect antidote to bleary mornings: a deliciously tart lemon myrtle, Brazilian orange and neroli blend that bubbles to life in the shower and banishes apathy.
Another favourite fragrance, Karma, in all its orange, pine and patchouli glory, is envisioned as a foaming orange pyramid with extra turmeric for its purifying topical effects. Mark explains, “We wanted to do one to do with the concept of karma, the idea that ‘You can be happy even if there’s change.’ It’s very difficult to come up with something different for that other than Karma perfume.” Indeed. This earthy cult perfume grounds the mind without inviting sleep, courtesy of the energising citrus top notes that rejuvenate the mind and balance the meditative patchouli notes.
Spinning top Koyaanisqatsi (meaning ‘Life out of balance’ in Hopi Indian) was inspired by and named after the cult 1982 film of the same name, in particular, the experimental title track composed by Philip Glass. Against juxtaposed timelapses of natural phenomena and sprawling urbanisation comes this lulling perfume composed of French lavender, ylang ylang and violet leaf to slow the pace and bring balance into hectic minds.
Both Koyaanisqatsi and Not Sleepy’s perfumes are composed entirely of essential oils and 100% natural, as with some other products in the range. Was that intentional? According to Mark it all comes down the intended effect of the fragrance. “If I think a perfume blend will create that mood better, I’ll use a perfume blend,” he explains, “but if I think an essential oil blend will work better, I’ll use that.”
He’s keen to discuss the Atmospheres: another entirely new product category for Lush which combines a desire to create products with multi-sensory customer benefits with a passion for minimalist - or preferably no - packaging. And atmospheres - single use shower gels wrapped in a layer of seaweed gel - certainly have naked credentials. The seaweed gel around the product is soft on the skin and biodegradable, and the products arrive in a recycled and recyclable box.
Each of the four products (Money, Love, Joy and Let Go) were designed with the laws of attraction in mind: the idea that you can bring into reality what you are focusing on. They also each relate to a key phrase or mantra. With Money, a lime, fennel and cypress blend, comes ‘I can have money and freedom too’, with spicy, apple-sweet Love, ‘Appreciation and love are identical vibrations’, and with Joy - a warming bergamot, clove, black pepper and ginger blend - ‘I am the creator of my own life experiences’.
In contrast to the complexity of the others, Let Go is a pure lavender oil fragrance. Mark explains: “Sometimes if you hold a lot of unhealthy things inside, you need to let go a bit. So this is actually an aromatherapy blend to help you do that and ‘let go of attachment’.
Each perfume is personal to Mark. He pauses over ‘Love’ - a product infused with a perfume of the same name. “Shall I tell you the story behind Love?” he asks. “Basically my son fell in love and he would cycle to school with this girl and it reminded me of Cider With Rosie which is like sweet apple pie. So the spices and the appley notes combine with Laurie Lee writing’s which is so marvellous - really beautiful.
“He thought she would be the most special thing in the world, that she’d be a star of unbelievable proportions. And I had a girl like that at school. I thought she was so special. I put a little bit of rotten apple - just a tiny bit - in Love just because she treated him a bit badly. Really this was much more about my sweetheart than his though.”
Perfumery has long been a form of self expression for Mark, who personally creates many of the fine fragrances and product perfumes for Lush. How important is it to get each and every one just right? Very.
“What’s the first thing a customer does?” he asks. “They have a sniff and they make their decision accordingly. If you’re going to make a decision based on perfume, it may as well have some meaning then, some purpose. It’s a symbiosis - it’s a lovely mixture and one can’t exist without the other. People also talk about having too much colour. I wrote back to someone the other day and said, 'Look, colour isn’t going to kill you, but a lack of colour would make your life incredibly dull.' A whole shop full of taupes and beiges and creams would be unbearable.”
For fans of Lush’s bold and bright new innovations, it certainly would.
#LushMood products are available online and in shops now.