Flower power is the force behind much of what Lush do and an abundance of blooms go into making fresh products that work more effectively thanks to Mother Nature. So it was only natural that eventually things would blossom into the world of bouquets. Oxford Street will be the first store to sell Lush flowers, and here’s what you can expect when you pick up a posy or a potted plant at selected stores.
A rising tide of artists, florists and designers are shaking up the conventional flower industry, embracing natural imperfections, sourcing locally, or foraging for foliage to create a wilder aesthetic in their bouquets. It would seem that the flower industry is slowly catching up with the food industry and awareness is growing about where our flowers come from and the ethics behind them. Much like the wonky veg movement, we are starting to re-address the notion of a beautiful bouquet. Some artists are even creating arrangements from dead flowers, describing the concept as ‘upcycled beauty in the afterlife’, while other florists are turning their backs on floral foam due to the fact it doesn’t biodegrade. So what’s causing this flower revolution?
Whether it’s a big day, birthday, or a bad day - a bunch of flowers are a staple when it comes gift giving; a way to show we care, or to introduce a little more colour into our homes. Studies have shown that bringing nature indoors does wonders for our wellbeing, boosting moods and reducing stress levels, so it’s no wonder a big bunch of flowers can beat even the most stubborn of blues, but you may be wondering what a cosmetics company can bring to the table of fresh flowers.
Those who know about Lush product inventor and co-founder Mark Constantine’s fondness for a floral shirt, may not be surprised by the decision to branch into floristry. Flowers concept lead Victoria Bradford Snell was the woman brave enough to take on the endeavour. She explains that plants have always been at the root of what Lush does, saying: “Mark has wanted to sell flowers since his early twenties. We’ve always used plant materials, roots, infusions, flowers and petals in the products, so it makes sense really. It’s a lovely way to celebrate freshness.”
As consumers we’ve become spoilt for choice, we can pick peonies and receive roses all year round. That’s because, currently around 80% of our cut flowers are imported, travelling long distances from countries like the Netherlands, Colombia and Kenya where the sunshine means it’s far easier to grow certain varieties. This got Victoria thinking not only about how Lush could start creating seasonal bouquets, but how she could support local industry, while also cutting a few airmiles at the same time.
The Lush buying team work tirelessly to ensure that no matter where in the world they’re sourcing ingredients from, they’re sticking to a strict code of ethics. Some of these ingredients are sourced from other countries, supporting communities and regenerative projects, however the flower project offers a chance to look at where in the supply chain improvements can be made, because let’s face it, every little helps. It’s something Victoria describes as a “15 year project”.
“Eventually I’d love to change our supply chain so that all our flowers are seasonal, then perhaps the ones that aren’t we could dry. I’ve managed to persuade the inventors to make the move towards seasonal flower toppings too, so you would have a nice retail display of local, seasonal flowers beside the fresh products. It really helps connect people to the ingredients in our products.”
Victoria and her team are pedalled by three main desires, to source flowers from the local market (wherever that may be in the world), to create 100% compostable packaging, and finally to get to know local growers. The range will launch on the 8th February 2019 in Lush Oxford Street, just in time for Valentines Day, but don’t expect to find roses in these romantic bouquets.
A lovely part of this project, is that not only will arrangements look different depending on the season, but the range of flowers offered will also be completely unique depending on whereabouts in the world you are. Plans are in the pipeline to launch Lush bouquets in Paris, Japan, and hopefully in lots more exciting locations. While some may view working with a seasonal range of flowers restrictive, Victoria sees it as a creative challenge. She explains:
“Because we’re working with smaller, seasonal growers, what we have to work with is quite limited, so for me it’s all about trying to inject herbs, ivy and willow - beautiful foliage you wouldn’t typically find in your local florists or supermarket bouquets. We have to be a bit more creative with what we’re doing, which is great because we’re a creative business.”
What’s more, the addition of herbs, the seasonality of the flowers and lack of preservatives means these bouquets smell incredible. How often have you gone to sniff a bunch of flowers only to be disappointed by their strange lack of smell? Often commercial flowers are bred for durability and vase life and not for their scent, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Lush bouquets will be a multi-sensory experience, a worthy compromise between a very slightly shorter vase life and flowers that not only look standout, but smell fabulously fresh.
Rather than using preservatives, Victoria has looked at natural ways to keep flowers fresh for longer. “The outer petals of certain flowers are called guard petals”, she explains, “the whole idea being they naturally protect the flower. Often florists will remove these as they have a slightly mottled appearance, but I would rather leave the guard petal on to protect the flower in transit and then let the customer remove them at home.”
The biggest challenge for the team, has been developing packaging that is 100% compostable. With awareness of plastic pollution growing, many florists no longer use plastic to wrap their flowers, but coming up with alternatives can be tricky when bouquets need to be kept in water. The Lush R&D team donned their thinking caps and after much head scratching, developed seaweed water spheres containing calcium to keep flowers fresh for travelling. The first of their kind, these contain no chemicals, so once they’re finished with, these and their biodegradable packaging counterparts can all be fully composted.
Each stage of the process has been thought through, from buckets made from recycled plastic, to the growers the team choose to work with. Victoria wants to work with farmers who are willing to make positive change, referring to them as “environmentally conscious growers.” This may sound a little airy fairy, but due to the inherent use of pesticides in the flower industry, a want to make a difference is a positive first step. Of course, where possible the team want to use organic suppliers, but these are sometimes few and far between. So the crew have put some tight guidelines in place, as Victoria explains:
“We’re working with Pesticides Action Network. They have a list of 300 highly hazardous chemicals so we’re asking growers to share the pesticides they use and checking that against PAN’s list. If they’re using any of those pesticides then we’re working with them longer term and going as far as we can to eliminate pesticides. We’ll only work with people if they’re willing to work towards change and you can tell the growers who are interested in doing the right thing.”
As well as offering an array of bouquets, Lush flowers will include a small selection of potted plants, such as aloe vera and coffee plants. These are potted in a mixture of compost made from the Lush Green Hub’s factory waste and contain cork waste, an eco friendly way to help the compost retain moisture. The soil is decorated with recycled glass that prevents compost from spilling out of the black and white pots you may well be familiar with. While these plants are currently imported, they’re an investment and a handy care guide will help you make these precious plants last for years to come.
Pick up a seasonal bouquet for your sweetie (or yourself) at Lush Oxford Street from the 8th February 2019 and keep your eyes peeled for more news on Lush flowers. In the meantime, why not read about the secret messages behind your blooms.