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Interview with Michelle Feeney, Founder of Floral Street

Interview with Michelle Feeney, Founder of Floral Street

In the four years since it was founded in 2017 by Michelle Feeney, Floral Street has bagged a number of awards, including The Fragrance Foundation Retailer of the Year 2019.

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Although a small player in the scheme of things, the company has made a big impact with its vibrant, very British approach to vegan, cruelty-free, and sustainably produced fragrances.

“We have proven that you can have fine fragrance, beautiful packaging, and long-lasting scents all created in a considered way,” says Feeney.

She talks to Everfumed about the future of beauty, green-washing, and their latest partnership with the Van Gogh Museum.

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Interview with Michelle Feeney – The Founder of Floral Street

You launched Floral Street in 2017. What changes were you picking up in the market that signalled you were onto something?

I have been privileged to enjoy an amazing career in fashion and beauty, creating and establishing global brands, including Crème de La Mer and St Tropez.

I have been described as a “cult brander”, as I’ve been able to help build cult brand status or utilise elements to connect with an audience in new ways.

I spent seven incredible years on MAC Cosmetics in NYC, establishing the fashion outreach globally, accelerating the story of the MAC AIDS Fund and playing a key role in launching in over 40 countries. It was a whirlwind!

However, at age 51, I decided to take a gap year. I had the idea for my own brand but wanted time out to decide how I would do it and if, indeed, the world needed any more product.

I realised that the fragrance industry hadn’t evolved in the same way as other beauty categories and saw a gap in the market for a sustainable, modern brand that offers fine fragrance at an affordable price.

I decided to return to beauty in November 2017, launching my independent, “clean” brand, accessible to all. From the very beginning, I wanted to make Floral Street a beacon for change. I wanted it to have meaning and core values of environmental consideration.

Fernweh Editions Fern & Petals Candle

I wanted to stimulate the industry to take action, as consumers are now demanding this. We have proven that you can have fine fragrance, beautiful packaging, and long-lasting scents all created in a considered way.

Why are vegan fragrances so important to you and how do you define them?

When I am asked “why did you produce vegan fragrances,” my answer is “this is the future of beauty.” This is not a trend it is an absolute. It is about finding the best way to create fabulous products while lowering the impact on our planet.

I am proud we have gained an international accreditation from Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for being a vegan and cruelty-free brand.

This means we do not use any animal-derived materials and no animals have been harmed in the creation of our perfumes. It verifies that we do not conduct or commission any animal tests on ingredients or formulations or finished products.

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Does it limit your perfumer Jérôme Epinette’s creative options in any way?

No, not at all. Jerome is a master perfumer at Robertet, and we have chosen to partner with them because they are a world leader in sustainable, raw materials.

He has such a myriad of natural ingredients to choose from, plus the incredible fantasy notes and synthetic accords that are created in the lab. This all makes for the most modern fragrances that are good for you and good for the planet.

Are vegan fragrances the same as natural fragrances?

Natural ingredients are either vegan or they are not. Quite often the word “natural” is misused and some ingredients in fragrances that are regarded as natural can be allergenic.

We do have percentages of natural materials within our vegan Floral Street perfumes but there are also nature-identical ingredients that serve fragrance equally. As a sustainable brand, we also use vegan certified oils in our new scented home products.

How can consumers tell if a brand is truly vegan? There must be a lot of brands claiming to be vegan…

As individuals, consumers should delve into the product or the company to ensure they have the correct accreditation and can back up what they say. Some brands do mislead the consumer by using certain words or phrases but as a responsible company, we are transparent and open about our practices and certifications.

Fernweh White Sand Beaches Candle

We educate the consumer and use the globally recognised Peta bunny logo as we want them to know what they are buying. This makes it clear for our customers, guiding them to make better ethical choices and purchases.

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You’re also a sustainable, eco-friendly brand. How do you ensure that’s not greenwashing, from your Covent Garden, London, store to packaging?

Being sustainable is a journey and we face new challenges every day. It’s not just the fragrance that’s involved in being ethical, we consider the whole life cycle and every element that goes into our final products.

From the raw materials and how they are processed, the recyclable packaging, and the responsible manufacturing methods and supply chain. From source to scent, we want consumers to know where we come from.

We apply the 5 R’s to every aspect of our business – rethink, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle.

We reduce use by having a high 20% concentration of oil in our fragrances. Our glass candle and diffuser vessels can be reused, and we offer a perfume refill service in our Covent Garden, London, store.

Our award-winning, biodegradable pulp fragrance box can be repurposed to store keepsakes or grow seeds or herbs in and being compostable if it does end up in landfill, it won’t leave any trace on the environment.

All our packaging is widely recyclable, and our paperboard is FSC certified and sourced from responsibly managed forests. We carbon balance via the World Land Trust, and our 2020 certificate confirmed we helped to protect over 6 500m² of critically threatened tropical rainforest.

We also partner with those that share our ethos and principles, including global retailers that lead and champion sustainable ways to shop.

Floral Street is all about “powered by flowers” and from all your releases so far, you’re bringing a fresh new spin to this genre. Is there a personal reason for your floral focus?

Every time I look at a flower it makes me smile. They are joyful, don’t cost much to grow or admire, and are the universal language of beauty. Our sustainable scent creations are a modern way to experience the beauty of flowers.

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Also, our flagship is in the heart of Covent Garden, London, where the original Victorian flower market was situated, so this floral inspiration flows throughout our store and our brand.

I read on the website that Floral Street is against the use of sexuality to sell its products. Please tell us more about that.

Having lived through three decades of beauty advertising and having a teenage daughter myself, I just feel that using sex to sell is lazy and outdated.

We do not use the word “sex” or “sexy” anywhere in the Floral Street brand. We have established motivational and empowering words to describe our fragrances and individual moods.

We are an inclusive brand, inspiring our customers to choose a perfume based on the way they feel. We have changed the conversation around scent and offer an experience where people identify with “who they will be today.” I believe our customers should be their own “celebrity” at the centre of their life.

What’s next for Floral Street?

My vision is for Floral Street to become a “clean” lifestyle brand. I strongly believe that by leading by example you empower others and the more successful your business, the more change you can influence. I want to give consumers the opportunity to feel good and make better choices that bring sustainable beauty to their everyday life.

We have just launched our ethical and vegan collections of candles and diffusers, which has taken our eco-credentials and joyful approach into the home.

When we were developing them, I realised that what we don’t put in is just as important as what we do put in, so we have taken out all harmful elements. This enables the sustainable fine fragrance to shine through so you can “bloom wherever you are.”

Using scent within different spaces can make you feel good and better about life. It’s about self-care and creating the right “mood,” reflecting how you want to feel.

Fernweh Creme Brulee Candle

Partnerships are also important if you are a small brand. By connecting with others and being part of bigger movements or collaborations, you can tell your story in new and different ways.

As an independent, British brand I was honoured when we were recently chosen as the first fragrance partner of the internationally renowned Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

This four-year partnership enables us to connect with a diverse audience globally in appreciation of fine art and fine fragrance. Our first launch is Sunflower Pop, inspired by Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers masterpiece and his citation “If one truly loves nature, one finds beauty everywhere.”

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