The Lush Times.
November 2010, Covent Garden, London
Coming from a country of non-existent customer service, I was blown away by the magic and storytelling of London High Street that unfolded right in front of my eyes on this rainy November day. I was on a work trip with my previous company looking at retail standards and finding first-world inspiration. It may be because of my theatre degree, but what I saw was pure retail theatrical bliss!
The first product I was introduced to was the Karma Shampoo Bar. My thoughts: Was this a solid shampoo? Or was this a delicious macaroon I wanted to devour immediately if not sooner? And most importantly: how.can.anything.smell.this.good?!
Of course I ended up buying the Karma Shampoo Bar, the Karma Soap, a small Snowfairy Shower Gel (just in time for Xmas) and a Knot Wrap. I was also completely smitten with the staff’s cute headscarves, bright lips and cool British accents. I wanted to abandon everything and work and live in that store forever, or take everything home with me. The LUSH magic rubbed off on me, and I was completely under its spell.
When I returned to the hotel for the day’s debrief, all I could speak about was LUSH, and immediately showed my fashion-industry colleagues the products to oooh and aaah over.
July 2012, Cape Town, South Africa
I leave my office building on Barrack Street with a box filled with files, personal papers, a mug from a special colleague and exit the car park with a big question mark hanging above my head: What is next?
Luckily the answer came two days later in the shape of telephone call from a fellow colleague: “Hi Tanya, it’s Nic Malan, I have some exciting news, do you want to meet up?” Over coffee Nic explained that LUSH also blew him away, and that because of this (and many enquiries and lengthy application processes) he will be opening SA’s first LUSH in V&A Waterfront in October.
Of course I jumped on board, and got to work immediately: Recruiting SA’s first LUSH team (what a challenge, I mean have you seen the retail standards in SA?!), putting together social media and on-ground activations, planning a PR event for the big shots in press, and organizing all other logistics that come with a new shop opening.
Even though some well traveled South African's had experienced the brand, walked past a delicious Lush store or brought home a product or two, we still had our work cut out for us. It’s not easy creating hype around a new British cosmetics brand most locals had never seen or heard of before. “Is it like Bodyshop?”, people would ask, “Oh no. No no no my dear. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen”, I responded gleefully.
Enter Katie Nugent (stage left)
Nic and I experienced the LUSH magic in Covent Garden and later in Regent Street and White City, London, but our local candidates had no idea what this 5-star retail experience was that we kept raving about. Both of us came from backgrounds in fashion retail, so we needed guidance on how to approach the world of bath bombs, skincare, haircare, and all the other exciting LUSH things.
So Nic invited 4-year long LUSHie, Katie Nugent - sales assistant then business intern, Manager, Trainer and now International Retailer - on an African adventure to share with us her experience. And thank the god of bubbles she accepted his invite.
I met Katie over a Skype call where we properly sussed each other out. First impression: girl’s got a magical, thick Liverpool accent and I love it. Meeting her in person a month later, I fell in love with how much she embodied the LUSH brand. Having worked at LUSH for so long, I was convinced that all the wonderful smells had seeped into her skin and that bubble bath water was the blood running through her veins. We became the LUSH Dream Team, and launched the brand in South Africa with a delicious-smelling BANG!
For the first year and a half we worked on new store openings, ordering, forecasting, recruitment, training, social media and PR, all from the small stock room of the V&A Waterfront shop. I took on more than one title: manager, staff trainer, PR expert, social media manager, visual merchandizer, and and and. My work never stopped. And I loved it.
Store shenanigans include bathing a baby in a demo bowl filled with bath bomb water (the father agreed), washing many a guy's hair in the basin in store to prove that Big Sea Salt shampoo really did work. One last store highlight, (there were so many) was when we gave excellent customer service to someone on Lady Gaga’s tour team and they ended up gifting us with 4 tickets to her show. That day we worked the shop floor, achieving sky-high sales, and that evening the four of us set off for some serious concert dancing.
Eventually in 2014, we moved into our new offices in the Woodstock Exchange (yay for space and windows) and before I knew it, 3 months turned into 3 years, and 3 years turned into 6. Highlights on my crazy journey with LUSH include my trips to LUSH’s home base in Poole, Dorset where I went on factory tours, met the founders, and even got my hands dirty by making some products myself.
On one of my first trips to LUSH, Vivian Westwood (Yes you read it) addressed us about climate change. This was followed by an auction where LUSH founder Mark C bought me a pair of shoes, followed by me actually meeting this legendary fashion icon in person! OMG.
Other highlights include opening 6 of the 8 LUSH SA stores with the team and being hands on with every part of the process. That’s something I perhaps “unliked” at the time, but soon realized how incredibly fortunate I was to gain firsthand experience from more than one leader: I gained knowledge on how to run a local business from the owners themselves, the best UK visual teams gave me tips on store merchandising, and with the help of UK’s top trainers, I crafted my skills on how to train a team to match LUSH standards.
Lush really is so much more than a "soap shop"; a personal pet peeve when someone refers to it as simply that. It's a brand with backbone, it has its heart in the right place, and it has integrity, compassion and an unstoppable drive to do good. That's why Lush is actively involved in conversations about human, animal and environmental rights, and never fails to listen to the public. . Running the very popular Naked Campaign in South Africa, with our very own local Lushies featured in store windows, was such a great moment. A not-so-great moment was showing off my bottocks for the cause but YOLO!
Christmas at Lush is the BEST BEST time!
Think the prettiest of pretty recycled packaging, bows, limited editions products and smells topped with a rocking playlist and hyped up colleagues. Even though I somewhat despise malls during Christmas specifically (yes this makes my retail history quite ironic) I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but in a LUSH store. Christmas time is LUSH time, with more customers visiting than any other time of the year and even though some shoppers can be stressed and highly strung at this time of the year, most are beyond friendly and you end up making lots of friends.
There are products in the Lush range that I will repurchase forever and ever until the end of time. I simply have not been able to find anything that comes close to the following:
1. Dream Cream – everything you’ve heard about this hand and body lotion is true. It’s highly hydrating and moisturizing and works wonders on the most sensitive of skins because of the oatmilk and lavender combination. The scent is calming and comforting without being dull or overpowering.
2. The Olive Branch Shower Gel – if heaven had a scent, to me it would smell like this shower gel. Do yourself a favour and pop into any LUSH store and give it a try. (Me trying to explain it simply doesn’t do it justice) And not just a sniff in the bottle top, no. Get one of the friendly LUSHies to let you wash your hand with some of the product. Not only is this shower gel packed with Fairly Traded Olive oil, but also it’s Self-Preserving AND Vegan.
3. 29 High Street Perfume the store in Poole, Dorset, has been the home of LUSH from before it was called LUSH. The LUSH founders started making products here way back in 70’s when their interests in using essential oils and fresh ingredients in their products, started. In 1995 it first became an actual LUSH store and since then all those lovely LUSH smells have really become part of the furniture of the store. So when they set off to create 29 High Street the perfumers really wanted to capture the smell of all of those wonderful essential oils and fragrances coming together. This perfume is right up there in my top 5 with names like Tom Ford, Bydero and Chanel, and holds its own perfectly when it comes to individuality and lasting power.
4. How can I only choose 5 favorites though? Every single product is so well considered, unique and perfect in its own way. I would have to say Ultrabland in number four. Ultrabland was my first encounter with a cleansing balm and I’ve never looked back. I’ve never been a fan of face wash or cream cleansers. It’s simple, effective, hardworking and softening. All the things I now adore in a cleansing balm. Beeswax, almond oil and rose water are ancient skincare ingredients and legend has it that this specific recipe goes back to the Egyptian times.
5. Tied in 5th place I would have to be anything and everything TWILIGHT and the smell of Jungle. Initially Twilight only existed in the sparkle-filled bath bomb we all knew, loved and enjoyed pre-drought. One of the things I love most about the LUSH inventors and founders is when they take a beloved scent and dress is up in new ‘clothes’. Then kindly give us Twilight shower gel, first only at Xmas time and now all year around. They soon upped their game and delivered Sleepy Body Lotions, which shares the same scent as Twilight- lavender heaven. And not in the old granny way that some brands do lavender, no. Think warm, comforting hug of peace and tranquility. Sleepy Body Spray soon followed and soon become a global favorite and also, one of my best.
Jungle Solid Conditioner was one of the products I bought on my second LUSH trips in the UK, before I worked for LUSH. Again, the store, its products and its genuinely interested staff, blew me away. This time I paid a visit to the Portobello store on a lunch date with an old varsity friend. That day, I felt so independent and free. I loved Portobello with its vintage stores, street art, flower sellers and fresh produce stands. Jungle will always remind me of that time. A little birdie told me that Jungle would soon appear in a different shape and form: a shower gel! Oh yes yes yes!!!
My 6 years at LUSH have been an incredible time of growth, discovery, trial and error, but also some of my best memories were made here. I’ve made friends that feel more like sisters, people I want to adventure with until I’m old and grey (you know who you are). I got to work with incredible female forces such as Rowena Bird, Katie Nugent, Georgie Hopkins and Sharon Frankish and these pearls of wisdom shared I will treasure forever. In 2014, after moving into our offices in The Woodstock Exchange, I met the man of my dreams in the building. This would not have happened without the magic of LUSH.
Thank you LUSH for challenging me in new and exciting ways. Thank you for putting up with my madness, I sure adore yours. LUSH also runs through my veins and I hope that by now I smell only half as good as miss Nugent did that day. I forgot to tell you how I used all of Katie’s scraps of products while we waited on our first shipment to arrive in Cape Town. Honestly, I took all her half finished shower gels, fresh cleansers and small chunks of half-used Fresh Farmacy ‘cause I was THAT obsessed with all things LUSH.
Oh what a great adventure it’s been. Thank you for giving me a beautiful "Shower me with Lush" gift to share with my followers!
I am forever, a LUSHie. x
I have a billion Lush photos but there are my favourites. Thank you to all the wonderful humans in these photographs. You have all had a positive impact on my Lush life. Thank you. x