Once upon a time, in a faraway land… Or something like that, is where it all began. The LUSH founders have been working and creating together for over 30 years, in a variety of ways. This is the story how it all began, and how chance meetings and fate culminated in the creation of LUSH.
Constantine and Weir 1977 - 1984
A certain Liz Weir and a fellow by the name of Mark Constantine met when they were both working in a hair and beauty salon. Mark was a trichologist (someone who studies the science of healthy hair and scalp) and Liz was a beauty therapist. Having started at the same time, they soon became friends; Mark even used to do Liz’s hair. When it came time to renew their contracts Mark was ready to move on. He had found some rooms full of beauty equipment on the High Street in Poole, UK and used his numerous charms to persuade Liz to join him in a new venture, which the naturally cautious Liz was reluctant to jump into. Nevertheless, she took the plunge and they started a business called 'Herbal Hair and Beauty Clinic'. Liz now jokes that they nearly starved at first because their products were so innovative and rather different to anyone else's at the time and as a result their commercial value wasn't as great.
Then in the early 80s Mark read about Anita Roddick who had just started The Body Shop in Little Hampton and Brighton. He thought she sounded like a like-minded individual so called her and offered some of his products. She put in an order for £1,200, which was a huge accomplishment for Mark and Liz. As Anita Roddick was a fledgling entrepreneur, she was worried that she may not be able to pay for the products but their relationship with The Body Shop lasted for many successful years. Constantine and Weir became The Body Shop’s biggest suppliers and designed hugely successful products for them – Peppermint Foot Lotion, Honey Beeswax cleanser (Ultrabland), Herbal Hair Colors (henna), and Body Butters. They became so busy that they had to employ more staff as their business, Constantine and Weir grew. This is when Rowena Bird joined to help with Liz's beauty clients. A certain Helen Ambrosen joined after hearing from Liz, when Liz was waxing Helen's legs that they needed someone to work on research and development. Paul Greaves and Karl Bygrave also joined the team. Mo Constantine had been helping all along, but at this time left her job as a legal secretary and found her niche in inventing new products.
At this time, Constantine and Weir also had a herb farm in Cambridge and sold cosmetics through gyms and fitness centers, sold their Bodkins range in Seattle and had a clinic in Wimbledon (Trichology Clinic). This all went well until The Body Shop became uncomfortable with the formulation of many of its products being owned by another company and were advised that Constantine and Weir were too influential within their business and to buy them out. So ended the era of Constantine and Weir and the relationship with The Body Shop.
Cosmetics To Go 1987-1994
After being bought out by The Body Shop, it was time for the founders of Constantine and Weir to explore new opportunities. Cosmetics to Go (affectionately known as CTG), was set up as a mail order business. They lavished all of their attention and money on CTG, and turned it into a very successful, although complicated venture that ended up burning out in a rather spectacular fashion. A victim of their own success, a special sale catalog was launched and sold out in 2 days. The problem was that they expected it to last a month. More calls and post orders came in than they could handle, so much so the telephone system crashed. The final disaster struck when the computer system crashed. Many people had to wait for their products for a few weeks longer than normal. The next catalog came out at Christmas, but there weren't enough orders to sustain the business because customers were worried they may not get their gifts in time for Christmas. The company was considered worth saving, and was put into administration.
An attempt to pull the funds together to do a management buyout was unsuccessful. The company was sold to Jeff Brown who had been creating fragrances for the CTG products. He took the product formulas, as well as the 'Cosmetics to Go' name. The team had to find other jobs because Liz, Mark and Mo had mortgages to pay on 29 High Street and the factory. Mark was offered a Body Shop directorship, but declined as he felt this was going backwards. Liz did some management consultancy work; Ro took up her hobbies like hot air ballooning and photography (she had interviews with Per Lindstrand and Richard Branson), Paul Greaves got a good job in the Health Service, and Helen was offered a job by Marks and Spencer's but turned it down as she did not want to move her children to a new school. They all ended up back at 29 High Street to see what they could do.
What they were good at was making cosmetics, so they looked around to see what they could find. Some soap flakes, some essential oils. Ro also cleared the place of anything they did not need and sold it so they could have teas and coffees together. She also maxed all her credit cards so she could buy paints and varnishes to revamp the shop floor and furniture.
LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics 1995 - present
The team started buying fresh things like oranges, lemons, juices, and cinnamon from the supermarket and they put this into the soaps. The first soap creations were Banana Moon in its cylinder shape, molded from unused drainpipes. Red Rooster was molded in new cat litter trays (don’t worry, they were never used by cats) and Bohemian was made in a window planter. Liz always says the team was like the characters in the English children's book The Borrowers. They worked hard at this new beginning, and Paul Greaves returned too because he realized he couldn't work with anyone else. Ro and Mike (her fiancé, soon to be husband) cleaned up the old shop units and wrote up the day's specials with chalk on blackboards; this was the best way to be able to change the boards regularly for daily specials. Helen, Mark, and Mo were busy making products upstairs while the others sold them.
They opened the doors of the store in Poole and were a little worried, as many people in the area had lost their jobs. But customers started to roll in because they had been very good to the Poole community. Many people came in, gave them a hug, and said "Here is £10, what do you want me to buy?" From this point they worked hard, wanting to call themselves 'The Cosmetic Warriors From The Temple of Temptation' but this was already registered. They called themselves the 'Cosmetic House', because they had always felt like designers at a fashion house. Liz sent 2,000 letters to old CTG customers, enclosing a photo of the team saying: “Remember us? Do you want to buy some soap?” Still not satisfied with the 'Cosmetic House' name, they launched a competition for customers to give the company a new name, and someone from Glasgow named Elizabeth Bennett came up with 'LUSH', which is defined as being fresh, green, verdant, and drunken women, and is more than a little fitting for who we are and what we do.
The LUSH team started to use the factory premises again when they opened Morris Road; this factory is still used today to make the secret Essential Components (perfumes) for the products. At this time, a man named Andrew Gerrie happed to call CTG to buy more shaving cream - he had been a CTG customer and had wanted to take it to New Zealand and Australia, but at the time they did not do this. They told him what had happened to CTG and he persuaded his boss Peter Blacker to invest in the new company. This was the first time they had taken outside investment, and it allowed them to open the Covent Garden, London store. This tiny little store was featured in the film 'My Fair Lady' with Audrey Hepburn who is one of Mark's favorite actresses. They invented the 'Luverly' Bath Bomb for this store as Audrey sang "Wouldn't It Be Luverly" in the Flower Market of Covent Garden for the film.
Andrew's friend Craig Greenwood was a stockbroker in London whose firm had money to invest in London businesses. As we now had the Covent Garden store we could be called a proper 'London business'. The investment allowed us to open the Kings Road store, which was our first big store and had to quickly be filled with product. On the opening morning Liz, Mo, Mark stood together in the store, and Mark said, "If this isn't a brand, I don't know what we'll do". Luckily for all of us, it was a brand. The store was packed with customers, celebrities, and people from around the world who wanted to open LUSH in their countries. From this point LUSH began to grow.
On a trip to London, Mark and Karen Wolverton happened upon the budding company. He and a friend consistently came into the Kings Road shop and though they drove Rowena crazy, their persistence prevailed and the first overseas partnership was completed with Canada. Then they opened Croatia, and Craig Greenwood, Andrew's friend, took LUSH back to his home of Australia. LUSH progressively grew and, in time, bought back their old product names and formulas from both Cosmetics To Go and Constantine and Weir. Now we have over 700 stores and several factories in over 40 countries, and we’re growing more every day. There are roughly 6000 people working for LUSH from making products by hand, selling soap on shop floors, to filling presents, to travelling in the jungles looking for fairly traded raw materials. We pride ourselves on being dynamic, innovative, original and progressive. What’s going to happen next? You’ll just have to wait and see.