Can you launch a new brand (as in so new the print’s practically still drying on the labels) with a single hero product? Vanderohe founder Olivia Thorpe did. Vanderohe No. 1 Nourishing Face Serum launched at the start of this year and in almost no time at all won its first award.
We spoke to Olivia about the highlights and (almost mandatory, because there are always some!) lowlights of the Vanderohe journey so far, and what it’s like to live “A Day In The Life Of A New Beauty Brand”.
WOMEN WE LOVE
Q&A with Olivia Thorpe, founder, Vanderohe
- Vanderohe is proof that you can launch a beauty brand with one hero product – you launched in February 2017 and Vanderohe No. 1 won a Beauty Shortlist Award in March 2017. Did you think you had a chance of winning or was it a (good) shock?!
It was a huge, good shock!
I had been giving the serum away to friends and family for a while and they loved it, which is why I thought I’d give a go at producing a batch that could be sold to the public…but I had no idea it would take off as it did.
I had always been concentrating on people close at hand, trying to give a solution to specific skin concerns that would help them feel more comfortable in their skin, so when total strangers started buying my serum and spreading the word, it was really quite magical.
Vanderohe in Grazia – January 2017
“A synergistic blend of the world’s highest grade organic, cold-pressed oils, enriched with 100% pure, organic and wild-harvested essential oils to transform your skin.”
- It has also been proven that plant oils from plants grown in their native soils of origin are more potent (and therefore effective). Could you tell us more about this?
Simply put, plants have a chemical structure that allows them to have therapeutic effects on humans when we extract their oils.
That structure can be thought of as their “immune system”; it develops and strengthens over thousands of years, evolving and adapting to the conditions and environment where that plant is grown.
If you take that plant and grow it in foreign soil, in a foreign climate with foreign pests that it has never encountered or evolved with, the chemical structure, or immune system, actually breaks down. The therapeutic effect that this chemical structure would usually impart to humans when we use the plant oil, is therefore much weaker.
- For me – and I know, for you – a big part of Vanderohe is the packaging. It really stood out among the awards entries this year – it’s so pretty and delicate and instantly recognisable. Is there a story behind this design, including your delightfully illustrated “botanicals” insert indicating the original source (country) of each ingredient, and who came up it?
One of the main things that continues to frustrate me with beauty products, especially in the green space, is the lack of education around ingredients. I used to hate trying out products whose ingredients I had no idea about, what they looked like, what they smelled like, where they came from. I could never really connect with those products.
When I developed No.1 Nourishing Face Serum and considered how I would like people to interact with my own product, it was absolutely vital that my customer would understand each and every ingredient in the product: what it looks like, how and where it’s grown, what the scent can do for your emotions, why it’s good for your skin…
The packaging was part and parcel of this – it just made sense to display the ingredients on the packaging in a really feminine, yet modern way. So many beauty products have completely lost any sense of femininity, which is such a shame, given how intimate and personal one’s beauty regime is. I wanted to inject some of that back into beauty so that people really connect and cherish a beautiful product, especially when they’re using it every day.
Serendipitously, when I was putting together ideas for the design, I stumbled across the instagram account of my very best friend when I was at school, Lara Pilkington (www.larapilkington.com), and she just so happened to now work as a botanical illustrator. I picked up the phone, explained my story and what I wanted to create and she just got it straight away.
Stylist – April 2017
- Interestingly, you formulated the blend of oils while you were pregnant. How easy/challenging was it for you to decide on the final blend and was your own intuition a big driving force?
It was very natural: I had an extremely strong sense of smell whilst pregnant and it made it very difficult for me to use any product with a scent. When I was blending an oil for a friend who needed something to help with a stubborn scar, I had selected the key ingredients and let my nose do the rest.
I fell in love with this beautiful, rich aroma and I was so surprised that I actually liked such a complex scent, given I could barely stand even brushing my teeth! I decided to try it myself and it was then that I saw the amazing results that the formula had on my skin.
- What would be the two best highlights so far in the Vanderohe story and the two most challenging bits? Any new launches on cards?
Winning the Beauty Shortlist Award for Best New Product Launch 2016/17 has been one huge highlight for me. But there have been so many – personal accounts of how the serum has totally transformed people’s skin – and confidence.
When someone emails me to let me know how No.1 Nourishing Face Serum has changed their life or made them enjoy and love their skin again, it’s the most amazing feeling. The most challenging part of my journey so far has definitely been introducing the product to retailers.
“In London, retail is much more difficult, doors close before they even know who’s there!”
In Singapore it was a very natural process; the community is small and supportive and people want to share in something new and exciting. In London it’s much more difficult, doors close before they even know who’s there! I’ve had some really disappointing interactions with people who at times have been downright rude, but I guess it’s just the nature of the business.
The silver lining is that when you do connect with a certain retailer, as I recently did with Mortar & Milk, and they understand and fall in love with your product and they truly want to share that love and give people the opportunity to try your product, it makes it very special.
New beauty concept store Mortar & Milk
793 Fulham Road, London SW6
More than any of this, however, the most challenging part of running my business is juggling it with looking after my two sons full time at home. Trying to explain to a 3 year old that you need to write emails for half an hour instead of playing with him in the garden is a tough emotional challenge!
- What were you doing pre- Vanderohe, and what would you do if you could have a month off?!
I was writing for my website vanderohe.com which I shut down when I launched my product range. I was a full-time mummy, but in the evenings I would chat to professionals in the green beauty space from across the globe, interview them, learn from them and write it all up on my site.
I never really understood why I was doing all that work, but now I understand that it led me to having the knowledge and experience to do what I’m doing now.
I’ve spoken to so many beauty brand founders and heard about the trials and tribulations they’ve had when creating their product lines…it was like one huge mentoring scheme!
If you could have a month off?
If I could have a month off I’d like to travel to a load of places I’ve wanted to go to for a long time with my family and have adventures with them.
About Vanderohe No.1
In Olivia’s own words: “A synergistic blend of the world’s highest-grade organic, cold-pressed oils, enriched with 100% pure, organic and wild-harvested essential oils to transform your skin”.
The fusion of carefully selected plant actives works to rebalance, revitalise and repair the skin immediately upon application, whilst its complex aroma instantly accesses the mind to relieve feelings of anxiety and stress.
Luxurious, fast-absorbing hydration that will allow your skin to glow after even the first use, not just on the surface, but from deep within. Suitable for all skin types.
Apply 3-4 drops to the palm of your hand, breathe deeply to allow the oils to stimulate the senses and massage into your skin, pressing carefully around your eyes. Use morning and night on its own, or add 2 drops to your daily moisturiser for an active boost, with immediate improvements to your skin.
View the ingredients map. Prunus armeniaca (Apricot Kernel) oil*†, vitis vinifera (Grapeseed) oil*†, rosa canina (Rosehip) oil*†, cedrus atlantica (Cedarwood) essential oil*†, pelargonium graveolens roseum (Rose Geranium) essential oil*†, lavandula angustifolia (Lavender) essential oil*†, Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E), rosa damascena (Rose Otto) essential oil*†, boswellia neglecta (Frankincense) essential oil*†, anthemis nobilis (Roman Chamomile) essential oil*†, citrus aurantium (Neroli) essential oil*†, commiphora myrrha (Myrrh) essential oil‡
* Soil Association-certified organic
† Soil Association-certified food grade
‡ Soil Association-certified 100% pure and wild-crafted
Contains natural components of essential oils: linalool, limonene, citronellol, geraniol, citral, farnesol.
Contains nut oils. 100% natural and pure. 100% Vegan. Never tested on animals.
Vanderohe No. 1 £88/30ml available online at Vanderohe.com