Every so often we come across a business or shop and fall in love with everything they do, right? What is it exactly that makes us a die hard and loyal fan and have the need to shout out about it to anyone who will listen? Well, for one we have to like the product or service. Tick. Then there is the customer service. You probably know by now that i expect that to be highly knowledgeable, professional yet personable. Tick. Last but not least it’s refreshing when the owner(s) of the business walks their talk and encourages a nurturing and harmonious atmosphere. Tick. Oh, and it also helps that everyone who works there is super nice, friendly and does a great job. Tick!
Let me introduce you to CONTENT – an organic and natural apothecary just off marylebone high street. It’s my latest favourite place for all things beauty, cosmetics and health. There is nothing they don’t know or can’t recommend and if money would be no object, i would buy the entire stock!
Enough of me. Here’s an interview with the founder.
Tell us a little about imelda burke? What’s your background? What led you to opening CONTENT? I worked in the fashion industry for 15 years, but was always interested and used complementary therapies and natural beauty products. I found I couldn’t shop in the boutique environment I prefer to shop in. Natural beauty products were often just found in health food stores, so decided to research this gap in the market and discovered lots of wonderful brands that didn’t have a place to be profiled…..which lead to CONTENT.
CONTENT is known as london’s leading organic and natural apothecary and maybe ‘best kept secret’. Is it your intention to stay boutique like and niche? I particularly like this type of shopping experience, where people remember your name and often your last purchase. It’s almost an ‘old-fashioned’ approach to retail – similar to what used to exist with neighbourhood shops but has now been lost on the high streets. When people have the option of shopping online, the store experience has to offer something special, people seem to like the more intimate environment.
The beauty industry is a multi-billion dollar machine. I have always been skeptical of many brands within it. How can consumers educate themselves? For us shopping for these types of beauty products often go hand and hand with a lifestyle choice. Often (but not exclusively) our customers will be eating organic food and interested in wellbeing generally. This means they are more aware of what the consume in general – although skincare tends to be the last thing people thing about!
For those who are new to natural cosmetics I think finding local stores where you can ask questions and discuss your choices is a good place to start. The skin deep cosmetics database is also useful and the book no more dirty looks is a great read and makes switching to natural and organic fun. Look for certifications stamps like the soil association, ecocert, and NaTrue to guide you in your purchasing.
People don’t seem to realise that everything we put on our skin gets into our blood stream? For me it makes total sense to consider what we are putting on the largest organ of our body. The skin has many key functions – it is important to consider what you are putting on it. We often tell people to start with switching body products as they cover the largest surface area.
Do you observe a particular beauty regime? Yes! I tend to use a wash off cleanser in the morning like the may lindstrom cleansing clay, a hydrating mist, usually the tata harper hydrating floral essence and a serum and moisturiser. These vary depending on how my skin is and the season. At night I double cleanse, removing make-up with the RMS coconut cream and a facial wash. Then apply a night oil. I use a mask once a week and some targeted corrective treatments also.
Beauty from within – what is your attitude to health and well-being? The store was created to bring together the worlds of wellbeing and beauty. We all know that if we have had a few late nights and not great food it has a direct affect on our skin. We have one of my favourite sayings on the website…’take care of your wellbeing and beauty will take care of itself’.
I always try to eat organic and avoid packaged or processed foods (with the exception of raw chocolate!), green juice and take a range of supplements depending on how I feel – pure synergy being my favorite.
What do you recommend to someone starting out in organic cosmetics? What are the baby steps? Start with products you use on your body and as one product runs out switch to a natural one. This makes it easier and more affordable. Switching all your products at once can be an expense – but some people prefer to rid themselves of everything in one go! Leave wash off products until last. If i had to choose one product to switch first – I’d say deodorant. Our customers love the soapwalla cream deodorant and then grab yourself an organic lipstick – you are eating it!
Natural in cosmetics isn’t organic, yet many brands use that ‘term’? Within this sector, ‘natural’ has become a term that tends to refer to brands that have excluded several or many ingredients. ‘Natural’ brands use plant based or derived ingredients, but have not focused on the organic content necessarily. It tends to be about what is not in the product, so great for those wanting to avoid certain ingredients. It has also been used by brands to highlight their use of natural ingredients. It’s important to check what else is in the product as they may have just switched or added a few natural ingredients, and may not have taken out ingredients you want to avoid.
‘Organic’ refers to how the plants have been grown, and when certified organic, the extraction and manufacturing processes also. Brands may use certified organic ingredients but the whole product may not be certified organic. If you want to be sure talk to a trusted retailer or look for the certification stamps.
CONTENT offers treatments? We do offer treatments. They cover the wellbeing spectrum so although we do a lot of organic facials and specialist facials for sensitive skin, acne and anti-ageing, we also want people to be healthy on the inside as this will have a direct affect on their skin. To help with this we offer nutrition, herbal medicine, traditional chinese medicine, acupuncture, reiki and massage.
What’s the formula for your success? I think it is a combination of the ‘hard-to-find’ brands we stock, the nature of the shop – being a boutique environment means people can spend time asking questions and choosing the right item for them – the combination of services and the events we do. We always get lovely comments on customer service too. The whole team are passionate about health and wellbeing and assisting people with their switch to natural and organic.
Tell us about the CONTENT summer wellbeing festival 2013 We usually run an informative evening event each month but this year we decided to have a summer wellbeing festival instead. It is a series of events over two weeks ending with a pop up juice lab by ‘radiance’. There is a book launch with jessica jones from chemo chic, botanical beauty bar by the herball, a skin health workshop and kombucha tasting, and lots more. It’s nice to hold events that show that being healthy is fun and not all about ‘what you can’t do’.
Any future plans, are you opening more shops or starting a national advise line? I think we have almost become a national advice line! We get calls for advice from all over the UK, europe. and as far as new zealand. We are always planning 🙂
Thank you imelda for your time and your wisdom. I’m already hooked!