Pretty much every day at The Hambledon is a good mail day, but Monday was a particular highlight. After a long journey from downtown LA, Maison Louis Marie arrived to much anticipation and managed to wow us all within minutes.
We’ve opened some sweet smelling boxes in our time but this delivery literally wafted into store, displacing every lesser particle on the ground floor with some beautifully complex and delicate floral notes. And then there’s the packaging; so simple, so very elegant. It comes as no surprise then that the fancy French name is no marketing gimmick, and there’s a story here much further flung than the fragrance labs of downtown LA.
It starts in 1792 with Louis Marie Aubert du Petit Thouars, a pioneer in French botanical history. During the French revolution, he was exiled to Madagascar, La Reunion and Mauritius where he discovered a huge variety of plant specimens. After ten years he returned to France bearing a collection of over 2000 plants and was promptly elected a member of the prestigious Académie des Sciences.
Fast forward 200 years and Marie du Petit Thouars grew up in Belgium and France making candles and experimenting with scents in her mother’s greenhouse. She then embarked on a career in fashion, initially working for Isabella Blow and later becoming a fashion editor in London for The Sunday Times. Her next move was to LA to study fine art photography, eventually opening a studio, 1294 Sunset, where she went on to launch Maison Louis Marie in 2013.
Combining her lifelong interest in fragrance with respect for her family’s rich botanical history, the Maison Louis Marie line is centered around unique floral fragrances inspired by Marie’s childhood memories. While she has no formal training as a perfumer, the subtlety and delicacy of the fragrances are testament to a great deal of time, care and talent, and the slow and methodical process of building a scent that she describes.
No. 4 Bois de Balincourt combines sandalwood with subtle notes of cedar wood, vetiver, nutmeg and cinnamon to recall the smell of her family estate outside of Paris, and specifically the smell of the surrounding forests after heavy rain. While No. 10 is spicy yet floral, inspired by the site where the Nile meets the Mediterranean. Ancestor Louis Marie also makes an appearance, on the boxes of each candle. Drawings penned while in exile, capturing the Dryorkis Antidris Thouars orchid which he discovered and named.
All of it, perfection from start to finish, and we couldn’t be happier to be one of only a few stockists here in the UK; their candles, rollerball perfumes and luxe hand washes, making a final icing on the cake kind of addition to our new look bath and beauty department.
Spring clean has been taken to a whole new level at The Hambledon this year. Our bath & beauty department has had a top-to-toe refresh and welcomes an exciting line-up of new brands, from the best in natural skincare to cult Stateside beauty products.
Welcome to the newness of our Bath & Beauty department. Let us introduce you to the new brands we have curated for you!
HONEY CORN: A boutique, 100% natural and organic skincare range that caught our attention, this time centred around Manuka honey "liquid gold". Made in small, artisan batches, the anti-ageing properties are notably potent, the face cream goes on a treat and we're loving the 2in1 Cream Cleanser & Face Wash. SHOP HONEY CORN
NAILMATIC: Probably the most fun, environmentally-friendly and fashion-forward nail polishes out there so we had to have them. We're stocking their grown-up polishes (great colours, solvent free, phthalate free, formaldehyde-free) and a nail polish remover that actually smells nice (lavender and 100% natural). SHOP NAILMATIC
JAO BRAND: Made from 28 plants, fruits, butters and flower oils Jao Brand's Goe Oil has become a bit of a cult product over in the States; a multi-purpose balm that does it all to great effect. It is indeed amazing stuff but we're also total converts of their anti-ageing face cream. SHOP JAO BRAND
TANGENT GC: GC stands for garment care and Tangent started out providing "a superior range of garment care products that will naturally and effectively give your garments a long life". Their delicate liquid detergent with orange oil makes hand washing clothes an actual joy, and their range of organic hand washes are very, very good. SHOP TANGENT GC
SISTER & CO: A beautiful collection of truly natural products made with the finest skin superfoods from around the world; 100% organic, cold-pressed coconut oil, raw nut butters and milks and pure essential oils. The Apricot, Vanilla and Lemon Bodymelt smells so good we actually want to eat it. SHOP SISTER & CO
AROMATIKA: Natural and organic bath and skincare range, founded by a qualified aromatherapist and hand-made in small batches in Devon. Essentials oils are used generously so this is the stuff you'll be smelling when you walk in the shop. We're loving the orange and geranium body wash and the fragipani bath salts. SHOP AROMATIKA
The bath and beauty department has had a spring overhaul and Sister & Co. is one of the incoming brands we’re all taking home, testing out and totally loving; the products are beautiful, but it’s also knowing the stuff that goes into making them and the story behind it all that has us sold.
The brand was founded by Sophie, a London girl who discovered the amazing effect of using raw, organic coconut on her skin while holidaying in India. Suffering a skin breakout, a local lady handed her some raw coconut oil and it quickly cleared everything up. So impressed by the results she tried and failed to find coconut oil of the same purity, lightness and absorbency when she returned to London and so set about sourcing it herself. Eventually she found what she was looking for, the ultimate grade of raw coconut oil, cold-pressed at a small organic farm on the Sri Lankan coast. And so her original product, Sister & Co. Coconut Oil, came to be.
Having previously been sceptical about the effectiveness of natural skincare products, believing she needed something 'stronger', Sophie was now inspired by the ability of food-grade, nutrient-rich natural ingredients to heal and nourish the body. Looking to the market for entirely natural products she found there were barely any options; even those brands that label their products as 'natural' very often add chemical fillers, preservatives and synthetic fragrance which even in small quantities can compromise the integrity of any active natural ingredients.
Giving up her career as a lawyer and working with a cosmetics chemist, Sister & Co. now encompasses a complete ‘skin food’ range, made using the finest cold-pressed plant oils, raw nut butters and milks, sugars, salts, clays, waxes and pure essential oils. No synthetic compounds chemical preservatives, stabilisers or fillers, synthetic fragrances or toxins of any kind in any quantity are added. Plus they carry out production runs every twelve weeks and bring batches to market straight away meaning that every product is at its peak efficacy.
Organic, vegan, vegetarian, dairy and gluten free, the stuff is basically edible and smells good enough to eat. The coconut oil is the ultimate multi-purpose product and can be used as a cleanser, make-up remover, moisturiser, hand cream, hair treatment and bath oil. The Apricot Vanilla and Lemon Bodymelt is just scrummy, and we think should also be a flavour of ice-cream. And we’re also fascinated and enjoying many a conversation about the effectiveness of the Charcoal Tooth Whitening Polish. It really does work. Come and take a look at our big smiles and shiny white sparklers next time you’re in. We’ve got Sister & Co. to thank.
Goe Oil is one of those cult beauty products we'd been hearing good whisperings about for a while, so when it came to updating our bath and beauty department, Jao Brand was front of the running for shelf space. We love their sustainable ethos, beautiful packaging, and the face cream is truly amazing, we're all total converts. Here we talk to the lady responsible, Jao Brand founder, Gale King.
Tell us about the original inspiration behind Jao Brand and how you got started.
Jao was inspired by an impulse I had to be able to wash my hands when I was working in the field (as a videographer), and not near a faucet. This was before the idea of hand sanitizers was even in the marketplace, like 1994. My father at the time had retired from his job as a chemist in research and development, and had built himself a small lab to do R&D work for private clients. He decided to work with me on our instant hand wash. We worked together formulating this and by the time we got our formula right, Purell had hit the mass market. We were the first hand sanitizer to use essential oils, and to market our product as multipurpose. This came about because my husband began using Jao Hand Refresher as his aftershave, while I was putting it on a cotton pad and wiping off the NYC summer grit from my face! It worked fantastically well.
The multi purpose idea appealed to me, as I do not like to buy products and then not use them. I hate all the clutter. Not to mention the waste! So it became the ethos of the idea behind the brand. Each product must solve a problem, and be useful in a few ways. It also allows creativity for the user to discover best uses. It makes the whole process of using the products more personal and necessary in someones life.
Describe a typical working day at Jao Haus.
A typical workday is many emails back and forth and phone calls between the Jao House in Pennsylvania and myself in Brooklyn. I go back to visit for a few days every two weeks. I wish I was able to set the business up where I lived, but I did not have the funds to set the company up in Brooklyn! We have 4 employees at Jao and everyone has their specific jobs. We all converse daily. There are typical issues on product stock, working with the manufacturers, store requests, shipping issues, managing growth and expanding our footprint with small and medium sized retailers.
Who or what couldn't you work without?
I couldn’t work without my iphone7. I just got the larger size phone for Instagram and photography, inspiration, emails, checking website orders. It’s amazing that I can stay in touch with everyone in PA while being in Brooklyn. I think one thing you will hear them say is that I can often be an annoying itch!
What do you like most about what you do?
I think what I like most, as a creative person who was not a good student, is having the ability to have an idea, create it, put it out into the marketplace, and have it find a home with strangers. I do get complete satisfaction when
people buy Jao Brand, and then absolutely love it. It’s a really good feeling
knowing we can do this with such a small, all woman crew, of 5 people.
We love the sustainable ethos behind Jao Brand's multipurpose products. Tell us about the process of developing new products.
The process of creating products for me is the best part. I cannot just see something in the marketplace and copy what someone else is doing. That just seems so boring. And most of what people buy is literally packaging! I am really concerned with what is inside the tube or bottle. What can this product do for me? What problem can it solve? What do I need in my life? How can I create this product cleanly with no silicones or dimethicones to give it that silky feel?
It is so hard to create natural beauty products that are safe, effective, feel good and be multipurpose. It is a challenge, but a good one. I often describe each product’s provenance the way a songwriter creates a song. The product idea just kind of comes at you, sometimes fully formed. And they don’t come very often. Jao Brand will be a very small line. You will never see hundreds of products, or different “scents” to get a full line extension to take up shelf space. I am totally uninterested in that idea. I find it wasteful.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired everyday. Recently I saw a smashed paper bakery bag on the sidewalk from the famous Brooklyn bakery Junior’s. I loved the way the crushed lines on the bag folded into each other. I snapped a photo of it and
I made it into the packaging of our bags. That kind of creativity really inspires
me. I have no idea why. There are photos of this on my IG feed.
What has been your proudest Jao Brand moment to date?
I think the proudest moments were when stores that are not American, like Colette in Paris, picked up our product, on their own, and decided to sell them without any hard selling on our part! And they have continued to stock us now, for years. It’s an amazing feeling to be a small brand and have these beautifully curated stores come to you to be a partner. I decided that is the best way to sell the product. Let it sell itself. It’s a great moment to feel that you can allow that to happen and not have to constantly be trying to sell yourself. If the product is good enough, word of mouth will be the driver of sales.
What has been the most important lesson learned?
Patience. Jao is now a 20 year old company. So we are the slowest growing story. I think that is the most important lesson learned. If you believe in
it, and there is positive growth, no matter how slow, it pays to grow your own
garden so to speak. If you can stay in the game, not go broke, not spend in
foolish ways, and trust that what you have made is good, then you will succeed. So the most important lesson is to believe in yourself and what you create.
What would you like to do in the future?
In the future I would like Jao Brand to move in directions that are not necessarily in the beauty category; maybe supporting artists and their work, in some way.
There's often talk of "hero" products in the bath & beauty world. Do you have a single "hero/ desert island" product?
We had no idea that Goe Oil would be so successful so quickly. I knew when I was formulating it with my father that I loved it. But I didn’t think others would. In fact I thought it would be a REALLY HARD sell! Instead it became this cult thing. It has been called a “hero” product. And in a way it is. We were the first “solid oil in a tube”, and we are still probably the only ones who were crazy enough to attempt to put 28 plant, fruit, flower, oils and butters together! This is a total challenge that my father fully accepted, and we formulated a lovely product.
And finally, what is team Jao's guilty pleasure?
Jao’s guilty pleasure is when I am there at the Jao House and we are all there discussing business and we have our Aperol Spritzes. Its guilty when
we decide to start having them before 5pm!
The bath and beauty department is getting a bit of a re-jig for spring with lots of lovely new brands on the way. First up is Tangent GC, arriving in full spring clean style with their range of beautifully simple and natural products made in Sweden.
GC stands for 'Garment Care', something we've become woefully bad at in the age of mass production, according to co-founder David Samuelsson. Tangent GC have thus made it their business to "provide a superior range of garment care products that will naturally and effectively give your garments a long life."
We're stocking their delicate liquid detergent with orange oil as well their organic hand soaps. We've sampled a fair few hand soaps in our time and these are very, very good.
Soap & Paper is our go-to range for a bit of a pick-me-up, especially at this crazy time of year. Rummage behind any counter and you'll likely find a stash of their lovely hand cream or lip balm. Here we have a peek behind the scenes for a sprinkling of festive magic from NYC.
In 2011, French entrepreneurs Boris Gratini and Lilian Monnier focused their attentions on nail polish, and the idea of “leaving the world of cosmetics and getting closer to the world of fashion”. They wanted to be kind to the environment and make their products in France from start to finish. They wanted great colours free from nasty chemicals. And first and foremost, they wanted to sell their nail polishes from vending machines.
And so started Nailmatic, and probably the most fun, friendly and fashion forward nail polishes out there. We haven’t got one of their cool vending machines but we do have shelves stocked with their grown-up polishes (great colours, solvent free, phthalate free, formaldehyde-free); a nail polish remover that actually smells nice (lavender and 100% natural); plus their kids range featuring polishes (removable with just warm, soapy water) and rollerball lip-glosses (glittery and made from apricot kernal oil). A whole lot to love right here.
We are absolutely always on the lookout for new and interesting. So imagine how delighted we were to find Nathalie Bond Organics on a recent scouting/spying/buying mission: a skincare brand made from 100% organic raw plant ingredients, produced in the UK and beautifully packaged. This is a small, but growing, family business run by Nathalie and her husband Andrew and all the products are handcrafted in their workshop in Sheffield.
Nat's pregnancy in 2013 marked the start of the company. She became increasingly sensitive to synthetic chemicals in mass produced bath and beauty products and began to create her own simple soaps, balms and candles using only natural ingredients which could be safely absorbed by the skin and weren't harmful to the environment.
The company remains very conscious of their wider responsibilities. A percentage of profits are donated to World Vision to help children in some of the poorest communities in the world.
Nathalie Bond Organics skincare products and candles are available instore and online now.
Our new love. All the way from the coast of Sweden where the sun shines bright and the wind blows strong. No, we're not talking about some rugged blonde. This is skin care, people, very scrummy skin care designed for the likes of fishermen, surfers and sunworshippers... and sorts like us who know a good body lotion and salt scrub when they see one.
In this case, all 'low-tech' and mostly organic, crafted from high quaity, beautifully scented botanics, waxes and oils. We've got liquid soaps and lip balms through to shampoos and scrubs in coriander and black pepper, sage, rosemary and lavendar, lemongrass, and cucumber and mint. No need to try and pronounce the name, just follow your nose.