Founder of cult fragrance brand Floral Street, Michelle Feeny previously worked at Estée Lauder where she ran successful brands such as MAC and Creme de La Mer. Here she talks about the importance of paving your own way in life, no matter the trends around you and the expectations placed on you…
In an age where it seems to be all about ‘following’ on Instagram, Facebook YouTube etc., it’s important to stay focused on being the individual you need to be! If I had followed others, or followed a path others thought was right for me, I am not sure I would have achieved all that I have. That doesn’t necessarily mean being rebellious, rude or obstinate, but more challenging yourself to think and act differently and also give yourself time to be ‘unplugged’, to leave space for new ideas and thoughts.
When I conceived the idea for Floral Street I knew I want to do things differently. The beauty and fragrance industry has been so slow to address environmental and packaging issues, and I wanted to start a brand that challenged consumers and other companies to make those valuable changes stick – a brand that leads. From recyclable, reusable packaging to sourcing our natural ingredients from sustainable sources, the environment is at the heart of what we do. But so are people.
Fragrance in particular has been dominated by advertising and marketing, which has been ‘selling sexy’ for both men and women. I think now in a more enlightened age of empowerment, we have much more interesting words and ways to communicate moods and feelings. Floral Street is based around being inspired to choose a fragrance based on the way a person feels each day and that’s the way we showcase our scents – by emotive keywords. It’s a totally new way of looking at scent.
self-expression isn’t about age, it’s a mindset.
The joy of launching a new brand with no rules is that you have an idea who you think the customer is, but you have to launch and just see what happens. It takes a leap of faith – but that’s exciting to me. We launched Floral Street knowing that we are attracting women of all ages who are ‘modern, interested customers’ and when we opened our Covent Garden store we saw how engaged people were with expressing themselves through scent.
And the age group was so varied that we knew we had something special – at any one time we’d have customers from 18-80 – self-expression isn’t about age, it’s a mindset. I call myself a 50-year old punk, because I have lived through incredible decades of rock ‘n’ roll and I never want to stop experimenting and having fun. Why should I?
It’s vital to go with your gut – that’s something I’ve learned. I had a gap year at 51 after a very successful career run working at Estee Lauder and launching huge international brands such as MAC Cosmetics. I’d never really had any significant time off in my life so I took it. I chose not to travel or learn an instrument, but to simply ‘be in my life’. I didn’t buy a magazine or get involved in beauty and fashion in any way and that time out taught me what I was missing by moving so fast and being so caught up in just one industry. I watched how my teenage daughter and young adult son consumed information, how they purchased things or not. This helped me realise how Floral Street needed to be if it was to appeal to a new customer. I wanted the products to have meaning and be different, but I also wanted to start to tell my story through the brand to help other women have confidence in themselves. And to start leading, not following.