Often the difference between generic brands and small niche ones is that there is a story behind the latter and a real person, who distills the passion into products, hoping to make the difference in a very saturated market.
Today I want to present to you Joanna White, founder of British skincare brand Mallow + White:
GAP: What is your professional background?
JW: My professional background has nothing to do with beauty and skincare. I worked at BBC Radio for many years, both on Radio 4 programmes, such as Women’s Hour and Desert Island Discs, and then in the news studios of BBC World Service.
My passion, however, has always deviated towards evocative scents, beautiful looking and feeling skincare. One of my first memories is of picking up handfuls of stunningly scented rose petals and stirring them vigorously in jam jars for homemade perfume.
For years I had shelves upon shelves of moisturisers, perfumes and hand creams. Unfortunately, my skin started reacting violently to the many highly fragrant products crammed onto my shelves. Doctors prescribed steroid creams, but I wasn’t too happy with that & instead started cutting down on what I was putting on my skin, and my skin calmed down. I realised that the simpler my skincare was, the better my skin looked and felt.
GAP: What inspired you to start Mallow and White?
JW: My Eureka moment happened eight years ago, whilst working at the BBC. I was reading a newspaper article about making soap from scratch with olive oil. I tried it, and it was a revelation! A simple olive oil recipe was so soothing and moisturising and so completely different from anything that could be found in the shops. For my sensitive skin, 100% natural and minimalist ingredients really worked, so an obsession was born !
Encouraged by a growing band of enthusiastic family and friends, I started selling in craft markets. All of my spare time was taken up by researching the properties of ingredients and designing recipes. My customers loved the effective simplicity of the ingredients in the increasing number of products. There is nothing so satisfying as hearing the delighted “oohs” and “aahs” of customers trying out the tester pots!
Mallow and White was launched after taking voluntary redundancy from the BBC. Without wanting to sound too morbid, I didn’t want to be lying on my deathbed and wondering what if I’d given it a go. I knew that my simply minimalist recipes were effective and my growing band of loyal customers loved the results on their skin. I just had to go for it. Mallow + White is the result of that big, scary and exciting leap.
GAP: How did you come up with the name?
JW: Marshmallow is so much more than a pink fluffy sweet you can roast over a barbecue. The mallow plant is a wonderful, soothing herb that has been used since Egyptian times as a medicine to calm skin conditions, such as eczema. As an eczema sufferer, this appealed. My products are 100% natural and plant-based, so I wanted to come up with a name that had botanical roots. Mallow was perfect.
White was quite straightforward to decide on. It denotes purity and simplicity. It also happens to be my surname.
GAP: How big is your team?
JW: Since Mallow + White launched in September of this year, I am an all-singing, all-dancing one woman band. I do, however, have a very clever husband who does all things technical and a very talented designer friend who does all things related to design.
GAP: What makes your products different to other brands?
JW: The key to Mallow and White is beautiful simplicity with six ingredients or less in every product. Each ingredient is written in English on every label, so you understand exactly what you are putting on your skin. As someone with sensitive skin, I know how important it is to put ingredients you trust on your skin, knowing they will do it good and help it look its best.
Eight years ago I started off by experimenting with products on the kitchen table, but I now have a lovely workshop in my garden, with windows looking out onto beautiful smelling lavender plants and rose bushes. Every product is handmade in small batches with huge amounts of love. I can’t begin to describe how much joy it gives me to make products that I know will bring joy to others. It sounds so terribly cheesy, but it is true.
All the lovingly hand-blended oils are bottled in a sleek dark violet glass and this effectively blocks the complete spectrum of visible light and lengthens the potency of the products. This is great because it also means we don’t need to use unnecessary packaging to keep them as fresh as possible.
Mallow + White tries to be as environmentally friendly as possible, using recyclable materials such as glass and recyclable packaging, such as popcorn and petals for the filling in boxes. The popcorn can be used as bird feed, which makes me smile every time I pack a box.
Also, thinking of the bigger picture, after having worked for a year in South Africa in the townships, I am really passionate about the importance of social justice. A proportion of all of the profits from Mallow + White will go towards charities that address this issue. This year’s chosen charity is Kiva, a charity empowering people around the world to alleviate them from poverty.
This weekend I was helping host a “Create” event, where about 60 women got together to create beautiful things such as Christmas wreaths. It was a precious because each person had some ‘time-out’ to create. What always amazes and delights me is that each person’s work is beautiful but so completely different. Each person has poured themselves into their work of art and made it truly unique. I suppose the same can be said about Mallow + White products. Each “artisan” brand is as unique as each person is unique, and that is what makes it different.
To learn more about Mallow + White products visit bran’s website here