[6 MINUTE READ]
Happy Friday everyone and welcome to a brand spanking new month and dare we say it... season! We’re not sure whether it is that nip in the air or the hopefulness that comes with the arrival of a new season, but this week we have been feeling some major “back-to-school” vibes.
Some companies are returning to offices, some people are continuing to work from home on a more permanent basis and some people may have managed to escape for a quick, last-minute holiday. Whatever your situation, we want you to feel inspired and hopeful to tackle whatever changes come your way this Autumn.
Whenever we think about reinvention here at CAROLINA GMX, the first thing that comes to mind is switching up our scent. So, this week we were delighted that the founder and CEO of Abel, Frances Shoemack agreed to chat to us.
Abel fragrances aim to inspire positive change by creating 100% natural perfumes that do not compromise on ethics or aesthetics. Looking for some inspiration and a new scent to tackle the season? Grab your coffee and just keep reading...
Morning Frances. Let’s start at the beginning. What was your childhood like and how do you feel it has influenced you today?
I grew up on a farm in rural South Island New Zealand. I am one of six children to a farmer father and yoga teacher mother. My parents fostered a mix of high expectations and free-range, and both of them were self-employed… I think it’s safe to say my formative years had a big influence!
"Not many people consider the fact that synthetic fragrance ingredients are made from non-renewable fossil fuels that bioaccumulate in the food chain."
I can see that already! So how did you get started in the beauty industry?
I studied viticulture and oenology at university and that’s how I cut my teeth on the New Zealand wine trade. It was only years later, after a move to Amsterdam and falling in love with the world of independent perfumery, that I considered the beauty world. So, a penchant for the olfactory, combined with a dose of chance.
That’s awesome. Sometimes it takes a little while to get ourselves on the path on our calling. So when did you decide to start up Abel Fragrance and why? Was the timing important?
The inspiration for Abel Fragrance came around nine years ago when I was first looking for a natural perfume and couldn’t find one. To be honest, when we launched our first fragrance seven years ago in Amsterdam, I suspect it was actually a little early. In Dutch they say “geiten wollen sokjes” which literally translates to ‘someone who wears goat’s wool socks’ (normally with sandals!)… Natural perfumery at the time had pretty hippy connotations and I like to say I was “guilty until proven innocent” in that respect. These days, the number of natural fragrance brands is still low compared to natural beauty or makeup brands, but the “clean” fragrance category is definitely growing and I never get overlooked as a hippy anymore! The perception has changed and the upside is that we’ve had nearly a decade head-start on other brands; time well spent refining our product, performance, communications and building on our mission.
You were so ahead of the game! Could you describe how Abel Fragrance considers issues of sustainability?
It’s one of the main reasons I founded Abel Fragrance and it’s deeply entrenched in everything we do. Not many people consider the fact that synthetic fragrance ingredients are made from non-renewable fossil fuels that bioaccumulate in the food chain. We look at sustainability from an ingredients standpoint, but also holistically throughout all our touchpoints. It’s a core part of who we are and more important now than ever!
That’s wonderful! It’s about so much more than recyclable packaging... Do you think people are more conscious of the ingredients in their beauty and skincare products nowadays? If so, why?
Absolutely, I think it is part of a general holistic philosophy that’s gaining traction all over the world. More than ever, we are realising what is really important. For a lot of people, the health of the planet and its inhabitants is pretty close to the top of the priority list and I don’t think you can separate one from the other.
That is so true! Our two biggest worries right now are Covid-19 and climate change! And what were your biggest challenges in starting up Abel Fragrance?
A good business is constantly evolving and as a founder, you have to constantly evolve with it. It’s probably my favourite thing about being a business owner, but also the most challenging… sometimes it can feel absolutely relentless!
I can imagine! And what strategies do you think have been key to the success of Abel Fragrance?
There are a lot of ways you can measure success, but the way that resonates the most with me personally is the pride I feel. This puts the impetus on making decisions for the right reasons. So long as I give it everything and am honest with myself, my team, partners and our customers, Abel Fragrance will be a “success” on my terms!
I can tell that authentic motivation is so important to you! What is your favourite thing about your job?
It has to be the creative journey, from conception to delivery; it gives me so much energy bringing something into the world. Then, seeing the joy the product can bring... I think that is just about as rewarding as it gets!
I’m so with you on the creative process. There is nothing like that feeling! Which is your all-time favourite scent from Abel Fragrance?
We had an incredible journey creating our newest scent that is yet to launch this year. I can’t say too much about it yet, but it is brave, fearless and so meaningful. It is all the more special for the era and conditions in which it has come to life! And, I honestly think it is my favourite of our fragrances – a big statement, I know.
Wow! I cannot wait to try it. What do you think makes Abel stand out as a brand?
We leave no stone unturned! Our aim is to create the world’s best 100% natural perfumes, without compromising on ethics or aesthetics. In order to achieve that sweet spot where you do not compromise, you have to go all the way with each element.
"In Tokyo a couple of years ago, some gorgeous local Abel Fragrance fans asked me to sign their bottles for them."
Could you describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment?
In Tokyo a couple of years ago, some gorgeous local Abel Fragrance fans asked me to sign their bottles for them. It was a crazy moment in one of my favourite cities so it literally brought a tear to my eye.
That must have been so surreal! What inspires you?
If you would have asked me this question 12 months ago, I would have said travel and experiencing different cultures! Ironically, we moved from Amsterdam back to New Zealand in January, partly because we wanted to be closer to nature. Even before travel restrictions were a thing, I had already shifted my energy source towards nature.
Your timing was pretty ahead of the trend again there. Moving onto the day to day running of Abel Fragrance, could you describe what an average day looks like for you?
We have two small boys who love to get up at the crack of dawn, so we have at least a couple of hours before school in which I can be very productive! I’ll check and respond to emails that have come in overnight from Europe and the US, and make breakfast, lunches and often dinner, before heading off for the day. We live at the South Coast of Wellington, NZ, 8KM from the city so I walk the kids at school, then ride my electric bike into our new Abel Fragrance office downtown. The day is spent doing any number of things ranging from product development and sales where I’m doing our local New Zealand retail sales myself, to meeting with the team, partners or press… basically, whatever the day demands. Since moving back to New Zealand my husband also works across time zones, so he picks up the kids from school and I aim to be home in time for dinner. The evenings can mean yoga, more work calls with Europe or a chill night with a glass of red wine!
So would you say you have a work/life balance?
I would say 80% of the time I have a great work/life balance. 20% of the time I feel like I’m utterly drowning! I don’t know, do I?!
Haha. I think that’s so normal and relatable. What words do you live by?
My mantra for 2020 was: “trust not fear”. My 2019 mantra was “gratitude not guilt”. I had no idea when I set my 2020 mantra just how relevant it would become this year.
What is it with you and predicting the future eh? What’s next for Abel Fragrance?
We’ve got an exciting new launch coming up and I have a dream of setting up a “farm-to-plate” inspired homebase for Abel Fragrance… perfume not food! I can’t wait to crack on!