And the fact that it is not defined as a crime reflects so much about the world that we live in. I am sorry that others haven’t picked up the mantle of that actually. We live in a world where, for instance, Lauder supports cancer research, and they do that because of their family’s very tragic involvement with that condition. Others in the industry have followed that line – there hasn’t been a lot of original thought. I go back to the point, that because it is such a difficult subject, you’re not going to get a mainstream company aligning themselves with it. But in truth we women who walk and breathe on this earth, really as one, should rise up against it. I feel almost ashamed now to think that we haven’t done anything, and I personally haven’t done anything about it in a long time.
It must be wonderful to be part of a company which has such strong values and is prepared to act on them.
We would like to convey to every customer, a sense of the honour with which we make product and are a part of society. It’s not an easy thing in a world where people make endless exclamations and proclamations about the worth of what’s inside their jars – especially in the cosmetic industry where everything is invariably about the worth based on cost, the feigned cost. I think it is unjustifiable for people to charge the prices they do, for what they do.
To work for a company where the security of your word is assured, I think, is the ultimate pleasure. We live in a world where people are maimed and cheated constantly by all sorts of retail experiences. Our products cleanse, balance and moisturise the skin, as well as you can and that contribution is enough. We need to make no more claim as a company to the lives of women and men. There is something overwhelming about the relevance of cosmetics in this world, and in the world since Mesopotamia. The idea that a person can, with such a sense of security, open one of our jars and use our products, is of great pride to us.
And how many years now has it been?
Would you mind telling me how it all began?
Dennis began this because of his incredible drive to secure the best, the best in this industry. He’d come back from Europe and he’d opened a hair salon, off High Street, Armadale [Melbourne] and he was using commercial product. It was a time of great cultural change on this earth, and that change was recognising a return to botanicals in the formulation of cosmetics, hair care and skin care. Of course in European hair salons, the market was dominated in truth by the Americans, and all botanicals had been eliminated a very long time ago. So it was almost a moment of consciousness, and he was encapsulated with it, by that moment of consciousness. He wasn’t interested in the products that were available so he sought to create a product that did have botanical ingredients. And because of his organic sensibility in terms of quality, he sought out individuals of the caliber who could begin the process.
At the time it was a very new field, and he began this campaign, this lifelong campaign, to find the best botanical ingredients and the people who were growing them. The manner in which they were grown needed to meet the high expectations that he places on every element of Aesop. And of course the absence of animal testing of ingredients was obviously a significant part of it. He was not avant garde as such, but certainly part of the very beginning of the history of this cosmetic change. The removal of fragrance and colouring was a very significant thing to happen, and there was barely anyone else doing it at the time. I do think we can’t underestimate the role Aesop played in the history of cosmetics, and given the significance of cosmetics, that’s, that’s something, that’s a contribution.
So from that evolved the hair care, the first products we made were hair care, and they startled people. They startled people because in the first place they were transparent, and they startled people because we had lived in a time where cosmetics had no natural components.
Instead they had that fake apple smell!
Yes! And some people were not responsive to it, and for others, it was as if they’d found their dream. It began with hair care, and it moved into skin care – a hand balm. The hand balm is a metaphor for the brand in some ways, and then everything else just followed. We moved from a very small hair salon to a much larger one, then this took over. And it didn’t take over really because we pursued it’s growth, it grew in an extremely natural, containable way where people spoke to others of the experience of using it. Then Dennis simultaneously took it offshore and there were some fantastically responsive individuals in creative stores at the time who recognised the relevance and the worth in what he was doing, and they purchased it.
And that really was the foundation of the international focus. It could actually be much larger than it is, and it could have been much larger, much faster, but he has always contained it in a manner that has kept it sensible, and allowed us the right to have control over what was occurring with it. That is where the brand comes from.