“We’ll show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
With those words, ethical beauty pioneers LUSH welcomed customers, press, speakers and influencers to their third annual – and first of its kind – LUSH Showcase, this year held at Manchester Central, the show venue located in the heart of Manchester, UK. The past two years, the brand has held two separate events: a showcase for the public, alongside a summit for press and insiders – but this year for the first time, the two have been blended together into the spectacular fairytale world that was the Showcase – a colourful display of flowers, scents and sensations, but also carrying a serious undertone through the presence of talks on everything from body positivity to pesticides.
An atmosphere that brought together a fairytale-esque ambiance with the ever-present close-to-nature feel of LUSH products and a strong focus on ethics and concern for the planet set the tone for two days of what can only be described as a beauty revolution. But then again, that has always been the heart and soul of this eco-conscious yet inherently fun-loving and endlessly exciting brand.
A ground-breaking revolutionary in the field of natural cosmetics, LUSH broke onto the scene in 1995, founded by trichology specialist Mark Constantine and beauty therapist Liz Weir. The British company focuses on natural ingredients, a playful attitude, and strong opposition to testing on animals. Its booming success, despite a no-advertising policy from the start, is testament to the quality of the colourful, fresh products that line the shelves of their famously fragrant shops: word of mouth is truly what has propelled LUSH to become a household name. You would buy LUSH products because a friend has mentioned them to you and raved about how amazing they are – and that is still the best advertisement for the brand today. Social media and rave reviews from beauty bloggers is still the lifeblood of what keeps the brand a strong customer favourite, year after year.
photo by author
One of the ways that LUSH has established their presence as an innovative changemaker in ethical beauty is through shunning packaging when no one else was. Their bath bombs and shampoo bars came in recycled paper bags and nothing else back in the 90s, when plastic pollution was far from being a concept on everyone’s lips. These days, cutting out plastic is the hipster thing to do – but LUSH was preaching the wonders of packaging-free back when cosmetics brands were scarcely aware of the issue. The most recent eco-offering from LUSH, the microplastic-free Glow Stick highlighters, is just the latest in their long line of plastic-free products. At the Showcase, the packaging-free revolution was taken even further through an entirely “naked” shop, where any form of packaging was almost non-existent.
Aside from an abundance of every kind of LUSH beauty delicacy you could possibly imagine (including an irresistible Christmas preview display), attractions that drew countless visitors to the showcase included the “make your own LUSH product” kitchen, the “fun house” filled with whimsical attractions and the actual air balloons that you could reach the ceiling in. The overall atmosphere felt like being inside Alice in Wonderland. With flowers (oh yeah, there was also an actual flower garden). And if you ever felt like you needed to unwind, there was a designated “mood” area where ambiance music merged with the fragrant feel of bath oils, which you could try out in the mini hand-wash tubs positioned around the room.
Of course, opportunities to get glammed up – the natural, eco-friendly, cruelty-free way – were never lacking. Treatments on offer ranged from hair to makeup to skincare consultations, and try-out stations overflowing with beauty products were positioned throughout the makeup area.
Aside from the recycled and recyclable black pots that LUSH first became famous for, packaging was pretty much non-existent throughout the Showcase. Free coffee was available to those who came armed with a reusable cup – or purchased a branded one on the spot – and water refill stations were scattered all over the venue. Single-use bottles and cutlery were nowhere to bbe found, and even the napkins were recycled. It was clear, as it had been since the brand’s beginnings, that LUSH is one label that walks the talk.
photo by author
Which brings us to an importnat point: it wouldn’t be LUSH without a focus on sustainability and measures that we as consumers can take to save the planet. A part of the Showcase was dedicated to highlighting the winners of the LUSH Spring Prize – a yearly prize fund and supporting activities to those who are dedicated to “repairing the Earth” in different ways, such as resource regeneration, sustainable agriculture and climate action (see the 2017 winners here) – along with a large section of showcases and talks on permaculture. While walking around the colourful world of the LUSH Showcase, inhaling its floral scents, you couldn’t help but feel truly connected to the ingredients, materials and sources that it all came from – nature – and empowered when it comes to ways to protect it.
photo by author
The event also featured talks on a variety of sustainability- and ethics-related topics. One of our favourites was the conversation with Vilda friend and newly published author, Ashlee Piper, on her book Give a Shit: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet, where she gives practical tips on tweaking your everyday habits in order to make better choices for our planet. Ashlee’s handy, practical tips were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the wealth of information offered by the LUSH panels – discussions on inclusivity in beauty, conversations on art, and workshops on everything from mindfulness to (again) permaculture made this an enriching, informative event as well as a beauty product bonanza.
Click here to view the full panel talk on transparency in beauty and ethical consumption.
It’s difficult to leave the LUSH Showcase feeling anything less than completely elated. Be it the appeal of the fizzy bath bombs or the rare feeling of hope that results from listening to enlightened people speak about important causes, this event left the impression that beauty – if done right – is so much more than skin deep.
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All photos courtesy of LUSH, except where noted otherwise.