The toiletries and home fragrance industries are tough businesses. You need to have a thick skin if you are going to make it in shower gels and hand lotions and persuade people to have their bodies and homes smell of whiskey and water and Yorkshire rhubarb.
“The main challenge and obstacle was fierce competition in a market full of lovely brands. However, if you have a strong identity, unique USPs, and stay true to them, you’ll find your core customer.
“You need to be resilient. It’s normal to experience a lot of knockbacks during the first few years while you make your brand present in the market place. I one hundred percent believed in Noble Isle.”
Originally from Bangor in Northern Ireland, Katy Simpson is the founder and director of the luxury unisex luxury bathing, body care, and home fragrance company, “Noble Isle.” She puts its success down to a royal wedding.
“2011 was the year of William and Kate’s wedding. I was starting the brand design work and research for a unique selling point. I felt so proud to be part of this country. My sister, Claire, who worked as a marketing director for a US Silicon Valley company, came up with the name during a Chinese meal in Beaconsfield.
“Noble Isle was the term used by kings and queens in the fifteenth century for Great Britain.”
Simpson, 46, whose father from Co Tyrone was Vice-President of Sales & Marketing for Unisys Computers, lived in Wellington, New Zealand for three years, attending Queen Margaret’s School. She went to the American College of London. She studied Fashion Buying and Marketing for four years, before working in the buying offices of several high street and designer houses in the UK.
“From garments, I moved to accessories, shoes, bags, and leather gifts, and soon found myself working with jewelry, fragrance sets and bath, and body products. I enjoyed the product type and discovered I had a hidden passion for fragrance. I also love taking an idea and developing it into something physical.
“In 2001, I left fashion and moved to Bath & Body and Beauty within a well-known British cosmetics house where I was Head of Product Development for eight years. Then I was asked to start a business by one of my colleagues who worked in supply and production. We joined up with two others who come from very different skill-based backgrounds – Research & Development and Finance. I was the New Product Development bod.”
It was a team effort, and the four areas proved critical to building a new brand. “Having launched a Croatian spa brand which sourced ingredients from local regions within Croatia, it seemed like a great idea to do the same in the U.K.
“I wanted to create a truly British brand, not only making all its products within the British Isles but taking it a step further and sourcing all our ingredients from around the UK.”
“As a kid, I used to love wrapping up presents, sourcing interesting papers, and dressing them up with ribbons and bows. I worked with a friend and artist from Cornwall to forge the design and then roll it out to the packaging of Britain in a Bottle.”
Katy took over sole ownership of “Noble Isle” in 2015. Every product comes from local producers. Every fragrance is unique with different ingredients and sits within a fragrance category. “We promote farmers, charities, conservationists – people doing extraordinary things in our country. Like Suffolk’s Lakenham Woodland walk planting project. We get our natural willow bark, and water lily extracts from there.”
Believing sustainable and ethical sourcing will continue to challenge beauty brands to develop a greener ethos, the proud-to-be-vegan “Noble Isle” brand has recently partnered with Gwen Powell’s “Clean Conscience” charity.
Says Simpson, who worked for Occo, Molton Brown, and Miller Harris: “ The issue of single-use plastic is a significant one for the hospitality industry. We re-purpose. Liquid contents are turned into CareKits and sent to women’s shelters and refugee camps.
“Organic collaboration is key. The most important factor when making our products is that we use British extracts from local celebrated producers from around the country – barley from the Balvenie distillery, Dufftown, red, yellow and white beetroot from the Bell Inn, Skenfrith, Monmouthshire, elderflower and gooseberry from the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, sea oak and samphire from West Cork’s Roaringwater Bay mussel farm, heather honey from Perthshire and rhubarb from Yorkshire!
“In 2011, Noble Isle was the first beauty brand to come up with a rhubarb fragrance. It’s very British and a little eccentric. What I love about it is that it stays true to the essence of natural, just-picked, rhubarb – fresh, and bittersweet. We then combined the fragrance with a fresh extract from Yorkshire rhubarb grower, Janet Oldroyd – a sixth-generation rhubarb farmer. We are a British company using British ingredients to make wholly and quintessentially British products.”
As well as using grapes from her brother Charles’s wine estate in Barham, Kent to celebrate English grapes with hand lotions and washes, “Noble Isle” uses Yellow Huffcap perry apples from Day’s Cottage, members of the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust, an organization dedicated to the conservation and celebration of the area’s traditional cultivars.
“Legend has it that a perry pear tree can only flourish within sight of May Hill. I love some of the names of old British apples -Merrylegs, Mumblehead, Lumberskull, Golden Balls, and Early Treacle.”
Found in London’s “The Ritz,” “Dorchester,” and “Brown’s Hotels, “Noble Isle” is a preferred partner of “Small Luxury Hotels of the World.” They are sold by Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Liberty London. The products are trendy in Germany and doing well in the US. They have built a strong presence in Scandinavia and Hong Kong. Its largest market in Taiwan.
“ I visit all my producers, find out more about them, and then brief my fragrance house. I send my “nose” (fragrance creator) a brief, including evocative imagery of the raw ingredient and landscapes. Like an artist using oil and canvas, a master nose, paint you a picture with aromas. To evoke a place.
“The strangest idea I’ve ever had for a scent was for whiskey. Now it’s a cult product.”
In 2011, “Noble Isle” was the first beauty brand to use a rhubarb fragrance in 2011. My fragrance house felt it was very British and a little eccentric. It stayed true to the essence of natural, just-picked rhubarb – fresh and bittersweet. We then combined it with a pure extract from Yorkshire Rhubarb grower, Janet Oldroyd – a sixth-generation rhubarb farmer.
Hotels like the Savoy and Claridge’s inspired “Tea Rose.” There was something so glamorous and elegant about these grand hotels and their stylish interior decoration that made you want to stay forever. I met Rosebie from The Real Flower Company land; she invited me to her farm in Hampshire. Seeing first-hand in Hampshire all those roses and listening to her explain all the subtleties of hue and scent, I knew that her company was the perfect partner.
“Combining two different but complementary main notes, the fragrance is a fine balance of fresh rose petals, jasmine, and green leaves, which is pure and delicate. These are then grounded, turned earthy, due to the black tea and sage scents, making a tea rose complex and sophisticated. It’s pure Britain!”
For some, making smells is a lucrative vocation. “Noble Isle” planned to launch its first perfume in 2012.
“We are rooted in and inspired by our land, culture, and history. We are a small, niche discovery brand found in exceptional places. We want to try and stay small and exclusive. And fragrantly patriotic!”