Q&A Floral Street: How Michelle Feeney is Transforming The Fragrance Industry

We’re reader-supported. If you make a purchase using our links, we may earn a commission. We only feature brands with values that align with ours.

In this month’s sustainable founders Q&A, we catch up with Michelle Feeney, founder of sustainable fragrance brand Floral Street. We discover how her wealth of experience has inspired to her create Floral Street, and the challenges she’s experienced along the way.

Let’s jump in.

Hi Michelle, Can you tell us more about your brand and what kind of products you create?

As a visionary business leader behind cult global beauty products, I wanted to shake up the Beauty industry with my independent, sustainable, British fragrance brand, Floral Street.

From the very beginning, I wanted it to have meaning and core values of environmental consideration. As a result, we offer ethical and beautiful, vegan and cruelty-free perfume and scented home products (certified by PETA) accessible to all. 

Michelle Feeney founder of fragrance brand Floral Street

I’ve considered the whole sustainable life cycle and every element that goes into the final products. From the raw materials and how they are processed, the recyclable, reusable, and biodegradable packaging, and the responsible manufacturing methods and supply chain. As a result, I have founded a brand that proves you can have long-lasting fine fragrance and beautiful packaging all created in a considered and considerate way.

I never wanted to use the word sex or sexy anywhere in our communication as I believe it is dated, and our industry has relied too heavily on using sex to sell. Instead, we are a positive brand, ‘powered by flowers’, and use motivating and relatable words to express an individual’s mood or personality.

We inspire our customers to choose a perfume or scented home product based on how they feel. We have changed the conversation around scent by offering new ways to experience and educate on fragrance and their ingredients. 

You have a wealth of experience within the beauty industry. Can you tell us about your experience and what inspired you to start Floral Street?

I moved to NYC in 1990. The reputation I established with my own PR company led to me being headhunted by the Estee Lauder Companies to create and establish global brands, including Crème de La Mer. This led to the position of Vice President, Global Communications of MAC Cosmetics. Here I spent seven incredible years establishing their fashion outreach globally, accelerating the story of the MAC Aids Fund, and playing a key role in their growth to become the world’s biggest make-up brand. Launching into 40 countries it grew it into a $1 billion dollar brand which was a total whirlwind!

I moved back to the UK in 2003 and was appointed CEO of St Tropez turning it into a market leader with my visionary business approach before it was acquired by PZ Cussons. 

Floral Street candle and packaging shown with fresh flowers

Then at the age of 51, I took a gap year to really think about how I could best channel my years of experience into the industry. I had the idea for my own brand for a while but needed time to decide how I would do it and if indeed, the world needed more product. I saw the way Beauty was creating so much landfill with far too much packaging, but I felt I had an opportunity to make a statement.

I saw the way Beauty was creating so much landfill with far too much packaging, but I felt I had an opportunity to make a statement.

Michelle Feeney Founder of Floral Street

Also, I noticed that the fragrance industry hadn’t evolved in the same way as other beauty categories. MAC, for example, makes make-up artistry a career and, via its experts, helps the consumer to be their own artist. I realized no one had done that in fragrance. So, I saw a gap in the market for an independent modern brand that offers fine sustainable fragrance in a uniquely engaging way and all at an affordable price.

How has your experience in the industry influenced your decisions when creating Floral Street?

I returned to Beauty in November 2017, launching Floral Street as an independent, ‘clean’ fragrance brand.

Over my time in the industry, I have developed a knowledge of a great product and how to engage with a diverse audience. So, my aim when creating Floral Street was to help people become connoisseurs of fragrance as you do of wine or chocolate, so they can learn about, appreciate and enjoy the world of sustainable scent.

What were the main challenges and learnings you had when starting a sustainable company?

Michelle Feeney pictured with Floral Street perfume bottles

When I founded Floral Street, no one was interested in sustainable Beauty. In some ways, it was easier starting my own responsible company because I have been able to put best ethical practices in right from the very beginning. I decided to challenge the industry and make my brand a beacon for change, but being sustainable is a journey, and you face new challenges every day.

As I am not a large company, one challenge is the development of new technology that needs a big investment. I can see ways that things can be done differently and more sustainably but affording to do that is another thing!

However, our reusable and biodegradable pulp (not plastic!) box, which initially retailers and consumers weren’t ready for, but now they are, has recently been recognized and awarded for its sustainable innovation!

Floral Street pulp packaging featuring a candle in the center
Floral Street Pulp Packaging has been rewarded and awarded for its sustainable innovation design.

Everyone now is trying to play catch up, but we were one of the first brands to be totally transparent. Consumers are now demanding this, and we have the accreditations to back up what we say! 

How do you ensure your company stays true to your mission as you grow?

 I realized four years ago that sustainability was going to be the new luxury. We have to commit to protecting our planet and as a mother to two young adults, I believe we need to do what we can for the future generations.  You have to constantly tell your message and choose partners that share the same ethos and principals. They help you reinforce what you stand for. 

As a mother to two young adults, I believe we need to do what we can for the future generations.

Michelle Feeney Founder of Floral Street

You need to up your game constantly with each new product or category. When we were developing our new clean and conscious home collections, I realized that what we weren’t putting in was just as important was what we were putting into the products. Taking out all the harmful elements not only enabled the fine fragrance to shine through, but it is better for our planet. 

How do you ensure the ingredients in your perfumes are safe and sustainable?

Floral Street reed diffuser

We chose to partner with our fragrance manufacturer, Robertet, who we trust as they are a world leader in sustainable, natural raw materials all traceable to source. Protecting the environment is their second nature, and they have an unparalleled approach to ethical practices, supporting suppliers and communities globally. For example, no endangered crops such as rosewood are used in our perfumes.

No endangered crops such as rosewood are used in our perfumes.

We choose Australian sandalwood for our Electric Rhubarb as it’s the ecologically responsible choice to other over harvested sandalwoods around the world. Our fragrances contain a combination of naturals with synthetic or nature-identical ingredients and accords as these can often be more eco-friendly. Since the beginning, we have been set up to be a clean and responsible fragrance company.

In your eyes, what’s the biggest achievement or milestone of Floral Street so far? 

Getting to four years in a highly competitive global marketplace! I am so proud of what we have achieved as an independent, sustainable British brand that has gone global. We are now in 20 countries and building a dynamic and diverse team, constantly pushing the boundaries in innovation and sustainability. 

Floral Street candle pictured with flowers

What do you think are the main challenges around sustainability at Floral Street today? How do you approach these on a day-to-day basis? 

As a small company going global, it’s a never-ending balance between the choices you make to bring new products into the world and grow your business. You need to keep an eye on the long-term goal vs. the short-term win to grow your company financially.

In the past, in a large company, you would bring out more product and more collections each year, especially around the holiday season, creating endless shiny gift boxes! We have adopted a less is more attitude, and we don’t do that. We ensure that the products we produce are as planet-friendly as possible. However, I do realize that by doing less, we potentially forgo sales.

Do you have any advice for people looking to be more sustainable in their consumption habits and lifestyle? 

My advice would be to look at everything in your life, and think about the consequences of your consumption and purchases. However, we are human, and we need beautiful things that don’t just function but make us feel good. I’m not saying take Beauty and creativity out of your life, but assess what you really need and what you could reuse, repurpose, or gift. 

Floral Street has been sustainable right from the start of our very short life, but a lot of companies are only telling a tiny piece of their story and claiming it as a sustainable lifeboat for their brands. It would be helpful to have consistent global standards as its very confusing for the consumer. 

Michelle Feeney on Greenwashing in the Beauty Industry

Have you tried a product from another sustainable and ethical brand that you think our audience should know about? 

Neal's Yard logo

Neals Yard. I genuinely think they were well ahead of their time, and I had loved them since the 80’s when I first moved to London. They have stayed true and stayed focused. I care about ingredients and where they come from, and they have been responsible in this area since their inception.

They inspired me when I started Floral Street to tell our sustainable ingredients story, so everyone knows, where we come from, from source to scent.

What does the future look like for Floral Street? 

My vision is for Floral Street to become a ‘clean’ lifestyle brand, and the more successful the business is, the more change we can influence.

What gives me the most joy as a mother and a leader is inspiring my own children and those that work for me, and I want to help others develop the idea of clean living.

Michelle Feeney Founder of Floral Street

By building a responsible brand and leading by example, I strongly believe that you empower and enable others to grow. Also, to give consumers the opportunity to make better choices that bring sustainable Beauty to their everyday life.

Wrapping Up: Floral Street Q&A

We thank Michelle for taking the time to answer our questions, we wish her all the best with her brand Floral Street.

If you want to discover the clean and fine fragrances of Floral Street, you can browse the whole collection on the website floralstreet.com.

Thanks for reading.

Bethany
Bethany

Bethany Worthington BSc (Hons) (she/her) is the Sustainable Fashion Editor and Co-founder of Ecothes. She has a passion for the environment, and a long love of all things clothing, and combines those two interests with Ecothes. In her free time she loves dancing, hiking in the countryside, and laughing with friends.

Articles: 186

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.