Floral Street’s Michelle Feeney on sustainability, creativity and crafting Van Gogh Museum fragrances

Floral Street Founder Michelle Feeney explains how the team approached bringing the Van Gogh Museum into fragrances.

This month sees the launch of Floral Street’s Sunflower Pop, the first in a new collection of Van Gogh Museum fragrances.

Floral Street is the Van Gogh Museum’s first ever fragrance partner, and the four-year collaboration – in a deal brokered by Licensing Link Europe – will see the fragrance brand create a range of scents celebrating the work of Vincent van Gogh.

We spoke with Floral Street Founder Michelle Feeney about why the brands are a good fit for each – and how the team approached bringing the Van Gogh Museum into fragrances.

Michelle Feeney, Floral Street, Van Gogh Museum

Hi Michelle, thank you for making time to chat. For anyone new to Floral Street, how do you describe what you do?
Floral Street was born in November 2017 as an independent ‘clean’ British fragrance brand. We’re ‘powered by flowers’, inspired by vibrant culture and offer mood boosting scents to all.

‘Powered by flowers’ – lovely line! What prompted you to launch the company?
I had had the idea for my own brand for a while after having spent years in the fashion and beauty industries, growing cult global brands such as MAC Cosmetics, Crème de la Mer and St Tropez. But it took me taking a gap year at 51 to fully realise how I would do it and if the world needed more product!

I had to think about how I could pour my years of experience into the industry to connect with an audience in a new and disruptive way. I decided that if I was coming back into beauty it had to be different and it had to be sustainable.

“The art of Van Gogh is one of the globally most accessible collections and we are all about fine fragrance that is accessible to all.”

So sustainability was at the heart of Floral Street right from the off?
Absolutely. I had observed the way our industry was creating so much landfill with far too much packaging, but I felt I had an opportunity to create a brand that was a beacon for change.

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 realised no one had done that in fragrance. I saw a gap in the market for a modern brand that offers sustainable fine fragrance in a uniquely engaging way and all at an affordable price.

Michelle Feeney, Floral Street, Van Gogh Museum

On that, how have you approached engaging consumers around issues of sustainability?
Well, launching from inception with core values of environmental consideration, we weren’t just ticking a ‘clean box’. We have taken action by putting this at our core.

I wanted to drive positive change to stir and stimulate the industry and also give consumers the opportunity to make better choices that bring sustainable beauty to their everyday life. We help educate them to appreciate responsible fragrance via our interactive Scentschools and use globally recognised logos to make it clear; thus guiding better ethical purchases.

We are proud to be accredited by PETA for being vegan and cruelty free, which allows us to use their globally recognised bunny logo. The FSC symbol featured on our recyclable packaging confirms our carbon balanced card is from responsibly managed forests and via the World Land Trust we have helped to protect over 6,500m² of endangered rainforest. This figure will increase as we continue to grow our business globally, and I feel good about that.

We have proven that you can have fine fragrance and beautiful packaging all created in a responsible way.

Great stuff; congrats to you and the team on that. Before we dive into the Van Gogh partnership, talk us through the creative process behind making your perfumes?
I have always been aware that fragrance has the ability to enhance or even alter how you feel, so I wanted to create perfumes inspired by ‘mood muses’. I visualise these into mood boards which stimulates Jerome Epinette, our master perfumer, to paint his own picture with ingredients and notes to bring that mood to life with scent. The approach is not really about one particular person, a celeb or trend; it’s about the enhancement of one’s self-esteem or person via the finishing touch of fragrance.

I was initially inspired by the incredible diversity, energy and fashion from the streets of London, but have since taken inspiration from other experiences, including when I hiked across the desert and realised how uplifting it was. I literally wanted to bottle that feeling which became our sunny and euphoric Arizona Bloom perfume.

Michelle Feeney, Floral Street, Van Gogh Museum

Your four-year collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum kicks off this month. What appealed about working with this brand – and what made Floral Street a good home for it?
As an independent, British brand I was honoured when we were approached by the Van Gogh Museum, as they are an internationally renowned institution. We found we had a shared love of nature and finding beauty in the everyday. The art of Van Gogh is one of the globally most accessible collections and we are all about fine fragrance that is accessible to all.

We have created mini works of art with each of our perfume bottles, but our new Sunflower Pop is the ultimate! I felt it was an amazing opportunity to bring fine fragrance to a wide audience as Van Gogh has done with his art. Through this collaboration, we are able to tell our story in a new way, in which the beauty of fine art and fine fragrance meet.

I imagine there’s a wealth of material to draw from for this range. What did those first creative steps look like? How did you get to grips with the brand?
I was invited to the Van Gogh Museum to view his art and letters and his citation “If one truly loves nature, one finds beauty everywhere” really moved me.

I could choose any masterpiece to inspire our first scent creation and I wanted it to celebrate and respect the environment. I decided it had to be recognisable, it had to be positive, and it had to be flowers. So obviously it had to be his Sunflowers masterwork as it gives all of these things.

“We have proven that you can have fine fragrance and beautiful packaging all created in a responsible way.”

I wanted our new fragrance to be accessible, so Jerome Epinette from our fragrance partner, Robertet, has created Sunflower Pop to be appreciated and worn by anyone who loves how it smells. We have taken the work of a past master to inspire a master perfumer; combining their talents for the modern day and translating the arts into an affordable, collectable piece of Van Gogh.

Looking ahead, are these kinds of brand collaborations something Floral Street is looking to further embrace in the future?
As a cult brander I have always utilised collaborations, be it with make-up artists, musicians or fashion designers, which created a new voice for the brands enabling them to reach different audiences. So, the future at Floral Street will absolutely be about collaborations.

Whether that’s with cultural institutions, such as the Van Gogh Museum or BAFTA, who have recently chosen us to be the official scent of their newly redeveloped 195 Piccadilly. Or even with global retailers such as Nordstrom, Mecca, Selfridges Project Earth and Sephora’s Clean and Good For initiatives.

Michelle Feeney, Floral Street, Van Gogh Museum

And what are you looking for in potential brand partners?
These partnerships should be commercial yet creative opportunities for us to tell our scent and sustainability stories. When you are a small brand, these become even more important. By connecting with others and being part of bigger movements, you can tell your story in new and different ways. It can push and champion your messaging and help engage with a wider, more diverse audience. I also believe that most young people around the world today want to collaborate in life not just with brands; this is part of modern living.

Also, as an industry we should be coming together as creative and responsible innovators to drive positive change in beauty. As a collective of companies that share the same passion and ethos, and global distribution channels that share the same values and responsible commitments, we can create sustainable products and support conscious ways to shop, better guiding consumers to purchase responsibly.

Michelle, this has been fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing your insights. Before I let you go, one final question, how do you and the Floral Street team fuel your creativity?
Travel for me is a big creative influence, but during the last year this has been so difficult for all of us. So, working with the Van Gogh Museum has given us a whole new lease of creative life!

We have four years to craft beautiful, sustainable scented products around fine art and fine fragrance. I believe that art has become an even bigger inspiration in the world today and when you partner that with nature, it enables us to see beauty everywhere.

The range looks great, so well done, and good luck with the collection moving forward.

Stay up to date with the latest news, interviews and opinions with our weekly newsletter

Sign Up

Enter your details to receive Brands Untapped updates & news.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.