30 years ago, in a little garden shed in the South of England, Lush co-founder Mo Constantine created the bath bomb: an invention so iconic, it changed the way we bathe forever.
To celebrate three decades of sparking joy with fun, fizzing baths LUSH are unleashing THEIR BIGGEST BATH BOMB LAUNCH EVER!
A whopping 54 new bath bombs (all vegan and handmade) have been released, some of which are completely new inventions with unique experiences to discover, while others feature fan fave scents and blasts from the LUSH past.
We sat down with Mo, and her son Jack, at the opening of the brand new LUSH Liverpool Store and Spa to talk humble beginnings, family, favourite products, going international and of course, bath bombs…
It must be hard to believe it’s been 30 years since you invented the bath bomb – what memories do you have from that time as you began to create this now iconic product?
“Well, I was 30 years old at the time, I had 2 kids and really I was just busy developing my family. I wasn’t thinking about this “big future” that I could possibly be creating for all of us, you can’t really think that way can you? Like most people, I was just trying to earn a crust and taking things (life) day by day.”
What was it that inspired you to even think of inventing something so unique and new?
“30 years ago it was all about what we used to call “smellies” – you know the kind of thing you’d buy for your Mum and your Auntie on their birthday? So it was things like bath cubes, talcum powder and little soaps all wrapped up in a nice gift box, and it just seemed like at that time that’s all there was on offer for women of a certain age. And I remember thinking to myself, ‘it can’t be all that exciting to be receiving a variation of the same present over and over again can it?’“
“And then for me personally, I’d had the idea for a while that I wanted, and needed, something more interesting to put in my bath other than what was on available to me on the high street, so I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what that could possibly be.”
“Then a friend of mine, he used to work for Beechams, suggested some ideas to me, which I explored and then basically I experimented with some basic ingredients, like sodium bicarbonate and citric acid, and really it went from there.”
How did your original concept and ideas change and develop over time?
“Well, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact changes from my original idea because everything has always just naturally evolved over time.”
“But originally it was simple, I thought wouldn’t it be nice to put something lovely in the bath? Something that doesn’t leave a trace in there, so nothing like bath oils or bubble bath. That idea then made me think, ‘well, hang on you can put other lovely things in there too like herbs or clay or fruit juices‘ – literally anything.”
At this point, Mo’s son Jack Constantine joins our conversation.
“Jack works in our digital and branding department,” Mo tell us. “He’s worked with me in the labs reinventing the bath bomb for at least 10 years now. In fact he began working with me on modernisation of it, at the same age I was when I invented it, which is scary to think about!”
Jack, can you tell us about the new bath bomb collection you’ve created to mark the 30th anniversary of the originals’ first release?
“Yeah, so it was 1989 when the bath bomb was first created, so we thought lets create 89 bath bombs to celebrate that. It took 3 months, we started in the middle of last year and as always, the team were great! All of our product developers rolled their sleeves up and I probably made 57, so it was a real team effort.”
Mo: “For me when working on this new collection, it was a case of looking back throughout my whole life and selecting maybe 20 of our most iconic bath bombs and having them modified or reworked.”
“We just went back and looked at our history and I think you’re allowed to do that, you’re allowed to take things you like, whether that be the bath bomb or fragrance, and modernise it.”
Mo, it’s a cliché question, but out of all the bath bombs you’ve created over the last three decades, which has been your favourite?
“Ooh, I’d say Think Pink because it really stands out from all of the others.”
“And actually, thinking about it, it was the first time that we thought, hang on, we can really market this product and come up with a whole campaign to go around it – so we put big pink posters up in all of our shop windows, and we put its image on the front page of our newspaper the ‘LUSH Times’, and we did bags that had the bath bomb on it… it was an exciting time, but don’t think it wasn’t without its challenges, because even though we got all of those things out into the shops, the factory didn’t actually send out the product itself! So there I was rampaging through the factory grabbing a bag, a bath bomb, a wrapper and putting it all together.”
How important is customer feedback to in terms of moving the brand forward and creating future products?
Jack: “It’s invaluable – whether you’re looking at feedback on the bath bombs or just feedback on the brand in general, it’s so important.”
“We used to have a mail order catalogue called ‘Cosmetics To Go’ which was kind of like the internet before the internet, and it was all about customer feedback – if you go through the pages of that catalogue you’ll see customer comments, customer reviews, customer feedback – everything relating to our customer.”
“So yeah, I would say it’s really been embedded into the companies ethos from the very beginning. In fact, if you look at the iconic ‘Sex Bomb‘ bath bomb; that was a customer’s idea.”
Mo: (laughs) “They used to like to run these competitions, where anyone could create their own bath bomb and submit their ideas to us. So it’s literally people sitting at the breakfast table in a morning thinking “pass me a pen, I’ve got an idea” and they’d draw something out, and from that we’d have to make something of it.”
“But you know, people like to engage and they like to get involved and we did have a couple of winners from those competitions that were really well received, notably the ‘Sex Bomb’ which is still going strong and selling well, so it’s great.”
Jack: “Even now, here in this store, we’ve got maybe 20 bath bombs that are created from customers’ feedback – we ask for their input on their favourite fragrances, their favourite LUSH products and we put them all together in one bath bomb.”
“Customer feedback has really helped us to learn and grow really.”
Mo: “And I think that’s one of our strengths, the way our company is structured, we not only invent our products but we also make them all as well. So the inventors are in touch with the factories, some of whom are here today to see their work, and likewise they are then in touch with the retailers so they can give feedback up the chain, so when there’s a problem they know exactly who to talk to.”
“We work on everything together, there’s a great level of respect between us all. It’s definitely a team collaboration.”
In society today, it’s the norm for celebrities to endorse products – nobody seems to invent or come with anything new anymore, it’s simply a case of a famous person putting their name to something and it selling through association. Do you think that being a family business and actually creating your own products has been what’s kept you doing this for as long as you have?
Mo: “You know, we do get called a family firm, which is obviously what we are, but our family is quite extensive – you can talk to Hilary my assistant, she’s part of the family as well as 8 or 9 other people who have been there with us this whole time, putting their all into what we do, and indeed now some of their families have joined our team as well. So it’s a family thing in that respect, but you know it engages other families too.”
Do you think that sense of family unity is what’s helped you, as a brand, to stay relevant and not suffer the same fate as so many other business have?
Mo: “As a company, we’ve always known that in order to grow and evolve, we would always have to be versatile and embrace change. You have to move with the times, which is something I think we’ve done and hope we continue to do.”
As well as experiencing incredible success in the U.K., you’ve also gone on to become a huge brand internationally, how do things differ overseas compared to here in your home country?
Jack: “It’s been really interesting to go around the world and learn about different bathing cultures. Like in Japan, we had to ask ourselves, how do they bathe? And what health benefits are they looking for?”
“Quite quickly we realised that what we offer is something that provides all of those things, it’s an experience, it’s fun, it’s colourful but it’s beneficial and it’s got good things in there that can help relax you and calm you down.”
How much time do you spend visiting your international stores and how do you go about monitoring their progress?
Mo: “I’m lucky enough to be able to travel by choice. I’ve been to some of the stores internationally but Jack’s been to Japan a lot.”
Jack: “I had to take a cardboard cut out of Mum with me to Japan.”
Mo: “The problem sometimes is that I go out to visit the store, and then it’s like a month later I’ll be expected out there again so it can get a bit much. But you know we have plenty of ‘young un’s’ on the team who want to go, so I just think pass the mantel onto them then. I do really enjoy it though and hopefully I’m not gonna be written out of the whole thing.” (laughs)
Jack: “NO! We’re here celebrating the whole thing, Mum’s always worried she’s gonna be written out of it.”
“The thing about being global is, we do have this presence around the world and that can be quite hard to get your head around.”
“I’ve just got back from Austin Texas where we launched a pop up version of the Harajuku shop (based in Tokyo), and then I got to go on a tour around the US and Canada and the buzz around it is just massive. Seeing everyone’s reactions to the LUSH concept, and the way we represent the brand and our products is, in many ways, like establishing and re-establishing what we do – I mean I stood on stage a few weeks ago and said the bath bomb was 30 years old and people were like ‘bullshit’.”
Mo: (Laughs) “You should have wheeled me out on stage.”
Jack: “People can’t believe that it’s been around that long.”
Mo, standing here and looking around this brand new store and spa in Liverpool, could you ever have imagined all of this would have happened to you?
Mo: “From my point of view, thinking to back in the day when I first started out, no. How could I? No one could have foreseen any of this. I mean look at this place, it’s great! You’ve got people over there banging on jellies, there’s that massive wall of bath bombs, all the treatment areas… everyone just seems to love it and get some value out of it – it’s just amazing and so nice to be a part of it.”
It must be all so surreal…
Mo: “It is, it’s pretty unbelievable actually. And I must say the line around the corner of customers waiting to get into the store this morning was incredible.”
As with all things LUSH, it seems and feels like this project has been a real team effort…
Mo: “Oh yes, absolutely, it really has. I mean if you talk to any one of our team they’ll tell you, we’ve worked really hard on this for two years now.”
“We knew we wanted to have a big shop but nobody knows how to create a big shop, you don’t know how much product you need, we just knew that we needed a load of products to fill the place, you don’t know how to fully bring your vision to life but we knew we had to… and looking around today, I think we did.”
Jack: “This has been a massive milestone for the product development team and for everybody really and it’s a really special day for whole team here in Liverpool because it’s like we’re here, it’s all done, it’s yours now, you run with it, and we just wish them all the luck.”
This 30 year anniversary is a real milestone for you both professionally and personally, looking forward to the next 30 (years), what are your plans and hopes for LUSH in the future?
Mo: “All we can hope for is that things carry on as they are, and that we continue to be as successful as we have been so far and that people continue to enjoy the products – I can’t ask for more than that.”
Jack: “The next big shop opening we’ve got is in Japan, in May, so I’m busy working on that now and trying to see how we can integrate the technology aspect we have here to enhance the shopping experience for customers over there.”
“But really, who knows what’s going to happen… but I know for sure the future is exciting.”
Mo Constantine, OBE
Sweet, unassuming, intelligent, friendly, humble, focused, funny, caring and self-deprecating – just some of the words we would use to describe the incomparable Mo Constantine – a strong female who single handedly took charge of her destiny and changed her life for the better.
In a time where people seek validation on the internet, showcasing their lives, achievements and successes for the whole world to see, Constantine is content to stick with what she knows best – work! Because put simply, hard work is the thing that has gotten her, and her team/business/brand, to where they are today.
She is a woman who is in charge, who doesn’t think in a limited way, who embraces change and understands the power of working together as a team, not taking anything or anyone for granted.
To summarise, Mo Constantine is a very special lady.