To The Fairest is an independent British perfumery, creating Eau de Parfum, scented candles and exquisite body oils.
How did it all begin?
Through my friendship with Lizzie Ostrom, a brilliant perfume writer. I had spent years developing the concept and fragrance profile for a range of Eau de Parfum and was looking for a cosmetic chemist who could help me bring these ideas to life. Lizzie introduced me to Penny Williams, a creative perfumer, and we have been working together ever since.
What sets your business apart?
To The Fairest is a ‘slow beauty’ brand: not only was the idea of launching a fully-formed wardrobe of scents unrealistic in terms of financing, it also seemed an outdated system of production. Consumer choice – particularly in the beauty industry – can feel overwhelming, and we were not prepared to add to the abundance of new launches without a meaningful offering.
With this in mind, To The Fairest creates standalone scents introduced one at a time, in limited quantities. Perfume lovers are hard-wired for deferred gratification – it is part of the olfactory experience! This knowledge gave us the confidence to place long-term objectives and gradual growth at the heart of the business.
What is the concept behind your business or the problem you’re solving?
The name of the brand comes from the words that were inscribed on a golden apple from the Garden of the Hesperides. The apple represented beauty, knowledge and power – qualities claimed by goddesses Athena, Hera and Aphrodite. This classic motif celebrates woman as muse – embodying the arts, imparting wisdom and inspiring creation.
Our sophisticated blends lead you into a garden of night-blooming flowers, where time stands still and pleasure reigns. Each fragrance taps into an imagined landscape, inspired by the mysteries of time, literature and love.
Where to next/What is your brand vision?
To The Fairest will launch three new Eau de Parfum and a Discovery Box in 2022:
Aubine – a fresh, modern gardenia with honey fluorescence base notes.
Élan Vital – an earthy vetiver composition, with lily of the valley and musk mallow.
Oracle – a softly spicy rose, with cardamom and pink pepper.
To The Fairest
What do you feel passionate about/what drives you?
Empowering women in the workplace. I’ve volunteered as an interview coach for Smart Works since 2015 – it’s an incredible charity that exists to give women the confidence they need to reach their full potential, secure employment and change the trajectory of their lives.
Share an example of early life that has shaped you?
I grew up on a farm in Lincolnshire. The cycle of the seasons and the natural environment had a huge impact on my understanding of the world around me. The countryside is still my refuge when I want to get away from it all or find space to focus on a particular project.
Highlights of your business journey so far?
There are little markers along the way – all of them meaningful – from spotting our candles in Vogue Japan to securing our first wholesale buyer, but nothing compares to meeting a customer who tells you that her favourite perfume is from your brand! The reason I started To The Fairest was to create unique fragrances that would resonate with the mood and desires of modern women – so when I hear feedback from strangers it means the world.
Key lessons you have learned along the way?
Learning how to measure success in different ways – this was a helpful lesson during the pandemic when we had to shut two pop-ups prematurely. It forced the brand to develop a stronger online presence, introduce virtual consultations to customers and build an in-chat shopping function.
Best piece of advice you have received?
Live life as if everything is rigged in your favour.
Advice to an aspiring entrepreneur or woman just starting her career?
Trust your instincts. Learning how to tap into your intuition is one of the most powerful things we can do.
What funding route have you chosen for your business and why?
I didn’t want to go down the VC / accelerator route, having seen the monumental pressure this places on founders to deliver within strict time frames. I was unwilling to compromise on the quality of my product so it was important for me to be in control at all times – with this in mind, the business is bootstrapped and everything is reinvested into its growth. My external work as a Creative Director for The Silver Library helps me keep on top of things.
Some of the challenges you have faced and how you overcame them?
Since the very beginning, I wanted To The Fairest to partner with a different charity or cultural event each year. In 2019 the brand sponsored the THRIVE garden at RHS Chatsworth, created by award-winning landscape designer Richard Rogers. Unfortunately the events we had scheduled for 2020 and 2021 were cancelled due to the pandemic, so the sponsorship budget was reallocated to an NHS charity. In 2022 To The Fairest will be involved in a major literary festival in the summer – we are so looking forward to the opportunity to be involved in live events again as they are such a great way to connect with a wider community.
Why is it important to support women-led business?
Women-led businesses have the opportunity to change the culture of work. We need a system where mothers are able to progress in their careers with maximum support, and lead fulfilled professional lives without compromise. Women-led businesses can revitalize productivity, drive innovation and influence decision-making from within.
My inspiration is...
The stories my customers share with me about their lives, their challenges and their dreams are very moving. I feel inspired by these connections.
My greatest fear is...
I used to worry what would happen if people didn’t respond to what I had created in the way that I had intended. Letting go of this was very freeing!
The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is...
The first time I was invited to speak in public to a professional audience was at a trade fair at Olympia in 2015. I was a nervous wreck and no amount of beta-blockers or rescue remedy was helping to calm me down. During the panel discussion, I realised that people – usually! – are curious about what you have to say and are not waiting to throw tomatoes. Reminding yourself that you are an expert on your own experiences also helps.
No such thing.
Mantra you live by?
Not a mantra but something that pops into my head occasionally … ‘allow yourself to be surprised’. It’s really useful for any creative pursuit.
Female role model?
Anya Hindmarch. Her vision is amazing – I recommend looking up her presentations for London Fashion Week online, as each one was a groundbreaking design project. Her synthesis of visual culture through creativity is truly inspiring.
Women-led brand you love?
Forte Medical. My friend Giovanna Forte has revolutionized essential screening apparatus, delivering accuracy and first-time prescribing.
Top productivity tool?
I bulk buy yellow legal pads as I write on them all day long. They are my favourite way to record ideas, draw up lists and make plans.
To The Fairest has created a SPECIAL OFFER exclusively for Women's Chapter Members