Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Style Icon - Anita Roddick

I thought I'd do a style icon post with a difference this evening.  My style icon is the late Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop.  Although Anita was not known mainly for her personal style, she was been hugely influential in beauty trends, environmentalism, anti-cruelty cosmetics and ethical consumerism, being about 30 years ahead of the rest of most beauty retailers (with some notable exceptions).  She was also hugely successful in bringing The Body Shop to the world and promoting her values, which are slowly becoming the norm for ethical consumers all around the world.

All images from Google Images

Anita started The Body Shop in Kensington Gardens in Brighton back in the 1970s, when her husband left her alone with her two daughters, whilst he went travelling around South America.  The Body Shop was her way of supporting her family as a temporarily single mother, and she did it on a shoestring.  For those of you who can remember the 'Old' Body Shop, back in the 1980s and early 1990s, the range of products was relatively limited, but each product was available in multiple sizes.  This characteristic of The Body Shop was a hang-over from its start-up days, when Anita could only afford to make a limited number of products, so to fill up the shop, she produced them all in different sizes.

Anita outside the first Body Shop

In The Body Shop's formative years, Anita was an early pioneer of recycling, simply because she couldn't afford to buy new products and bottles all the time.  She was also a pioneer of unconventional marketing techniques, that more quirky PR agencies might try today.  For instance, the first shop was located between two undertakers who were less than pleased that a shop called The Body Shop had opened up right next to them.  When they asked her to change the shop's name, she called in the local paper, getting loads of attention as a result.  Another tactic was using one of the shop's USP - the smell.  Anita used to dribble perfume all the way from the nearest carpark to the shop everyday to entice customers in, following their noses.

And it worked!  The Body Shop grew and grew to a large multi-national company selling ethical, cruelty free cosmetics and beauty products to women around the world, whilst championing various causes and campaigning.

Now, The Body Shop today is certainly not The Body Shop of old.  It's now owned by L'Oreal who have a less than perfect record on animal testing and ethics.  The Body Shop was also heavily criticised by Naomi Klein in her anti-corporate manifesto No Logo.

However, for me, Anita's original ideas, passion and ethics still live on, with The Body Shop's focus still firmly on fair trade, ethical consumerism and anti-cruelty, just with a larger platform, due to its global exposure.

When I was a young teenage, The Body Shop was my favourite shop.  I would spend hours choosing what to spend my £5 birthday gift voucher on, and because you could buy very small sized bottles for under a pound, you could get quite a few bits for your money.  It's a shame that it's so much more expensive now, although it's still relatively affordable when compared to many high-end ranges, and I suppose you're paying for the sourcing, ethics and values of the company as well as the products.

My Mum and her best friend took me and my sister and my Mum's friends daughters to The Body Shop factory in Littlehampton when we were teenagers.  You could go on a tour of the factory and see everything from research and development to manufacturing and shipping.  Doesn't sound very interesting does it??  No, you're wrong, it was the best trip of my childhood!  It was so good that I decided I wanted to be a biochemist so I could go and work there developing products!  So I did science A-levels and went to university to study biochemistry in Brighton.  I then dragged all my uni flatmates on a tour of the factory and they loved it as well!  Sadly, my biochemistry career faltered after 2 years of uni - I'm not a natural scientist, and it appears that The Body Shop no longer have a UK factory, so I suppose there are no more tours.

So although you can criticise The Body Shop now, I think that this is a brilliant, iconic, British brand, and that Anita Roddick was a brilliantly, inspirational business woman with vision, who has altered all our shopping habits for the better.

Dame Anita Roddick - you certainly are a style icon!

Thanks for reading!  xx


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