Ffern's newest seasonal scent, Spring 22 has been created in collaboration with Michelin-starred chef Skye Gyngell of Spring Restaurant. We love everything about Ffern - the seasonal, small-batch sustainable brand from Somerset. We sat down with Creative Director, Emily Cameron to find out all about the concept built around the rhythms of the seasons; how she and her brother have created a very unique brand with their 'desire to gently disrupt the highly commercial, fashion-led model of the perfume industry'; the importance of the Spring equinox and the timings of each seasonal scent launch; why sustainability isn't a buzz word but the cornerstone of everything they create at Ffern; and much more...
Please can you tell us about Spring 22?
This season we have collaborated with Michelin-starred chef Skye Gyngell, of Spring, Somerset House, to create our most culinary fragrance yet.
Against the delicious olfactory backdrop of the Spring kitchen, we discussed how to build upon the notes of basil and pink peppercorn that brought a tantalising edge to last year’s light, floral Spring fragrance.
Skye’s thoughts turned at once to two ingredients: elderflower, the floral embodiment of soft Maytime breezes; and green gooseberry for its sharp and bittersweet tang.
The resulting fragrance is green, sharp and softly floral. It has notes of jasmine, orange flower, pink peppercorn and neroli, with an accord of gooseberry and elderflower at its heart.
How did you come up with the concept for Ffern?
Ffern was born out of a simple vision: to restore perfumery to its artisan roots. With this in mind, we create small-batch fragrances that are organic, vegan and made from the highest quality, sustainably sourced, natural ingredients. We work with the rhythms of the seasons and blend, barrel-age and bottle four unique fragrances a year.
Innovation, twinned with a desire to gently disrupt the highly commercial, fashion-led model of the perfume industry, lies at the heart of Ffern. Sustainability has been woven into every area and we are the first perfumer to become entirely plastic-free.
Your fragrances are released at the equinox and solstice - why is this?
As seasonal fragrance makers, everything we do is very closely aligned with the rhythm of the seasons. The plants change with the seasons, the landscape changes, light changes - and we think fragrance should change too.
Each release is designed to reflect the natural world during its corresponding season - hence the Equinox and the Solstice, points of transition between the seasons, make for perfect launch dates.
You are based in Somerset, with master perfumers from France - can you explain a little more about how you work? Where are your ingredients sourced? Are place and provenance important to you?
We founded Ffern in our mother’s pottery studio in Somerset, the scent from a neighbouring organic herb farm drifting over us. We never lose sight of our West Country heritage - the landscapes of the South West have provided inspiration for several of our fragrances, most recently Winter 22, which had as its backdrop the coastal town of Lyme Regis. We are very happy that we are able to blend, age and bottle all our fragrances in Somerset.
Our ingredients are sourced from all over the world - but we make every effort to make sure they are sustainably harvested and of the first quality. The expertise of our noses, Francois and Elodie, is invaluable here; their experience with and passion for bringing the finest natural fragrance ingredients together shapes everything we create.
Please can you explain how sustainability runs through everything you do (and possibly how it differs from the perfume industry in general?)
Sustainability has been at the heart of our fragrances from the very beginning, and we are continually researching new ways to lessen our impact. We always have three aims in mind for our packaging, these are that it should be:
- recycled and recyclable
This year, we’ve been working with Magical Mushroom in south-east England to develop a mycelium bottle tray. Grown from organic waste material and mycelium (mushroom roots), the tray is 100% home compostable. The making of the tray requires a fraction of the energy used in petroleum-based alternatives and relies entirely on nature to do the work.
We are the first perfume maker to eliminate plastic from our packaging. Each element is not only plastic-free, but recyclable. From the bottle itself, which can be left in your regular recycling collection (recycling plants are able to separate the glass and metal parts on site - just like with wine bottles), to the postage box, a Ffern package should generate zero landfill.
For Spring 2021, we launched the Ffern kraft tube. Most perfumes are made with a plastic cap. These are typically constructed from multiple types of plastic, cannot be recycled, and serve no purpose once the perfume is finished. We’ve removed the caps from all of our bottles, and designed a kraft paper tube to take its place. The tube functions as a cap, protects the fragrance inside from light, and is 100% recyclable.
Furthermore, all of our printed materials (including the large art poster that ships with each release) are made with FSC 100% recycled, carbon balanced paper.
"Spring to me is symbolic of hope and beauty - the arrival of blossom, delicate clouds of pink and white. The arrival of new shoots in vivid green. There is a sense of the land waking up, shaking off its winter cloak and preparing for a display of colour and joy."
Emily Cameron, Creative Director, Ffern
If someone wants to buy Ffern what do they need to do?
To receive a bottle of Ffern, you must first join the ledger. The Ffern ledger acts as our guide each season; we make one bottle of the fragrance for every name on our ledger, no more. Working in this way allows Ffern to remain true to traditional, small batch production processes and - by being so tightly controlled - to minimise waste.
The ledger is currently full but you can join our waiting list through our website. Then, once a space on the ledger opens up (usually when a current member decides to close theirs) we will send a text offering the chance to join Ffern.
You have a terrific seasonal podcast and have collaborated with artists, can you explain why you wanted to add this extra dimension to Ffern?
Each season we ask a different artist to respond to the Ffern fragrance, as part of the Ffern Artists series. So far we have commissioned a variety of artworks - from plant-dyed silk handkerchiefs and clay sculptures to still life oil paintings. At Ffern we believe in celebrating the craft and artistry of natural fragrance making. Working with artists not only makes sense as a reflection of this process, but also helps inspire us and - we hope - our members, to think more deeply about the multi-sensory possibilities of fragrance.
As seasonal fragrance makers, we are always thinking about the turn of the seasons. While the world was in lockdown last year, we noticed that people were connecting that bit more with nature - whether on the daily walk, by spending more time in the garden or picking up new hobbies like birdwatching or stargazing. So when we released the first episode of ‘As the Season Turns’ in January 2021, we imagined it would be an extension of that - a way of, as the poet Ray Carver writes, “settling deeper into the seasons”.
Each episode is 15 minutes long and acts a guide for what to look out for in the month ahead. It is presented by the nature writer Lia Leendertz and you can listen to it for free on all podcast hosting platforms. We are delighted to have been selected by the Apple Podcast Team as one of the best shows of 2021.
What are the highlights of creating Ffern fragrances?
The development process has so many wonderful facets to it - from creating each brief to receiving the finished bottle - but the best part is definitely the first sampling session of a new fragrance with our noses, Elodie & Francois. We all gather in the Ffern studio, with each individual ingredient oil laid out, and carefully take in each sample - we typically start with four iterations, and this is narrowed down at each sampling session. That first experience of a new scent is always so exciting. I don’t think we will ever tire of that!
Please could you share a few words about what spring represents to you?
Spring to me is symbolic of hope and beauty - the arrival of blossom, delicate clouds of pink and white. The arrival of new shoots in vivid green. There is a sense of the land waking up, shaking off its winter cloak and preparing for a display of colour and joy.
Do you have favourite spring-time activities?
I like to bring spring into the home as much as I can - large branches of cherry blossom in jugs and smaller jars of paperwhites.
If it is a warm spring day, then there is nothing better than a swim in the sea. We often travel across to Dorset to swim along the coastline there. We’ll always have a thermos of tea at the ready and try to pick up some fresh langoustine if we can!
We always mark the spring equinox with a small ritual too - we like to climb to the top of our nearest hill and scatter some petals. It’s our simple way of blessing the land and it’s lovely to see the surrounding valley waking up from its slumber.