1. Weleda is one of the most successful natural skin care brands on the market. How important is Biodynamics to you?
Over the decades Weleda has become the largest global manufacturer of natural and organic cosmetics and anthroposophic medicines, with Weleda companies in 52 countries around the world today. First founded in 1921 in Switzerland, the original green beauty brand, Weleda was inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner and a pioneering Dutch doctor called Dr Ita Wegman who wanted to develop a range of products made with entirely natural ingredients to support her patients holistically.
Biodynamics is really embedded in the company’s DNA because of our anthroposophic roots. We work with over 1,000 natural substances and try to use as many biodynamically grown ingredients as possible, growing a large amount ourselves. Sustainability, quality, authenticity and purity are cornerstones of our brand, and biodynamics ticks all those boxes.
2. You have your own biodynamic gardens in the UK. What’s special about the gardens?
Weleda was established here in the UK as early as 1925, originally in London. We moved to Derbyshire in 1978 for more manufacturing and growing space. Today, several hundred healing plants are grown at our Shipley herb gardens which are used in our plant tinctures – the start point for our products.
The land is a magical place, 13 acres of organic herb gardens nurtured biodynamically and cultivated as a near nature setting rather than formal nursery beds. The gardens are Demeter certified, located in the middle of the now prosperous area of Shipley just outside Ilkeston.
It’s like a secret wild garden in the middle of leafy suburbia. Just up the road there’s Shipley Country Park which is a highly respected nature reserve. We work closely with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to encourage biodiversity. We also have several productive bee hives thanks to beekeeper Mick Parker.
3. What do you grow in the Weleda gardens?
In the UK we grow a wide variety of herbs, shrubs, hedges and trees for use in Weleda products. It it is mainly medicinal products that we manufacture in Derbyshire. The gardens form a very distinctive tapestry of plants grown in relatively small quantities, because we don’t grow acres and acres of just one thing. We also have a beautiful wildflower meadow, where we raise our crop of cowslip which is used in one particular remedy. We do grow larger areas of some plants – in summer there are fields of vibrant calendula and fragrant chamomile.
4. How do you communicate about your biodynamic approach?
When a new member of staff joins Weleda, one of the first steps of their induction into the company is to spend a few days up at the gardens and see where it all starts. It’s crucial for a good understanding of the business. So new recruits might join the nettle harvest for example, or help with making manure – it’s a muddy wellies kind of welcome to Weleda!
It’s a similar eye-opening experience for visiting beauty editors – we find the authenticity of the experience really helps us explain to the press how and why we differ from most beauty brands.
Each summer we open the gardens to the public and other visitors – it’s a great opportunity to talk biodynamics. Our gardening team is really passionate about it, and the passion is very infectious.
We also celebrate the festivals up at the gardens with many staff parties, whether it’s a summer solstice barbeque, an autumn bonfire, or a winter ‘Three Kings’ celebratory stirring to welcome in the New Year. The gardens help us to become part of the wider Weleda family.
5. Weleda has hundreds of Wellbeing Advisors all over the UK, working with Weleda products every day. How do they feel about biodynamics?
Our team of Weleda Wellbeing Advisors are passionate about organics and are learning fast about biodynamics. Their first visit to the gardens is usually a ‘Weleda Insight’ summer visit, which is a great introduction. Many Advisors volunteer to help in the gardens at busy times because they feel it is such a special place, and it helps them talk more knowledgeably and authoritatively about ingredients when using or selling Weleda products at work.
6. What’s the most important aspect of skincare?
One of the key things with skincare is acknowledging that skin goes through different phases, some of which are linked to our age and hormones, and some of which are influenced by things like diet or the seasons as our skin battles the elements. So we don’t really talk about ‘skin types’ at Weleda, because our skin is forever changing and adjusting. We may need to use different products at different times of year.
With our range, we address these different phases, or seasons of life, through our lead plant concept. For example, Calendula is the lead plant for our babycare range. Our Iris range is ideal for people in their 20s, and so on. But being Weleda, we usually consider life in phases of 7 years rather than the more conventional decades the beauty industry works to.
Beauty is really about health and balance. When we get the balance right in our life (with holistic healthcare, diet and so on) and we’re happy, then beauty naturally radiates through our skin.
7. What’s your personal take on biodynamics?
I love the fact that biodynamic gardening seems to protect the authentic character of the plant, preserves its individuality or true essence. These characteristics can sometimes be lost when a fruit or vegetable for example is forced or grown in a hot house using chemical fertilisers in an effort to produce bigger, straighter, rounder, glossier produce for the supermarket shelf.
I am always impressed by the depth of flavour of the biodynamic fruit and veg sold at our local farmers’ market, and the delicious biodynamic wines that win so many awards. It’s important with growing herbs for health and beauty products to retain the plant’s authentic characteristics, because we rely on the therapeutic properties of our ingredients. They need to be potent and effective, and jam packed with nutrients and plant actives. I want the products in my larder to be more flavoursome, more aromatic, more nourishing. And I feel the same way about my bathroom shelf.
Read more about the company and Weleda products here http://www.weleda.co.uk/
Photo credit and Copyright: Weleda UK Ltd