Fine-tuning our workstyle to avoid a new phenomenon – death by conference call.

Office workers have been catapulted into the biggest ever remote working experiment during the global pandemic. How are employees adapting to the new normal of working from home full time — and how can we fine-tune our workstyle to avoid a new phenomenon: Death by Conference Call?

New research reveals productivity, happiness and office culture are booming with the shape of the office set to change forever:

  • Almost 3/4 (71%) of office bosses are pleasantly surprised by team productivity during lockdown despite more than half (54%) being nervous about their teams remote working before the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Over half (52%) say their organisations are MORE productive remote working than in an office — a surprise to almost 3/4 of bosses
  • Nearly 2/3 (58%) of office workers say remote working provides them with more autonomy to do their job in a way that suits them
  • 1/4 (25%) believe they’ll remote work at least half the time after the pandemic is over (compared to 10% before)
  • 70% of business owners and 78% of senior management agree ‘remote working is the future of my organisation’. 34% of business owners are considering moving to an entirely remote office

Nice to have some good news, especially as the lockdown measures (and remote working) look set to continue indefinitely. The study, conducted by Hoxby, a virtual agency and consultancy on the future of work, also found:

Effective Working: 71% of office workers think their employer is well set up for remote working. Almost 2/3 (58%) say remote working provides them with more autonomy to do their job in a way that suits them, rising to 63% of those in a managerial position. Only 19% say they prefer being in an office.

Happiness: 57% of managers think remote working is good for mental health, with only 14% recognising any adverse effects. Two-thirds of office workers agree that though the current situation is challenging in other ways, they are enjoying the fact that remote work means they can spend more time with their family, rising to 72% of those with young children. Only 8% say teams seem unhappy as a result of remote working.

Office culture: Over half (55%) of office managers say office culture is just as strong as ever, with office chat continuing just in a different form. Only 18% of office remote workers have seen any negative impact.

The future is now
So, will this signal the end of 9–5 office culture? 1/4 of workers think they will remote work at least half the time after the outbreak, compared with just 10% before and 12% of the workforce say they’ll be working entirely remotely after the outbreak, compared to 4% previously.

Before the pandemic, 45% of office workers surveyed were required to be in the office ‘at all times.’ This is expected to fall to just 27%.

How might UK offices change shape?
70% of business owners and 78% of senior management agree that “remote working is the future of my organisation.” The lockdown has led to many reviewing how their businesses are structured. 42% plan to reduce the amount of office space they need. 49% think they’ll encourage more remote working. 34% are considering moving to an entirely remote office.

We still need to fine-tune remote working
48% of office workers admit they’re relying on conference calls too much and would like to learn more about other working practices rising to 63% amongst business leaders. 44% of workers are on conference calls “most of the day”, 54% of those who are managers. Junior team members need more support with set up.

Stuck in the 9–5
It seems we’re stuck in the 9–5 mentality, a throwback from the industrial age. 77% of business leaders expect their teams to work similar hours. Only 12% are trying to buck this trend for their teams, i.e. trying to escape the shackles of presenteeism. 34% of senior managers said remote working was something they wanted to do more of but felt they should be ‘seen’ to be in the office.

Great to see such positive outcomes after just five weeks of lockdown — with no practice run! I hope companies take this on board and rethink how they operate. As the founders of Hoxby, Lizzie & Alex point out, “Changing working practices is about putting people, their lives, their work, their mental health, all of these things centre stage… To avoid the ‘death by conference call phenomenon’ and ‘coat on the back of the chair’ expectations of presenteeism… “Organisations need to keep a watch on remote working practices and evolve and better them by gaining a deeper understanding of technology and virtual leadership.”

It’s time to leave the industrial age behind and adopt digital age working methods to improve diversity, productivity, and wellbeing — happy workers tend to be loyal ones. This shows remote is the future of work and there’s no going back, so it’s just a matter of fine-tuning our methods. It’s is an opportunity for companies to trailblaze with workstyles that are more flexible, more productive, and more enjoyable.

Use this time to get your head around new technologies, build online communities, and do things differently. There are more effective ways of working that may cost less. If it’s working well why would we want to go back to the old way of doing things?

Hoxby has a #RemoteAgainstCoronavirus campaign for a better remote working strategy. I recommend these articles:

Recognise that Remote Working is not the Same as Working from Home

Focus on wellbeing and mental health — The importance of, and practical tips for, looking after your mental health during the crisis.

Don’t be paranoid and start to view success based on output — five rules for leading remote teams.

The importance of building virtual communities and community engagement.

Hoxby’s remote working strategic approach.

Censuswide researched 1,003 office workers currently working through the pandemic between 22/4–27/4/20.

Photo by Georgie Clarke.

The Shift Newsletter

Why subscribe?

An independent publication about remote work, creativity, and crafting a meaningful life – created by Nicci Talbot.

Remember Y2K? A year of international alarm and predications of widespread chaos as soon as the clock turned to 2000. Computers would malfunction, banking would go down. Families were holed up in bunkers with 12 cans of spam. NBC made a movie about it

I was in Sydney for New Year’s Eve 1999. I went out to watch the fireworks on the harbour, one eye on the clock, wondering if I’d make it home. 

Thanks to the collective effort of programmers and analysts, nothing major happened. The fireworks went off. Sydney celebrated. I got the night bus home and went back to work at Foxtel the next day. The day’s most historic moment was actually the resignation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin. 

There was no Y2K explosion that night, but since then we’ve gone down a digital rabbit hole. 

The internet has revolutionised how we work, rest and play. 

It’s democratised many things. Social media has given us all a voice and callout culture. Free education – why spend a fortune on courses when we have YouTube and podcasts? The net has launched careers and businesses. Meet the influencer economy – the DIY generation who don’t ask for validation, they just do it. Learning on the job and sharing their lessons in public. And they have as much clout, if not more, than mainstream media. 

Journalism runs on a dated, broken business model that relies on advertising, volume, & PPC. That model may be broken, but journalism isn’t. We will always need quality content and storytelling. Digital innovation has forced the industry to be more creative with quality entrepreneurship, long-form writing, and investigative pieces.

Happily, we’re seeing a few alternatives with new media models. Platforms like Ghost, Substack, Patreon, and Kickstarter are empowering creators to write for niche audiences who are willing to pay for curated content that serves them. The last 10 years have seen a flood of content and we can’t keep up. The next step is relying on people we trust to filter good information for us. We’re seeing a newsletter renaissance – reporters setting up their own ‘mini media empire’ and writers have become influencers.

When political leadership is weak, we look to brands to step up – it’s been happening across the world with #BlackLivesMatter. Brands have also become influencers. Netflix, Amazon and Spotify are producing more original content and building niche communities, which makes them less reliant on digital giants. 

I find these new publishing models exciting. There are enormous possibilities for creators to build something progressive that can grow and change, and to collaborate with others.  

This is my next ‘book’.

I’ll be exploring the future of work, creativity, indie business, and the knowledge economy—different ways of living and working, and how to craft a meaningful life. 

If you’re interested in what I’m doing, sign up to be an early adopter of The Shift and help support indie publishing.

I’d love to share your ideas and input.

Subscribe now

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Nestlé – The Science of Growing Up Happy

The client: Nestlé Lactogen brand.

The brief: A book on children’s health for 0-5 years. “The Science of Growing Up Happy”. Chapters covered developmental milestones for each period, 0-6 mo, 7-12 mo, 1-3 yr and 3-5 yr. Tips, advice, humour, key information for first-time mums. A full-time project over eight months.

How I did it: Translated scientific texts into an engaging narrative, created tone of voice, to fit the target reader – first-time mums in international markets. I did additional research and made suggestions for topics not covered in the source material. Editing & proofreading. 

Results: Team… It’s been such a long long long journey… from the day we were briefed till today.

A HUGE THANK YOU to all of those that were part of this project, that even with the tears it caused, it came to a beautiful outcome. You can count with us that we will make our best for the markets to apply it and use it the best possible way.

Special thanks to the Publicis Health team – Laurence, Jérôme and his team of fighters – the book is simply beautiful and it became the quality benchmark for the brand.

Nicola and Nicci, I am not a mom, and yet, you made me laugh and enjoy reading about poo and constipation!!

And Mara and Linna, without whom I would have thrown myself out of the window several times… gracias equipo de guerreras dorados!

And now, “grab a cup of tea and enjoy!” Read more


The GCVA blog offers up to the minute news and opportunities for the gift card industry. Our aim is to give you an overview of what’s happening in our sector – from what we’re seeing at the heart of it – as well as giving you an insight into all the different personalities and perspectives via guest posts from our community. Do have a read to stay up to date with the latest industry news and views, and get in touch if you’d like to contribute.

No limits – we aim to keep pushing the boundaries – so enjoy.

Catch up with the latest blogs here.

GCVA Annual Review 2020

On November 7, 2019, at our AGM we launched our new strategy, comprising of three pillars: Thought Leadership, Products /Services & International, with our wonderful membership, which now counts over 90 of the key players in the gift card industry and is at the heart of all we do.

As a further reflection of these new pillars, we also rebranded as the
Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA). Despite unprecedented business
conditions, our ongoing pledge is to be a one-stop resource for members to collaborate, share ideas and find out what is happening in
the industry. To this end, we have continued to work with our members to champion the ever-rising gift card industry and its importance in the shifting customer landscape.

So far this year we’ve held our GCVA Conference 2020 – our biggest and best event to date – and launched our inaugural Valuing the Industry Research, which revealed the UK gift card market is now worth £6.9 billion.
What’s more, we have a full calendar of events and initiatives planned out for the next few months; the details of which we can’t wait to share with you.

The gift card industry has responded magnificently to the challenge of the ‘new normal’. It’s great to see how many members have taken action, pulling together and quickly launching initiatives to support the
NHS, frontline workers and the retail and hospitality industries. We, the GCVA, are the foundation, the organisation continuing to bring the industry together, drive it forward and everything in-between. We are very proud
to be at the heart of such an active, dynamic and supportive sector.

Gail Cohen, Director General, GCVA Eoin Whyte, Executive Chair, GCVA

Read the full report here.

5 Reasons to Work With Hoxby

With more businesses following government guidelines and working remotely, the chances are you’ll be operating like this for a bit longer – at least until those health & safety regs are in place. The lockdown has led to the world’s biggest experiment in remote working – and many bosses have been surprised by how well it’s working. It’s given us time to review how we operate, analyse strengths and weaknesses, and question processes. What’s clear is that businesses need to have a virtual model and a flexible, tech-savvy workforce to keep things going in a crisis. There are dozens of online freelance talent platforms to choose from – and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. So, where do you start? How do you find top talent? 

Here are five reasons to work with Hoxby.

  1. A pioneering, strategic approach to remote working

Unlike other management consultancies, we run an organisation fit for the future of work. We’ve developed our model and learned how to run remote teams efficiently – growing to become a £1 million+ turnover business in just five years. We have a four-stage strategy to help organisations plan for, implement, mitigate, and learn how to be more productive when remote working. Check out our social media campaign #remoteagainstcoronavirus for ideas and best practice. 

We’re also a purpose-led organisation with a mission: to create a happier, more fulfilled society through a world of work without bias. We take a holistic approach to what we do, which sets us apart from platforms that don’t invest in their people or provide a community where they can learn from each other. We also plough 75% of our profits back into the collective to help change the world of work. Since we started in 2015, we’ve had 20,000 applications to join, such is the demand for flexible working.

We work collaboratively as teams to get to the core of your brief, pull it apart, examine it, get the community’s perspective, and bring you back a plan. We work across all areas of business – marketing, admin, HR, PR, innovation, & creative, and provide a #futureproofing consultancy service.

  • A global network of talent 

Quality over quantity. We have more than 1,000 handpicked experts working remotely across 40 countries. “Our latest creative project team has people from Ireland, South Africa, Italy, France, Sweden, Germany, Portugal, and England. This has given cultural and creative insight as I have never experienced before. Everyone brings a different perspective and their own unique creativity,” says Pat Tierney, Hoxby’s Creative Director. 

We select freelancers based on their skill, expertise, shared values, and our ability to provide enough paid work for people via the platform (applications open quarterly). As of August 2019, 32% of Hoxbies were in paid work – via clients or internally. This is a lot higher than other freelance platforms/intermediaries, which typically create work for 3-4% of their people. Freelancers also earn a commission when they refer a client to the community.

Our model enables us to match the right people to each project, through a rigorous selection process – freelancers do a trial test before they can pitch for projects and then work in teams. So, you’ll be working with a community of experts with a shared #workstyle and common values.

  • A model that works 

Our client portfolio includes global brands like Unilever, Merck, AIA and Amazon Web Services through scale-ups like the football streaming platform MyCujoo. Xeco asked us to help them launch a new sherry to the market and rebrand that old-fashioned image of ‘Granny’s drink served at Christmas’. We needed a brand that would shake things up, build on the history of the category and bring it up to date with a bang – as a modern cosmopolitan drink. Hovis asked us to develop ideas for its Taste Sensations sub-brand to appeal to more discerning ‘foodies’. So, we worked with a chef from a Michelin-starred restaurant to create ‘signature serves’ for three flavours to provide inspiration. See more Hoxby projects here

  • Agile, scalable solutions

Our freelancers collaborate across time zones using cloud-based systems, (Google Meets, Slack, Zoom), which is as effective as working in the same room. It means the work is transparent and we can integrate seamlessly with your teams. It also gives you an insight into best practice for remote working, useful tools and platforms, and how to use them effectively – see our crash guide to using Slack. There are no hidden costs for workspace or training. We invest every penny into the people working for you and your business.

  • Passionate people 

As individuals, Hoxbies choose what they work on so are invested in your project and will give more than their time to ensure you succeed. We also talent match, so you get the right mix of age, experience, knowledge, interest and enthusiasm. There’s no additional fee for working with senior people. You’ll get an engaged workforce who are passionate about what they do and working in a way that motivates them. We are free from tired agency hierarchies and focus on outputs…rather than job titles – the future of work.

Our new survey shows that 78% of senior management agree that “remote working is the future of my organisation”. Estimates suggest that more than half the working UK, EU, and US populations will be working outside traditional work models during the next five years – as freelancers and contractors. So, businesses need to be remote ready – and not just for a pandemic! It’s been described as the freelance revolution 3.0 – first: online platforms, second: niche platforms, third: freelance communities with shared values and teamwork. We can help you evolve for the future of work, so you can attract and retain the best brains. 

We can’t wait for you to work with us in this new way. 

Nicci Talbot writes about the future of work, business, and creativity; she is part of the Hoxby community. 

Find out more about our work at Hoxby. If you’d like support, send us an email at

5 Benefits of Blogging for Business

It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have – multinational, SME or creative solopreneur, you still need to be blogging regularly to help drive new (and returning) traffic to your website. These days, it’s crucial to have a strong web and social media presence to grow your brand – and having a blog is a smart, strategic way to do it. If you’re thinking about starting a blog and wondering what it will do for your company, read on.

Here’s how blogging can benefit your business.

1. Helps drive website traffic for free

Want more website visitors? Of course, you do! But if people don’t know the name of your business or product, how will they find you online? People don’t generally read blogs – they use keywords to research a product/service or solve a problem. If you’re providing unique and relevant content on your site, search engines will index it, so it’s easily found. Figure out what your customer is looking for, common problems, post useful articles and then share them on social media, so word gets around. Do this repeatedly, and your business will grow organically.

One of the advantages of blogging over paid advertising is that it’s free – you’re providing useful information for as long as your site is live. Tip: set yourself a publishing schedule and stick to it to show search engines that your website is active and needs frequently scanning for quality content.

2. Traffic becomes leads

Once you start publishing regular content on your blog, you’ll naturally attract new readers and return visitors. Always add a call to action to your posts to turn them into leads. Ask them to download a free e-book or white paper in return for their email address, so you can send follow up e-shots. Direct them to your products and services page or ask them to test a new product. You can set small targets and monitor analytics to see which of your posts are getting the most traction and engagement and then create more content around those themes. Tip: make sure people can subscribe to your blog, leave comments, and add share buttons so they can share content on their social channels.

3. Blogging brands you as an expert

Blogging positions you as an expert in your field, and someone others can come to for advice on a subject. If you share useful content that solves a problem or helps people improve their lives or business in some way, they will refer you to others as an authority and send more leads your way. It’s also an excellent platform for thought leadership – share your views on business (as well as your products) to engage your reader and grow your audience. Blogging can lead to new opportunities – more shares on social media, a speaking gig or even a column in a business publication. It also helps you to build authority and trust with customers. If your salespeople don’t know the answer to a question, they can refer a client to the blog as a helpful resource to help speed up the sales process. Tip: Share your opinions and take a position on things – don’t just sit on the fence – to help you stand out from the competition!

4. Scalable business blogging

One of the joys of blogging is that it’s scalable. It’s a good investment of your time as it keeps on working for you. If you write a blog and share it on social media, you’ll get a few click-throughs every time you share it. It will rank on search engines over the coming months and be a continual source of traffic and leads whenever someone searches for info on that topic. Unlike social media, a blog is on your website as long as you want it to be – a knowledge resource for visitors and your team. Tip: Create some evergreen posts about your products or services that aren’t time-sensitive and update them periodically to keep them fresh. HubSpot recommends that we focus on creating ‘compounding blog posts’ which solve problems, e.g. ‘how’ or ‘why’ in the title) as their traffic grows steadily over time.

5. Press & PR coverage

Having everything in one place on your blog (company news, personal stories, ideas & opinions) makes it easier for journalists to quickly find what they need to write about you and your business. Blogs should be open for comments to help you generate new business ideas and test out new products before you commit to spending money on them. Clients and journalists want to read about the people behind a brand, and a blog is an ideal platform for this as the tone is conversational and intimate. Take your reader on a journey and involve them in your business story and they will become loyal clients and share your content for you.

Are you interested in creating a blog for your business? We produce daily content for clients large and small to help them build brand awareness and drive sales. CONTACT

Berlin is the start-up capital of Europe (with one starting every 20 minutes!)

Black Label Properties has teamed up with vpmk Rechtsanwälte Legal Services to offer a dual service to help entrepreneurs set up a company and obtain a residency permit in one application. The combination of ‘Company Foundation Service’ together with ‘Residents’ Permit for Entrepreneurs’ is quite unique to vpmk and has been launched in response to an increase in enquiries from freelancers and start-ups looking to relocate to the city because of the political situation in the UK and US. Each service can be applied for separately or together in one full package to speed up the immigration process and help entrepreneurs get their businesses up and running more quickly.   

Stephanie Dufner, immigration lawyer and specialist at vpmk explains how the visa process for non-EU nationals works in Germany, and what you need to do to ensure your application is successful.

What type of enquiries do you get?

We get a lot of enquiries from self-employed entrepreneurs who want to set up their own company in Berlin. Also from foreign nationals who have an employment contract with a company based in Germany and need help getting the right work permit, and companies who have found an employee and need help with obtaining the most suitable work permit We also get lots of enquiries from high-qualified candidates who are looking for job seekers’ visa which gives them six months to find a job, and from people who are looking to obtain residence permits for family members (spouses and minors) so they can raise their family here. 

We’re also getting a lot of enquiries about the Blue Card EU, which is a special residence and work permit for highly qualified people. To get one you need to have a university degree that’s recognised or equivalent to a German degree and be on a certain salary level. It can be transferred to a permanent residence permit within 21 months if the person is at B1 language level or 33 months for A1 language level. Blue Cards are much quicker than the general visa process. In effect, you could get it within 1-2 weeks.  

Have you had more enquiries since Brexit and the US election?

When the Brexit vote was announced, there was an increase in enquiries especially for UK citizens who are in Germany and worried about being able to stay, so they have been asking us about German citizenship. We’ve also had lots of Americans contacting us who would like to get out of the US due to the political situation and are looking for longer-term visas – three years or more.

People can apply for German citizenship if they have lived here for eight years, in exceptional cases with good “integration” proofs even earlier. Currently there are issues around dual citizenship – in general this is not possible in Germany – but I think there will be an exception for UK citizens post Brexit and we will negotiate a way for people to keep both. We know the rules and local offices and can help clients get German citizenship. We can try to help you to keep your natural citizenship – if there is a reason accepted by the law – and do everything to be successful.

How does the application process work?

We get lots of email enquiries. The first consultation is done in our offices in Berlin or Stuttgart or via Skype/Phone if the client is overseas or prefers that. This is popular as it’s convenient for people and we have multilingual staff who speak English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian and Ukrainian. We answer their questions and then develop a strategy to work out which type of visa is best. They sign a service agreement and we send the client a list of documents we need to get started.

For the entrepreneur / self-employed visa we need to see a business plan (we also have contacts who can help you with this) and it needs to be very specific. We would do some pre-clearing to make sure it’s an acceptable idea to minimise the risk of rejection. Tricky businesses include restaurants as we have so many in Berlin already – even ‘national kitchens’. Successful applications include IT start-ups and tech businesses, which Berlin is known for. These have a good success rate.

How long does it take?  

A Blue Card Visa can be obtained within a week or two if a person qualifies for one and is at the right salary level. This is because it’s issued by the embassy without involving  other offices (immigration or labour office). The entrepreneur / self-employed visa takes longer – up to three months – because the Senate of Economy or the Chamber of Commerce are usually involved. We are currently pushing this in favour of our clients and trying to speed things up.  

How much does it cost?

It varies depending on the type of visa. Our fees start at 1,500 EUR for the whole residence and work permit or Blue Card process and approx. 2,500 EUR for the self-employed / entrepreneurial visa. The Company Foundation Service starts from 2,500 EUR. Family Member Immigration starts from 500 EUR per family member. We offer a transparent, flat-fee package service for clients so there are no hidden costs.

What else do you offer?

We have a new dual service for entrepreneurs and start-ups that’s unique to our law firm and helps with company foundation and a residence permit in the same process. We can help with the business set up and personal immigration process, which helps speed things up. My colleagues Volker Mauch and Lars Kroidl handle the company formation and our attorneys Christoph von Planta, Katja Ponert and of course me process the residence permits. It’s proving very popular as it’s convenient for clients to be able to use one law firm for the entire process. 

We also support the companies after the foundation with their contractual needs like employment contracts etc.

Also, we have opened a new vpmk office in Stuttgart this year, with main focus on assisting companies with the work permits and Blue Cards for their foreign employees. Due to the strong economy in the south-western part of Germany the companies there suffer from a lack of skilled employees and are recruiting more and more abroad.

Any tips for success?

Please bring original certificates with you – degree, marriage and birth certificates etc., best with an apostille on it. Germans are crazy about original documents! Most people have the certificates hanging on their parents’ wall so please take them down and bring them with you! This will speed things up, as they can be hard to obtain once you are here.


Notes for editors:

  1. Berlin is the best city to launch a start-up (European Start-up Initiative) – low cost of establishing a start-up, international city with a young, talented demographic and friendly eco-system) – Davos World Economic Forum.
  2. 22,800 jobs were created in the tech industry between 2008-2015. Berlin’s share of the digital economy has grown from 4.8% to 18% (Karla Leyendecker – Branch co-ordinator for construction and real estate industry at the Berlin Chamber of Commerce).
  3. Berlin has the highest number of self-employed in Germany and is the start-up capital with one starting every 20 minutes!
  4. For more information on the immigration process, please contact Stephanie Dufner at vpmk Rechtsanwälte Legal Services on +49 30 536 33 990 or + 49 711 252 69 370 and visit
  5. Black Label Properties is a leading international Berlin realtor and property management agency. We offer a full-service package for individuals and companies looking to relocate, which includes financial brokerage. For further comment and case studies, please contact or call 0208 133 1829.

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High 50 – The artisan perfumers who are changing the fragrance industry. Plus: top five niche scents

Perfume. Artisan fragrances. Papillon PerfumeryLiz Moores’ Papillon Perfumery scents contain ingredients that the big perfume brands don’t use

The market in artisan perfumes has grown rapidly as we learn more about how it’s made and seek something unique. We discover the perfumers and the fragrances behind the change

When Sophie Dahl posed naked for the YSL Opium ad in 2000 the ASA had more than 900 complaints. It was pulled from billboards presumably to avoid distracting drivers but continued to run in fashion mags.

Since then there have been plenty more controversial perfume ads: in 2007 Terry Richardson styled a porno chic ad for Tom Ford For Men, which featured close-up shots, and in 2011 Marc Jacobs’ Oh Lola! ad featuring 17-year-old Dakota Fanning was pulled after complaints that it sexualised children.

The fragrance market is worth around £26bn worldwide and £1.5bn in Europe annually, according to a recent report in Management Today, with just five companies owning most of the market.

Sophie Dahl in YSL Opium perfume advert
Remember this ad with Sophie Dahl for Opium? Today there’s a more thoughtful niche perfume market that doesn’t use sex to sell

The past decade has seen a rise in niche perfumers, says Michael Edwards, author of Fragrances of the World. In 2004, 139 artisan perfumers were created and this has risen to 441 in 2014.

Actual figures are hard to pin down but the Observer recently published a news story on indie perfumers, with figures from market research group NPD suggesting that the £150-plus segment of the couture market (including artisan perfumes) grew by 35 per cent in 2014.

The trend for celebrity perfumes is waning and even classic designer brands seem a little out of touch, with clichéd ads and big spending. Brad Pitt was reportedly paid $7 million for endorsing Chanel No.5 in an ad that was described as “embarrasingly awful” by The Week.

The backlash was not directed at Brad for taking the cash (who wouldn’t?), but at big brands for paying this kind of sum for celebrity endorsement in times of austerity.


Perfume. Artisan perfumers UK
Artisan perfumers Liz Moores, Sarah McCartney, Lizzie Olstrom, Ruth Mastenbroek and Nancy Meiland (clockwise from left)

Kerry Voke, fragrance stylist at Perfumology, thinks niche brands are a positive thing. “There’s a trend of boredom in the market, with the same old predictable marketing campaigns around Christmas time.”

Lizzie Ostrom from Odette Toilette, who hosts perfume events using a variety of different brands (like a wine tasting but for scent), says there’s been a move away from using sex to sell perfumes and that niche is about “inspiring sensory reverie or attentive thought” as per religious experience.

Artisan perfumes can be better quality, as they tend to use a higher concentration of natural ingredients and extracts that last longer. Sarah McCartney is an independent London-based perfumer who sells creatively named perfumes like The Dark Heart of Old Havana, Tart’s Knicker Drawer, and The Sexiest Scent. Ever. (IMHO).

She is aiming to grow her business organically, without the need for backers, as that would potentially mean less control over the business. She is passionate about inspiring women to try new scents, saying: “I’m 55 and I’ve noticed my contemporaries have often got stuck with a scent in their 20s and 30s and gone for a safe option, but later begin to explore. I encourage women to look a little wider.”

Artisan perfumers. Sarah McCartney. 4160Tuesdays
Sarah McCartney loves encouraging women to get out of a perfume rut and look a little wider than the obvious brands


Consumer habits are also changing, says Stephen Weller, director of comms at the International Fragrance Association: “People understand more about the art of perfumery, that it’s complex and valuable, and they are seeking out innovative brands.” We are learning more through perfume blogs; perfume swapping communities and online subscription services like The Perfume Society.

You don’t have to have a degree in chemistry or study in Grasse to become a qualified perfumer any more. There are training courses UK universities and companies such as Cotswold Perfumery and Plush Folly. The end product can be marketed inexpensively using social media and craft websites like Etsy and Notonthehighstreet.

Mavericks are shaking up the stuffy world of perfume and about time too; it’s been a secretive world for far too long. I’ve often wondered if PR departments actually know what’s in some of the big brand perfumes or how they are made.

“We don’t have the same hang-ups around tradition as our neighbours in France,” says Sarah. “[They] are so busy arguing about where you should study – the battle between north and south France – and arguing about who is a proper perfumer.

“In the meantime the rest of the world is getting on with it. Fortunately the market is big enough for all of us to dabble.”


Alquemie Perfume A new range of five ‘gorgeously global’ perfumes handmade by Rosie Harness in St Leonards on Sea

4160Tuesdays A micro-perfumery run by Sarah McCartney that likes to create perfume that reminds people of happy times and interesting places

Nancy Meiland Parfums A perfumer and trained nose who has just launched her new Paper Leaf collection of three fragrances at Roullier White

Papillon Perfume Liz Moores creates exquisite perfumes using raw materials and exotic spices not used in conventional perfumery

Ruth Mastenbroek A niche English perfumer who created fragrances for major brands before launching her own business

The artisan perfumers who are changing the fragrance industry. Plus: top five niche scents