Lush responds to Lavender Hill Mob incense criticism

The UK retailer reveals staff were ‘afraid for their lives’ during riots

UK cosmetics brand Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics has revealed to Cosmetics Business that its Lavender Hill Mob Gorilla Perfume Incense packaging is purely a form of expression for the company, and that it has not received any customer complaints about the product since its launch in 2012.

The lavender and sandalwood incense has come under criticism in the past 24 hours – despite being on sale for three years – from various different groups and individuals. The incense, which was created in the aftermath of the 2011 London riots, depicts a burning building on its packaging as well as messages of peace such as “burn incense not cars”.

However, a social media backlash was sparked yesterday after Twitter user @LittleCarlyMy brought the incense to the attention of others on the social media channel, with various Twitter users then posting tweets of their own. @LoveBattersea1 tweeted: "Dear Lush – if you'd seen the fire & destruction on Lavender Hill you'd be ashamed".

Following the furor, Lush spoke to Cosmetics Business about its reasons behind the product launch, explaining that it was created out of a desire for peace and memory, and not meant to be insensitive.

Lush stated: “To us, our product is not just how we earn a living, it is our art, our form of expression; the tool we have with which to reach out to the world and have conversations and relationships. We find that whatever affects us and our lives usually works its way into our products.“

Lush explained that the product was not created out of ignorance as its staff were affected by the riots in different ways. “The London riots impacted Lush in many ways,” Lush explained. “It did not touch us financially, because despite being on several high streets that were affected, our shops were left intact – but we had staff cower, afraid for their lives, in the back of one of our shops as rioting crowds swept past outside. We also had staff and family members living in districts that were seriously impacted by rioting and looting, so we shared in the emotional fallout experienced by them and all who care for them.”

Lush acknowledges that a backlash to its products, which are often created in response to world events or charitable causes, are inevitable. It stated: “It is inevitable at Lush that at some point a product will pop out of these internal debates, because our work springs from our lives. In the case of the riots, it was an incense that one of us came up with, to bring these feelings and this conversation into being. We have never stopped talking about the riots within Lush. It was a shock to the system to see such violent rage erupt on the streets of England and it behoves all of us to keep discussing the issues that lead to this type of event, if we wish to prevent a repeat in the future. Above all, Lush wants to be part of an equal, free and peaceful society. We think our products, our campaigns and all our output reflects that wish. We hope that we don't offend too often in our well meaning but all too human musings on what it is to live in our life and times, in a fractured and imperfect world at a time of great threats and great change.”