In conversation with

Nneka Fleming

Founder Of Novel Skincare

Introduction

Introduction

The rise of clean, natural and sustainable skincare brands is paving the way for customers to focus on how they feel over the way they look. While the messaging might have good intentions, it doesn’t always feel genuine or accessible.

Nneka Fleming, founder of Novel Skincare – who likens your body to “the best story you’ve ever read” – takes on a more relatable tone, while pulling in literary references for a dream-like effect.

“There are so many untold stories in beauty. And while the beauty industry was focused on colour cosmetics, for me skincare is more personal. Skin connects us and sets us apart. Your skin tells your story.”

We spoke to Nneka about connecting the world of books to skincare, Novel’s tone of voice and the challenges of building a brand in the beauty industry.

Question and Answer

What books were you drawn to growing up? 

Biographies, autobiographies and semi-autobiographical books. Unusually about artists, playwrights and activists from Bob Dylan to Tennessee Williams to Nelson Mandela. I couldn’t get enough of them and I still find them fascinating. We’re all stories in the end.

Why did you decide to connect literature with beauty for Novel Skincare? 

We started at a time when libraries were closing up and down the country. I was working in the creative industry, connecting beauty brands with artists when I realised there are so many untold stories in beauty. And while the beauty industry was focused on colour cosmetics, for me skincare is more personal. Your skin reflects how you live, what you eat, how much sleep you get. Skin connects us and sets us apart. Your skin tells your story.

Sustainability is at the heart of Novel, but you’ve also created a message and a tone that doesn’t force the issue too much. Was that deliberate?

Yes, sustainability is the future now and it makes sense that we embody that. When the customer is ready they will find us and we will be ready for them. Also, we think sounding preachy about the virtues of sustainability or natural ingredients can be a turn off and is the reason sustainability can sound so exclusive. Our message is to be inclusive and focus on the way skincare makes you feel.

“It’s a very noisy industry and like a quiet girl reading a book in the corner we are often over-looked; but that doesn’t deter us because we know who we are. We know not everyone wants to be part of that noise.”

What is your approach to marketing and telling your brand story? 

We’re an independent skincare brand so there’s no big marketing budget. We rely on recommendations and word of mouth, which means our growth is slow and organic – but that’s a charming quality too. I think our customers like to feel they’ve discovered something special.

What challenges have you faced building a brand in the beauty industry? 

It’s a very noisy industry and like a quiet girl reading a book in the corner we are often over-looked; but that doesn’t deter us because we know who we are. We know not everyone wants to be part of that noise. And the beauty industry seems to ignore anyone over the age of 25 too, so we’ve found our quiet corner and we like it.

Novel’s tone of voice is very soothing and compassionate. How would Novel talk to its friend when they’re having a bad day? 

I think we all just want to be listened to and a little bit understood. So we take our time with a friend and just listen. Our message is “we read you”. When you take a shower or have a bath or moisturise your face or hands it is a very intimate act. We have been invited into a private moment. We recognise that and we show it.

Your products have names like Platonic Dialogue and Stream Of Consciousness. How did you approach naming and how should they affect the way you want your customers to feel? 

We want our customers to feel like they are part of a really good book they don’t want to put down. We call our products Chapters, a blend of words and natural ingredients, so our customers can relax and see their bodies, with all their beautiful character-flaws, as part of their story.

What are three questions that you asked yourself when building this brand and coming up with its story, tone and messaging? 

What is your story, how does it show on your skin and how can we make you feel like your body is the best story you’ve ever read.

Nneka's Storylist

Books

  1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  2. Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
  3. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  4. Ways Of Seeing by John Berger
  5. Lamb To The Slaughter by Roald Dahl
  6. Small Is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher
  7. Body And Soul by Anita Roddick
  8. Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Newsletters

  1. Room To Read

Podcasts

  1. Beauty Is Your Business
  2. How I Built This
Previous Story
Charlotte Williams

Founder of SevenSix Agency

Next Story
Holly Fraser
Holly Fraser

Content Director at WePresent

Articles

Featured storytellers

View all

Sign up to our newsletter