Meet mother and daughter duo, Brigit and Juliet Blair from beauty brand Linden Leaves and discover what it's like to work together as a team. Editor Trudi Brewer spent a few hours at the Blair family home in a suburb in the Cashmere Hills of Christchurch.
Brigit and Juliet Blair at their family home in Christchurch
Like many of the most successful brands in the beauty business, Linden Leaves was born out of pure frustration. Brigit Blair’s children struggled with chronic eczema, but back in the 90s the only treatment on offer was steroid cream. With no natural alternative, the mother-of-three decided to make her own. That was in 1995. Fast-forward to 2019 and this NZ-made beauty brand is thriving. The company employs more than 20 full-time staff with offices in both the North Island, where daughter Juliet is creative director of the business, and in Brigit’s hometown of Christchurch in the South Island, where Linden Leaves was born.
You've been in business together for 20 years, how does the mother-daughter dynamic work? Do you ever have those moments when you say "I'm the boss!"
Brigit Blair: I hope not, no! I don't feel I am the boss. We're a team. I think Juliet probably says more what she thinks to me than she would to another member of staff. I couldn't do what Juliet does, I have no skills in that area at all. Of course it's lovely that she's my daughter but it doesn't matter.
Juliet Blair: We have very different roles in the business and we've lived in different cities the whole time. Before I had children we spent a lot of time discussing work when we were together, now that I have kids they're all over mum, so there's no space to talk to her about work!
Linden Leaves won Best New Zealand Beauty Brand at the magazine beauty awards in 2018, what's the best thing about working for the company you've built up?
JB: We get these gorgeous emails from people saying that a product has changed their life and that is very touching. We've grown a bit recently and added a few new staff and every one of them says they can't believe how much love the brand gets. When you've been working for a company for a long time you don't realise that's not the norm. Also the fact that people still choose our products for those really special gifts.
BB: I feel so lucky that it's a joy to come to work and be surrounded by such lovely people – that's very special.
Linden Leaves founder Brigit Blair and her daughter Juliet, creative director of the brand, in the garden of the family home in Christchurch
Where do you get your inspiration for new products, is it trend-focused or does it come from your customer base?
JB: A lot of them have come from requests from customers. We keep an eye on what's happening and any ideas that someone in the team has or that we have. We have a lot more ideas than we ever bring to market – if we could make all our ideas that would be amazing but we can't. Inspiration's not the tricky thing, it's getting the formula right, the packaging right, and also making sure it isn't just me or just one person who wants that product.
What's the top seller?
BB: The Memories Body Oil truly is our iconic product because it's been the bestseller for 25 years.
JB: Oils generally have become a lot more mainstream. That was another thing when we started out, people said, "What? You use it like moisturiser?" They would just assume it was a bath oil.
What's your favourite product?
BB: The oils definitely, but if I could take just one product it would be the Memories Oil, I do love that rose.
JB: For me it's probably the Miraculous Facial Oil.
BB: You can use oils for everything. Apart from moisturising you can use it to remove your makeup, you can put it in your hair, it helps your nails. I just like the feel of it and the way it absorbs really quickly. I love the routine of using it after the shower, it's no fuss, no bother. You're ready to go in five minutes.
Linden Leaves Instagram
What does beauty mean to you as women?
BB: I know what it doesn't mean to me, it doesn't mean Barbie-doll pretty. For me, beauty is the person and what they project not some standard of perfection. It's effortless and ingrained in them, they are not trying to be beautiful.
JB: People who are really beautiful just have that shine about them, there's something about them that is more than just how they look. It's also as much about how people feel as about how they look.
As a mum, what beauty advice have you passed on to Juliet?
BB: Just to do that basic care for your skin much earlier. We didn't do anything as teenagers except cover ourselves in coconut oil and fry. We never had a basic beauty routine to care for our skin. I actually get quite upset seeing these gorgeous girls going off to school covered in makeup. Their skin is so beautiful, they should enjoy it without covering it up. And sunscreen, no one used sunscreen when I was young. We didn't know the damage the sun was doing other than the fact you got burnt and got blisters. No one knew about melanomas. We always had this perception that to be brown was healthy, so there was a bit of competition in school to be the brownest with the most sun-bleached hair. It meant you'd had a jolly good Christmas holiday!
How would you describe your family home in Christchurch?
BB: Comfortable. It's there to be lived in, it's not a show home. It's quite a large house and really Dave and I don't need a house that size, but we often have family there so it's a very useful home in that sense. And I love my garden, in fact, I don’t like to go away at Christmas I prefer to spend time working and relaxing in the garden.
JB: There's lots of great entertaining spaces, a beautiful large garden, and there's always room if people want to come to stay.
What do you think makes a great interior?
BB: I think it has to be something you're comfortable with not because it's in magazines or in fashion. For me it has to be practical and easy to live in and somewhere other people feel comfortable being and not worrying that they're leaving a footprint!
What's your favourite room?
BB: Probably the sitting room, which we don't actually use very often, but there is a sense of peace in there and it does have a lovely view. In summer it looks straight out onto a pohutukawa tree, which is special in Christchurch because we don't have many of them.
Juliet’s daughters in Brigit’s sitting room in the family home.
Where do you get your interior inspiration?
BB: I have had a long connection with Korea, many years ago I imported Korean chests and antiques, which I love. And that Asian art and artistic influence is present in my home dècor style. I have continued that Korean connection with Linden Leaves, they were our first international market 25 years ago. Like all large homes, there is always lots to do around the house, my husband is retiring this year, so he's got a long to-do list!
Linden Leaves In Bloom hand cream on the bedside table at Brigit’s home in Christchurch
What do you always keep on your bedside table?
BB: I always have a book – though I quite often don't read it for some time! – and a pair of glasses so I can read it. Hand cream as well but it gets less and less as the grandchildren come.
JB: I used to always have a candle but that's gone until the kids get a bit older. One day I found one of them scraping all the wax out onto the carpet. Everything at that level in our house has been moved up. It's good in that it has made me quite minimalist because if stuff is left out it disappears!
What’s your most treasured possession?
BB: I'm not really into things. My children and grandchildren are what is important to me. After the earthquakes a lot of the precious things I had broke, so I thought, actually it's just stuff and it didn't really make any difference to my life, to be honest.
Below the Linden Leaves head office in Christchurch where the top-selling Memories Oil is a labour of love. Each bottle filled with heavenly rose oil that is locally grown at Moffatt’s Flower Company is hand-poured and boxed by the staff. Learn more about this natural beauty oil that has been hearing skin for 25 years here