A long time fan of the brand, Alessandro started his Lush career in 2001 as a copywriter and brand ambassador in Italy
JH: Why was it important for LUSH to launch the GAY IS OK campaign?
A: About two years ago, the press was full of sad news for LGBT+ people: the fight for equality was facing new challenges in places like Russia, Uganda and even the United States. Our staff and customers felt very passionate about these issues and asked us to make a stance – and so we did our first #SignofLove campaign. At that point I had to confront a sad reality: Lush has almost 100 shops where running that campaign would have been illegal, and our staff security could have been at risk. When we spoke to our charity partner, All Out, they told us that in 75 countries being gay is illegal and in 10 it can cost you your life. This was shocking, how can love be illegal? We developed #GayIsOK to raise awareness and developed a charity soap that was actually illegal to sell in around 100 of our shops simply because it has the word ‘gay’ on it. The response has been overwhelming, and even if a lot of victories are happening on this side of the world, this is a reminder that there’s a long way to go for global equality.
JH: Who came up with the design?
As usual at Lush, it was a collaborative effort. I came up with the concept of the soap and our R&D team made up samples in different colours in the Lush lab. When we tried to take selfies, only the bars filled with golden lustre would show the hashtag clearly in the pictures – it was meant to be sparkly. Our design team worked on the mugshots that we used in the windows and on social media, and some of them are actually featured in them! They seemed very happy to lend their faces to a good cause.
JH: Are LGBT employees encouraged to bring product ideas forward?
A: You don’t always need to invent new products for a campaign, and a lot of Lush product are already full of love, rainbows and glitter! For instance our recent campaign for marriage equality in Ireland was developed by John, the manager of one of our Dublin stores, and we asked customers and allies to take a say YES to equality by taking a selfie with our “Yes Yes Yes” solid massage bar which has a fat big YES engraved on it.
JH: Some people criticise corporations for jumping on what they consider the “pink pound”, what do you feel about that?
A: Every little helps – but turning a logo into a rainbow for a week definitely doesn’t make a company more diverse or friendly. The work on equality within organisations starts from the people within it. If there’s a real commitment, I see companies and brands playing a crucial role in educating the public, creating policies and pushing for change alongside governments and charities.
JH: Lush linked up with AllOut recently, what was that like?
A: You just need to subscribe to their newsletter on AllOut.org to figure out that they’re absolutely on it. They are a small organisation but they use the internet to reach over two million members, at least one in each country of the world, and achieved amazing things. For instance, they managed to get Chinese LGBT+ activists released from jail, convinced the International Olympics Committee to consider equality criteria for countries that want to host the games and are currently campaigning to stop damaging “Gay Cure” therapies. Most of All Out members campaign on LGBT+ rights for the first time, just like many Lush staff or customers.
JH: Basically the soap smells gorgeous, who decided the smell of gay acceptance would be so fruity and fresh?
A: We used to make a perfume called Love and this was the perfect opportunity to resume it from the Lush archives. The soap smells of love, in every sense. It also contains lovely oils of bergamot and lemon that we buy in Italy – the country where I come from and that is still lagging behind on LGBT+ rights. A gentle nudge to the Italians won’t do any harm.
JH: Are there more products in the pipeline?
A: My lips are sealed! But for those who want to use their hard earned cash to make a difference, I suggest to check out our Charity Pot. It’s a lovely hand and body lotion made with beautiful ingredients grown sustainably around the world, such as like aloe vera from Kenya and Colombian cocoa butter. All sales (excluding VAT) go to grassroots charities working on human rights (including LGBT rights), animal rights and environmental causes.
JH: How important is social media to Lush?
A: Social media is at the core of Lush and its campaigning effort. It helps us reach more people and is a democratic space for debate and feedback with the public. Our community is very engaged and especially supportive when talking about LGBT+ rights. With this campaign alone we had a direct social reach of over thirty million – with an extra forty million thanks to all those that used the hashtag #GayIsOK as part of their celebrations about marriage equality in the US.
JH: Complete this: Gay Is Ok Because…
… because LGBT rights are human rights. And how on earth can anyone be entitled to fiddle with those.