Lush Spa opens in Glasgow: Mark Constantine OBE tells us about Nessie bath bombs and ditching social media

The new space has opened as part of their vast Glasgow City anchor store
Mark Constantine of LushMark Constantine of Lush
Mark Constantine of Lush

“It’s the Lush tartan,” says Lush co-founder and managing director, Mark Constantine OBE, when I ask him about his scarf.

I briefly believe him, but it turns out to just be a joke.

They may have Nessie themed bath bombs in the new shop, but there isn’t a signature tartan quite yet.

Mark Constantine of Lush behind the tillsMark Constantine of Lush behind the tills
Mark Constantine of Lush behind the tills
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Still, the Poole-based company owner has made the effort to dress appropriately, when it comes to launching the new spa in their four-storey Glasgow City anchor store, which opened in December.

As the therapy area is on the top floor, I have to pass through the 20,000 sq ft shop, and it’s absolutely hoaching. In its first month, it sold 150 bath bombs per hour.

This city is obviously full of Lushites.

Scotland’s high streets took a battering over lockdown, but maybe this is the start of a resurgence.

“Yes, and we’re part of it,” says 71-year-old former hairdresser Constantine, who’s travelled up from his home in Poole. “We’ve been thinking about which cities have art, and what city you’d want to open a store in. Also, when people come into the store and thank you for opening it, we’ve been getting that day after day downstairs. What a privilege. There's a strong culture in the city that wants to see things happen”.

He is very hands-on, and works as part of the product development team.

“That’s innovation, you have to work out what the customer really requires, and get on with it,” says Constantine, who might be described as the Willy Wonka of smellies.

Perhaps his synaesthesia helps when designing these things. Those who experience this sensory phenomenon find that one sense links to another, so you might taste or see colours when you hear certain words, for example.

I ask him what colour Glasgow is, but it’s not that clear cut.

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“It doesn’t work like that. I thought everybody was the same, I didn’t realise I was a bit weird. I’d ask people, when you smell that, does it go up that way, then across there,” he says, while gesturing in various directions. “Like coffee is quite spirally, isn’t it? They were like, really? Slowly I thought, I’ve got a thing. But I don’t see the really bright colours”.

His favourite new inventions include a sleepytime toothpaste.

He tells me that they’re also currently working on a vegan leather jacket perfume - “I’m wearing it today,” he says - and a lucky lip balm, Money Talks, which is supposed to attract cash towards its wearer. Constantine is known for taking a daily afternoon bath, and he loves using the brand’s face masks, while he soaks, as well as their CBD-infused products.

Part of the appeal of Lush, which Mark set up with his wife, Mo, and four friends, has always been its ethical credentials, which are way better than most. Nothing is tested on animals, they minimise packaging, make vegetarian or vegan recipes, and promise to safeguard the environment when buying ingredients.

The bestseller across our nine Scottish shops is their body lotion Charity Pot, where 100 per cent of the price goes to grassroots charity projects.

They don’t use Amazon - as they are “screwing everyone for everything”, he says - or pay any of the Meta companies for advertising.

In 2022, they even took the decision to stop posting on social media, including TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, until these platforms took more responsibility for their users and content.

This might seem self destructive, as the brand is especially appealing to young people. No doubt they will have lost sales.

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Still, Constantine, who was moved by the 3 Dads Walking suicide prevention campaign, felt that use of these platforms, who seem to act with impunity, can sometimes be detrimental to the mental health of young people.

“It looked like foolhardiness when we did it, but, as a dad and a grandad, you only have to think of your daughter or granddaughter. There’s a virtuous circle, and I’m still pleased about it,” he says.

Constantine, who started mail order business, Cosmetics to Go, followed by Lush in 1995, describes himself as a hippy.

He’s doubled down on that term. Recently, he read a critical article about the brand online, and someone had posted in the comments section that it was ‘made by hippies, for hippies’. Although the tone was dismissive, he was quite happy with that description.

Despite this, when it comes to the environment, his bathtub is half full.

“We were talking about this earlier on. There's a lovely new book by a Scot, Hannah Ritchie, and it’s called It’s Not the End of the World and is a very optimistic look at the planet,” he says. “I haven’t flown for years, but at Manchester Airport, it’s a 45-minute walk from where you sit to where you fly, halfway there, you’ve got a man and a lady in uniform, who say ‘not far now, sir, not far now, madam’ and that’s how we are, we’re just heading along. People get the most pessimistic at the bottom, and you can bounce along the bottom for a while”.

He also thinks that society in general is improving.

“I was brought up in a very violent culture,” he says. “If you look at modern society, how lovely has it become? I feel this great sense of improvement. I like the ‘woke’ society. I’m thinking of wearing a huge badge saying ‘woke’. How lovely is that? I never felt part of the other one”.

Lush Spa is now open at 98 Buchanan Street, Glasgow (0141 243 2522, www.lush.com)

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