Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Animals in Danger

Remember these? What ever happened to them. I still have a pencil tin and a pencil sharpener which I use to sharpen my green eye liner with. It has two blue bears on it with the Animals in Danger scripted in a wavy line across the top. I have had it for years.

I have tried in vain to find the artist
responsible for these designs so I can't really credit them!
The success of the unique brand of the Body Shop has always fascinated me - it is their rare approach to product development that draws me in. A child of the 1980s, I arrived at an age that was easily influenced by trends at a time when the Body Shop was probably hitting its peak. I remember at school the Body Shop became a fashionable icon. Everyone had their tote bags, their pencil cases and stickers on their books. As I have got older, I still see the living remnants of the movement, so many of my friends went into conservation and ecology with the belief that they could save the world. Many of my generation went on to do low paid work carrying the belief that it doesn't matter they weren't earning. The philanthropic philosophy of having a purpose and being responsible socially has lived on in all of us. We were the children who bought their soaps and soaked in bath tubs of ecological responsibility. 

Anita Roddick used to live very close to the place I grew up in from the age of nine near Amberley village, and every time we drove past her house I was reminded of her. We used to drive past the Body Shop factory in Littlehampton frequently in dad's 2CV van and I participated in their tours several times on school trips and with friends. It was an experience I revelled in, seeing all the bananas shipped in from the tropics being put into large vats to make their banana shampoo and watching all the mandarins being pulped. The smells were incredible. I think it would be right to say that Anita most certainly contributed to my love of plants and ethnobotany.

So yes, it is the ethos of The Body Shop that still plays on my mind repeatedly. I find it deeply moving that a brand such as theirs could have become as successful as it did. Their consistent pursuit of social and environmental justice permeated the culture of the firm and probably still does. However it is something about what it did in the 90s that really sticks in my mind. Their branding doesn't seem quite so apparent these days, it is as if they've been drowned out by other large eco-socio companies. It's the thing - everything is now more focused on being organic and 'from the source'. What I find so sad, is that even though they were the ones to have had the bravado to campaign for this movement, I now find that the messages they made so clear are no longer really part of it. It's morphed and now more about being paraben-free and holistic. What I liked about their campaign was that they broadcasted from the top of their voices how opposed they were to animal testing, how much they helped economically stressed communities and how they promoted recycling. I always recount the clip boards in every shop collecting signatures. For example, in 1989 the body shop collected a million signatures on petitions to 'stop the burning' in the Amazon Rainforest, where fires were being set to clear cast areas for development.  Personally, for me, their best branding mission was 'Animals in Danger' where they designed and responsibly manufactured a range of merchandise aimed at children that highlighted the plight of our most critically endangered species using illustrations (there is just something about the amazing accessibility of art isn't there?). Their campaigns were not hidden in the 90s, they weren't just written on pieces of paper, published on the web or there as a percentage of the price, in the 90s one could 'wear' the campaign and be part of it. 

Save the Rhino
Today, I have just visited The Body Shop website, a place that, to me, on appearance is so very far removed from the inspiring world of Anita Roddick's dream. It's incredibly 'glam' and airbrushed glitz. Such a missed opportunity for L'OrĂ©al I feel. In order to read anything about The Body Shop's ethos you have to scroll right to the bottom of the page, past all the Christmas promo, to the 'About Us' icon, which, after being clicked on is a disappointing read and you have to go onto yet another page to get the full feed. Personally, I feel now that the message is lost in a heap of advertisement, but in the 90s, the message was clear and very simple. Through all of their hard work and concentrated focus The Body Shop created a global community that everyone could identify with and I wonder (and hope) if we, as botanical artists, could do the same?


  1. Yes I do remember these now I see the packaging, great idea from Body Shop back then to get this message out there!

  2. Yep - I just wish they'd do it again.

  3. Yep - I just wish they'd do it again.