Katy Simpson Interview

Katy Simpson is my ‘Woman of Substance’ for June. Katy is Founder and Director of Noble Isle, a collection of luxury unisex bath, body and home fragrance products that feature quintessentially British natural extracts carefully sourced from local producers. With a career in fashion as a backdrop, Katy made the move into beauty in 2001. Her love of nature coupled with a sharp eye for all things aesthetic put her in good stead when she launched Noble Isle in 2011. She lives in Amersham with Hoagie and Slippers – her two West Scots. We met for lunch at the brand new Ivy Marlow Garden, near our Winser London Marlow boutique.

Katy, congratulations on your great business, which is clearly going from strength to strength. What is the gap in the market you aimed to fill and how have you done that?

When I created Noble Isle I had a passion to produce something truly British – a British company, making products in the British Isles, sourcing ingredients from celebrated local producers. I wanted to promote and highlight what is happening in the country – amazing places, people, ingredients. The British ingredients are unique to Noble Isle. The name and logo celebrate this idea – Noble Isle was the first term used for Great Britain in the 15th century by kings and queens and our Coat of Balms show the four flowers that represent the great countries within the British Isles.

Both of our brands are British and we are equally proud of that heritage – what is it about the Britishness of your brand that you feel holds so much importance and value?

Noble Isle is a strong, proud British brand. We are contemporary and modern but we have not forgotten our past or our heritage. We are grounded, rooted and inspired by our land, culture and history.
As the world becomes more accessible and cultures are mixing and merging together, there has been a trend coming through for defined brands with clear backgrounds and heritage. Britain has had such a global impact on the development of the world – history, Arts, culture, music, manufacturing, invention, economic, political. As a result, people are buying into British brands producing high quality luxurious products across all industries as they represent strength, quality and longevity – stability in a fast-changing, unpredictable world.

I love your concept of ‘Britain in a Bottle’ – what type of ingredients do you use and how do you source the best?

Britain in a Bottle captures the heart of our brand and it is truly what separates us from other brands. We promote farmers, charities, conservationists – people doing exceptional things in our country. Each producer is incredibly passionate about their ingredient. The most important factor when making our products is that we use British extracts from local celebrated producers from the British Isles. Perry pear from Gloucestershire Orchards, barley from the Balvenie distillery, beetroot from Monmouthshire, elderflower from Cornwall, samphire from the Irish coastline and heather honey from Perthshire – to name just a few!

Noble Isle is growing abroad and you have told me that you now have a strong customer base in the US, Hong Kong and Scandinavia. How are you developing the business internationally and where to next?

We work with wonderful partners across Europe, US and Asia and we are now trading in Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Belgium. I am very keen to continue to grow the brand internationally and showcase our high quality British products. Korea and China are next on my list.

You started your career in fashion, do tell us more about that and what made you move across to the world of beauty.

After studying Fashion Buying and Marketing for four years, I worked in the buying offices of several high street and designer houses in the UK for five years and loved it. From garments, I moved to accessories – shoes, bags and leather gifts - and soon found myself working on other accessories such as jewellery, fragrance sets and bath & body. I really enjoyed this product type and I discovered I had a hidden passion for fragrance. I also love taking an idea and developing it into something physical. As a child I used to love wrapping presents and making them look beautiful. In 2001, I left fashion and moved to Bath & Body and Beauty within a well known British cosmetics house where I was Head of Product Development for 8 years.

You must travel a great deal for work – what are your packing tips, both in terms of beauty products and clothes?

Clothes-wise, I decide first what my core neutral colour is going to be – black, navy, brown, grey – and then everything else I take (shoes, coats, handbags) sits neatly with the core colour. This really cuts down on the amount of clothes I need to take. The other tip is to pack layers – cardigans, wraps and scarves. I always take a cashmere scarf or small throw that is multi functional. The Winser London Cashmere Wrap is perfect. Lastly, I always pack dresses and skirts that can go from meeting to dinner.
Beauty products I take are always highly moisturising due to the dehydration of air travel, hotel air conditioning and new and sometimes hot environments. A really good moisturiser, serum and moisturising mask you can sleep in are key to having fresh glowing skin when abroad. Wearing your favourite perfume is comforting and makes you feel more at home.

Of the Winser London Summer collection, which pieces have caught your eye and how would you wear them.

I am in love with the Georgette Silk Layered Shift Dress in black - perfect for day to evening, work to play. During the day I would wear it with a tailored jacket and court shoes, in the evening with a bolero cardigan and jewellery.