Essence of England | Chapter 11 ~ Emily Cameron
In our Essence of England series, we speak to values-aligned creatives, entrepreneurs and familiar faces from across the South West about their lives, work and what ‘Englishness’ means to them.
As another South West company with sustainability and nature at its core, Ffern is a spiritual sibling to True Grace.
Headed up by brother-sister duo Owen Mears and Emily Cameron, Ffern creates fragrances that are organic, vegan and made from the highest quality, sustainably sourced, natural ingredients. Ffern’s model is unique: working with the rhythm of the seasons, they blend, barrel-age and bottle four unique fragrances a year, released at the equinox and solstice. Each scent is conceived and developed by Owen and Emily, along with perfumers Francois Robert and Elodie Durande. The scents are only available to those who have joined Ffern’s ledger, allowing the makers to use traditional processes and minimise waste.
We asked Emily, Ffern’s Creative Director, to share more about how the natural world permeates every aspect of Ffern, why community is so important to the brand and what she loves most about the West Country.
- Emily Cameron
How does your background in art history inform your work as Ffern’s Creative Director?
I think it’s that willingness to stop and stare - to be intrigued by something and then to allow your mind to wander or conjure a story. At Ffern, we are fragrance makers but storytellers too. We hope that our scents will take people on a journey and transport them somewhere other, whether it be familiar or new, just as a painting might.
How does the natural world inspire the creation of each Ffern scent?
The natural world and the seasons are central to everything we do at Ffern - they’re where we find our inspiration, but of course our ingredients actually come from nature, so it really does feel fundamental. Each fragrance aims to reflect the season we’re creating it for, but we’ll often take a specific moment or scent memory to recreate.
For example, our forthcoming fragrance Autumn 23 is based on the fragrances of figs, vegetables and orchards on a farm we visited last year in early autumn. Other times, we might want to celebrate a particular note - for Summer 23, that’s osmanthus, this beautiful, peachy blossom we’d used in a Winter fragrance before, but which even then we’d known belonged to those hot, still days of high summer.
“We hope that our scents will take people on a journey and transport them somewhere other”
What were some of the challenges (and opportunities) of integrating sustainability throughout Ffern’s production process?
We’re lucky to be a young fragrance house that has always held sustainability at heart, and so we’ve built our processes around that. Making our fragrances to order is key to preserving the small batch, waste-free production processes we’ve always championed, but the stability this provides also means we have been able to experiment with our packaging perhaps more than other brands. In 2021 we introduced mycelium packaging to protect our bottles - this fully compostable material leaves no trace.
We also innovated away from traditional bottle lids, which we found near-impossible to make without some kind of hard-to-recycle alloy or plastic. Now we have our bottle tubes, made from FSC-certified Kraft paper, which protect the bottles while remaining fully recyclable and compostable.
Why does collaboration and community play such an important part in Ffern's journey?
Our community of ledger members is really what makes Ffern feel special. Some of our members have been with us since the very beginning, and we’re blown away each season by how many (new and old!) members contribute generous feedback so that we can continue to create fragrances that feel both innovative and responsive to their needs.
The Ffern Artists programme is another key community we’ve fostered. We love working with artists, finding this amazing reciprocity between fragrance and visual art that our members also get to share in through our seasonal posters and films. Fragrance making is such a creative art, it feels only right to bring in other creatives and collaborators, hopefully offering them a little inspiration in return for their work.
“I love the slower, softer pace of life and that the farming community shapes the seasons of the year”
Ffern is unmistakably a West Country brand. What is it that you love about that region in particular?
I love the orchards that punctuate the valleys - the apple blossom in springtime and the delicious earthy smell as the fruit falls from the trees. I love the ancient manor houses that are hidden down tracks and seem to hold all of history in their walls. I love the slower, softer pace of life and that the farming community shapes the seasons of the year - you’ll often hear the whir of a combine harvester around now.
- photo of courtesy of Bethany Ballantyne
- Photo Courtesy of Annie Spratt
What are some of your favourite ways to spend a weekend in Somerset, where you grew up?
Pack a picnic and head to the Quantock hills. There are spectacular views from there and lovely pubs to finish the day in.
What does Essence of England mean to you?
For me it is very bound up with our countryside - in hedgerows, ancient woods and wild moorland landscapes. It changes from season to season of course but I think there is a particular green note that captures English countryside - abundant, fresh and with a singular earthy depth (perhaps thanks to all the rain!).