When her husband purchased an eight-bedroom pub on The Fonthill Estate in 2009, Chloë swiftly launched an all-natural skincare range from their farmhouse kitchen for new guests; each botanical blend offering respite from quotidian preoccupations, each floral motif inspired by her south Wiltshire landscapes. Today Bramley Products can be spotted in over 350 restaurants, outlets, and boutique hotels across the UK including Fortnum & Mason, National Trust, Gail’s bakeries, Cirrus Inns, The Pig hotels — and The Beckford Arms, where it all began. Below, she chats about her formative years in Cornwall, how she integrates business with family life, and a divergence in the beauty industry.
Words below by Chloë.
‘When I was about the age of 7, I set up a stall outside my house selling stones and shells I found on the beach, but my bestseller was the flower perfume I created from petals.’
My father was in the Royal Navy so we moved about when I was little, but we mostly spent time in South East Cornwall, with a two year stint in Naples, Italy. I loved both and went on to study Italian at university, but I think living in Cornwall had the most effect on me because it was a very free life: I would have breakfast, run off to the disused quarry behind our house to collect tadpoles and newts or to find slow worms, then head to the beach for the raft my father built for me, and out to sea (it was tethered!), then I would go home for meals and that was it. I didn’t realise how lucky I was.
When I was about the age of 7, I set up a stall outside my house selling stones and shells I found on the beach, but my bestseller was the flower perfume I created from petals! So I have always been interested in using plants in skincare and, as I have gotten older, it has become even more important to me; what you put on your skin does end up in your bloodstream, so it’s vital that you know what goes in to all the products you put on your skin.
Before we came to Wiltshire, London was home. I think that living in London is almost a rite of passage and I was there for eight years before we left. I loved my time there but I was very ready to leave — to move back to the countryside and to the slower pace of life. I still get excited when I go to London but I also love getting on the train to come home.
We had just moved out of London when I created Bramley. I was already in the bath and beauty industry, having worked for Cowshed and Green & Spring, but it was my husband finding a pub (The Beckford Arms) which prompted me to create the Bramley range. The pub had eight letting bedrooms and I looked around at all the other amenity brands on the market at the time and none of them were natural, so I decided to create my own* using the experience I already had. I didn’t really know anyone, so I decided to take part in the local Anonymous Travelling Market, and it was brilliant because it popped up in different areas once a month and I got to know the area, but also meet fellow stallholders and customers. I think it was one of the best ways of getting Bramley into the hands of locals. Also, I was very lucky because we had ready customers in all the guests that stayed at the pub. Some of our friends who had restaurant businesses in London came to stay and asked if they could put Bramley into their loos, and it grew from there, very organically and sustainably.
‘What you put on your skin does end up in your bloodstream, so it’s vital that you know what goes in to all the products you put on your skin.’
*Bramley products are free from: petrochemicals, sulphates, artificial colours, artificial fragrances, parabens, microbeads, silicones, propylene glycol, phthalates. Visit the website’s glossary to learn more about the therapeutic properties of their selected ingredients.
I wanted Bramley to capture the essence of the British countryside: if you imagine dispensing one of our products into your hands, you’re lathering it up, you bring your hands to your face and the smell — it’s that feeling you get (it might only be for a split second) but — it takes you out of your current situation to a moment where life is relaxed, fun, and calm.
What started on my kitchen table (literally) is now a business employing a team of five. Most of our business is wholesale and we do all our own warehousing and distribution. Our online store has doubled in size over the last twelve months, and we launched in Fortnum & Mason in January so now we are expanding our retail side too.
I think it’s really important to remain true to why you started the brand in the first place. For me, that was to create products that include the best ingredients and that really deliver results. I wanted our Hand Wash to be the best one on the market, so I don’t offer lots of different versions because that would dilute the brand. I also try to create products that can be used in hotels (our main area of business) so when I am developing new products I have that in the back of my mind.
The Beckford Arms is a mile from our office, so I feel that the brand is very much rooted in this part of the world — it’s these very hedgerows that inspired the packaging. It was a very easy decision to make. I also have three small children and I'm lucky to be able to work and be at school to pick them up; it’s incredibly important to me. I love the ease of living and working in the countryside. There is really not much stress involved and I find the countryside so inspiring on a daily basis. But, you can’t get an impromptu taxi for love nor money!
We have split our headquarters at The Threshing Shed into two: upstairs it’s a gorgeous open-plan office, then downstairs it’s the warehouse and distribution. It’s great to have it all in one place so that we all know what is going on at the same time. I need to be able to see outside to be productive (I am lucky I now have a view!), and I love being in an office and bouncing ideas off the team. I also still get a thrill when I see orders going out — I have ‘pinch me’ moments where I can’t quite believe how far the brand has come!
We are in a really exciting place with today’s bath and beauty scene — there is so much innovation in the naturals area, it keeps us on our toes! But there currently seem to be two polar opposites: the natural and organic skincare scene, and the cosmetic surgery one. I do feel a little uneasy about the cosmetic surgery scene because where will that stop? I think it’s important that people feel happy and confident in their own skin. It will be interesting to see how the two marry up (I am hoping we will all end up embracing the former but I think there will inevitably be a mix of the two).
Anyone with small children may feel that they are missing out on the buzz of life in general, but I don’t feel disconnected here. I do go up to London when I need to, and we have lots of things going on in this part of the world — we have great art galleries and event spaces (I was in Salisbury watching Mary Portas on Friday), and we have great pubs! The only thing really missing are shops and I must admit I go a little retail crazy when I do go to London. I also sign up to lots of interesting lifestyle sites such as Sheerluxe, Wear & Where and A Little Bird so I know what’s going on and current, so I don’t ever feel disconnected, I feel lucky.
Favourite way to start the day: A cup of tea in bed, surrounded by my children and the Sunday papers.
Medicinal or therapeutic plant that most inspires you: Sweet orange — so uplifting, fresh, and versatile.
A cherished pastime: Anything creative; I’ve just painted some pictures for a school fundraiser and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Published on: 17 June 2019. Edited by Fields in Fields. All images courtesy of Bramley Products. ■ For the full collection and further updates, including the launch of glass bottles and zero-waste retail partnerships, visit bramleyproducts.co.uk.