Written by Emily Dauris (Freelance Writer)
Emily Farthing speaks softly and thoughtfully, yet she has an energy that makes conversing with her almost musical. In fact, it’s difficult sometimes to remember I’m conducting an interview and not meeting a friend for cocktails because she’s so open and welcoming.
Her outfit contains three different patterns, in different colours, and she gestures a lot with her hands. She’s the epitome of an artist. Yet, there is a fragility that stems from a lifelong struggle with confidence.
“It’s partly why I didn’t use my own name for my business,” she explains. “Although I wanted very much to prove something to myself when I launched Olive & Joyce, it still took me a while to truly believe I could do it.”
Emily had to learn to believe in her business quickly because, when she launched her all-natural skincare brand in March 2020, products started selling fast. Word of mouth spread quickly and she went from a handful of friends and family members using her handmade skincare, to a network of people she now refers to as ‘her Lovelies’.
“I’ve gotten to know most of my customers and they’ve certainly got to know me. I make all the creams and oils by hand but I also tend to follow up with orders personally to check in on how they’re getting on too. I’ve never seen Olive & Joyce as a retail business, it’s always been about people. About helping people.
Growing up, Emily wanted to be a nurse but severe dyslexia made academia a struggle, so Emily studied textile art and developed an interest in installation art. Yet, although she felt she was sending out a message and she enjoyed the act of creation, she never fell in love with art as a career.
“I expected art to be a calling but something was missing and I now know what was lacking was that I wasn’t helping people. Helping people didn’t just make me happy, it taught me to love myself and so I knew for a long time that I needed to do something that made other people feel empowered, happy and confident.
Emily understands how much confidence matters. Suffering from Dyslexia and Dyspraxia, school was a challenge and she remembers well a teacher informing her parents that she would, ‘not do very well at school but would make a good mum.’
“Lots of people told me I’d be a good mum one day. So I was so happy when I got married and started a family. I thought, ‘I’ll be good at this.’ But then I got post-natal depression and I was crushed. Everyone’s experience of post-natal depression is different but mine convinced me that I was an awful mother and that was particularly painful for me because it was the one thing I always believed I would excel at. At the same time, my skin changed. I had begun to get hyper-pigmentation in my 30s and post-pregnancy hormone changes had made it worse. My post-natal depression combined with my skin struggles led to a crisis of confidence.”
As many people (particularly women) do, Emily tried to build her confidence from the outside in. She spent a small fortune on cosmetics and at salons, trying every possible treatment - laser treatments, microneedling, microdermabrasion and more. Nothing worked.
“My face would be red and raw after each treatment and I’d feel the same way inside. I didn’t recognise myself. That’s how much something as seemingly superficial as skin appearance can affect you because it taps into and combines with all your other insecurities.”
Eventually, Emily found herself back where she’d always felt most comfortable - her mother’s kitchen. Where she’d helped her mother cook and watch her make her aromatherapy lotions. You see, Emily comes from a family of women who know their herbs and essential oils. Her mother was an aromatherapist and her great-grandmother was a herbalist. That day, Emily decided to rely on mother nature and make her own moisturiser.
“I knew I’d been abusing my skin with aggressive treatments and all sorts of chemicals and I remembered, as I sat in that kitchen, that I’d come from women who had always put their faith in nature. It was time for me to do the same. So I started to source the best ingredients and, much to my surprise, that was the hardest part.”
Emily explains that finding ethical sources was challenging but it was so important to her that no one had been exploited in the making of her face cream and that it had not harmed the planet. She tells me shea butter was particularly troublesome and she spent time calling different suppliers and requesting information on how much their workers were paid. It is usually women in Ghana that pick and prepare the shea and they are often not paid a living wage for their labour. With persistence and tenacity, Emily collected all her ingredients and enlisted the help of her mother in cooking up her face cream - one that, at the time, she had no idea would become her signature product ‘The Balance’. In fact, Emily had no plans to launch a business at all. All she was looking for was a moisturiser that worked for her skin. And it did. Actually, it worked so well that her family started to use it too, then friends, then friends of friends and very soon Emily began to realise that she had a business.
Her mother’s requests for a moisturiser to calm rosacea-prone skin led Emily to create The Radiance and her auntie’s need for pro-ageing skincare birthed The Eternal.
Despite having abundant herbal and natural oils knowledge passed on to her through her upbringing, Emily takes time over her research and continues to produce her skincare using only the most sustainable and ethical ingredients and methods.
"So, if it was your mother’s knowledge of aromatherapy and your great grandmother’s herbal wisdom that inspired you,” I ask, “Then how did you come to name your product after your grandmothers? Olive and Joyce?"
“They were both so different and both a massive inspiration to me in their own ways. Grandma Olive was a tiny feisty bird-like woman who never sat down, worked tirelessly and was always making jams and cakes. Hers was another kitchen I loved to be in. Joyce lacked confidence but she was also fearless. I identified with that. She wasn’t as ambitious as Olive but she worked in factories and she overcame a lot of struggles. They were also mothers. They both sadly passed away over 15 years ago but I wanted to recognise that my business was more than just me, it was also about the women who had gone before and had paved the way. Both Olive and Joyce were born at a time when it was a different world for women and though they were both successful because of the kind of women they were, I know that, had they been part of my generation, they could have achieved even more. So it seemed only right to recognise them as part of that legacy.”
Olive & Joyce, is more than a skincare collection. For Emily, creating her products takes her back to moments of happiness - the smells of her grandmother’s garden and the memory of being in the kitchen with her mother. Speaking to Emily, I realise that her success has not only come about due to the ethics and quality of her products but because of the motivations behind making them. It’s a labour of love if there ever was one.
In handmaking the oils and creams that go into every jar, Emily is drawing on age-old wisdom that has been passed down not only through her family but from women throughout time. The care that goes into her creations is born from a deep desire to help others shine and radiate in confidence because, whilst Emily knows that beauty is not skin deep, she also knows first-hand how having soft healthy skin can help us to glow within too.
“My skin improved so quickly after starting to use my own natural handmade skincare and I wanted to share it with everyone it might be able to help. My relationship with myself has also healed as my confidence has grown and flourished again. That’s a lot to do with having a business and being able to create something that's helping other people care for and love their skin.”
Emily’s business is still a small Brighton-based business that runs from her kitchen, but she’s filling orders for both men and women all over the UK and the brand is getting attention too. When asked who her skincare is for, she simply tells me - anyone with skin. It’s also vegan, cruelty-free, palm-oil free and sustainable. Even the packaging carries a family connection, having been specially sourced from her grandmother’s home country, Wales.
Olive & Joyce may be growing fast but it still feels homegrown. The brand has built a community around it, always keen to hear Emily’s top skincare tips on her blog and watch her cosmetics myth-busting reels on Instagram. She also regularly posts recipes for face scrubs and masks that her followers can make themselves using storecupboard ingredients.
As always, when I encounter a business that has thrived because of the person behind the brand as much as the product, I’m forced to ask Emily how she plans to scale up, stay ethical and keep the personal touches that make Olive & Joyce unique.
“I would love to create a team around me. I have a vision that one day I’ll have a factory, more like a workshop, where I’ll make my products alongside other people passionate about natural ingredients and quality skincare. I’d love to build a tribe around me but keep that personal touch. Olive & Joyce is all about making people happy, operating ethically and protecting the planet in all that we do. No matter how much the brand grows, those values will stay strong. I’m in my happy place when I make my skincare. I know I’m helping others, building a future for me, my family and for the planet.”
Sometimes, Emily tells me, she still feels like a child playing shops. She describes this as imposter syndrome, but I’m not convinced. I think it’s a sign of someone doing something she loves so much, it feels as playful, dreamlike and as delightfully joyful as a childhood fantasy.