No, not the Queen. Although she is the queen of skincare.....I'm talking of course about Liz Earle. Last week they opened their first store in the North of England, in the Victoria Quarter in Leeds. I was invited to attend the opening on Thursday night, along with a few other bloggers and some customers.
After a quick train journey down from work, I met up with Sinead, Charlotte, Nicoletta and Emily for a cheeky glass of wine before heading over the store, where another blogger - Sarah - attended too.
The new store looks fantastic - it is split over two levels and has a 'quick-stop' area for people who know what they want and want to buy it quickly, and another area with sofas, books and a large tv showing footage about the products and ingredients where you have a bit more time to get advice from the staff.
One thing that always strikes me about Liz Earle (as a brand) is their reliance on word-of-mouth and social media advertising, not TV or magazine campaigns. Granted, they are huge on QVC but that's not where I first became aware of the brand. Before I got married, I used to go on a lot of wedding forums. One of the girls I got chatting to on there was a huge fan of the brand and she recommended Cleanse and Polish to me. I used it religiously for about six months, and I'm not really sure why I stopped - probably my 'grass is greener' thinking - but I've been using it constantly again since the summer. It is refreshing to deal with a brand that really seems to take social media and beauty bloggers seriously and recognises the contribution we make to spreading the word and advertising their products.
We got a chance to have a chat with Liz, who told us more about the history and philosophy of the brand, and some of their trade partners in the developing world. One thing I hadn't really registered is how much the company does to support women across the world. This is something which hasn't always been in the front of my mind when I choose beauty products. Maybe it is me getting older, or maybe I am just becoming more aware since blogging, but I have started to pay more attention to what ingredients my products contain, and what impact (positive or negative) they have on the environment - in social as well as ecological terms.
We also spoke to Jennifer, the botanical research manager for the brand, who told us a bit about her work and how they source new natural ingredients from around the world. Keep at the science at school kids, her job sounds like so much fun! Louise from the PR team showed us round the store (with a glass of champagne and mini cupcakes to help us along) and helped us to choose some products each to try. I chose the deep cleansing mask, the shampoo and conditioner and superskin concentrate along with a replacement C&P - reviews of all of these coming up once I've given them a good trial.
Finally, we all got a sneak peek at a new product that is being launched on 27th December - a firming body cream coming out just in time for the January diet and fitness resolutions. I have a bottle of this that I'll be trialling, so be sure to come back and find out what I thought! I've had my five minutes of fame now too, we were all filmed for the website - Emily was interviewed as our official spokesperson and did a fantastic job of sounding professional while the rest of us grinned like idiots in the background with our champagne.
All in all an enjoyable evening - not least because it gave me the opportunity to meet some more lovely bloggers in real life. Most bizarre aspect of the night - having our own personal security guard(s) to look after our bags, coats and shopping. My £20 New Look jacket felt like a celebrity.
I forgot my camera again, so credit for the photos goes to Charlotte, Emily and Nicoletta.