By Emma Harrison
It is fair to say that no-one in the beauty world knows legs better than former Telegraph Beauty Editor and founder of Legology, Kate Shapland who launched her range of high-performance luxury leg care beauty products back in 2013.
Emma Harrison speaks to Kate about her passion for leg care, starting a business and how good ideas can often be found at the traffic lights.
What was the inspiration and vision behind Legology?
Personal experience, fuelled by industry innovation and missed opportunities in the business – I was frustrated by what I saw as a clear gap in the market for something I knew the consumer needed, though perhaps she didn’t know it before Legology came along.
Was it a ‘lightbulb’ moment or was it more of a slow burning process?
A bit of both. I’ve been obsessed with leg beauty and health for most of my adult life, and I really felt it was time the beauty industry addressed leg care and cellulite differently. Cellulite has come to represent the entire leg care market in much the same way that anti-ageing creams are what skin care is all about. And while most women have it, there are other issues – heaviness/fluid retention, varicose veins, dryness and so on – that trouble legs. There were leg care and cellulite products which looked pretty and did nothing, and products which sort of did something and looked terrible. I wanted to create great-looking products that had pioneering high performance formulas, and made the wearer feel so good and uplifted that they became an addiction, because frequency always brings the best results in beauty – you’ve got to want to use products again and again, and you’re not going to want to do that if they don’t work, smell bad or feel sticky. There were little lightbulb moments along the way too: I watched the passengers hobble off a long-haul flight once with swollen feet, ankles and calves, and wondered why no one had developed a formula that helped with this discomfort. Then I though, oh I can. So, I did.
You mention that Legology was ‘a product waiting to be created’ – how did you identify the gap for leg care in the market?
I’ve seen and tried pretty much every leg product on the market over a 25-year career span and very little, if anything, ever ticked all the boxes it needed to. Apart from having a truly effective formula I felt that the main things that were missing were that feel good element – the requirement for a product to make you feel fantastic just for using and wearing it, charm – the messaging for leg contouring products was all wrong, it needed to more empathetic to and on-side with the consumer. Who was me! I made Legology for women like myself who suffer with heavy legs, fluid retention and cellulite (they are all linked and that’s why the Legology formulas are all developed around the same deep drainage principles) and are looking for products that work brilliantly, aren’t necessarily fashionable, but sit quietly in the bathroom as a body care fixture that you know you can depend on every time you use.
What was the final impetus to leaving the world of beauty journalism behind?
I’ve never stopped writing, and for a long time I wrote my column in The Telegraph Magazine alongside managing the brand. But I did begin to feel stretched, and I realised that I loved brand development enough to focus on it. Years of working in publishing, which demands a certain standard of excellence, a real understanding of aspiration and what turns consumers on, gave me skills which enabled me to be quite visionary with the creative side of beauty.
How was the transition between going from an editorial world to a commercial one and how did your journalistic skills transfer into launching and running your own business?
Business has been a sharp learn for me and while journalism helped on the creative side and with contacts, it definitely did not prepare me for P&L, spreadsheets, negotiating with retailers and manufacturers and so on. I’ve been surprised by the things that have intimidated me – they are not what I thought they would be. I found the disciplines of manufacturing both frustrating and alien coming from a career that hinges on speed and flexibility. You cannot force or hurry chemistry and production! My hero product, Air-Lite, took several years to get right, and it was by turns agonising and spirit-lifting.
How did you come up with the name ‘Legology’?
”At the traffic lights. Good ideas often arrive
at the traffic lights I find.”
I really love the branding and packaging of Legology – how did you come up with the visual identity?
Thank you! I had a very clear idea of how I wanted the brand to look so I needed to find someone who got this and me and would render my ideas to a jar and box. A good friend who is a talented designer sat me in front of her computer and coaxed out what was in my head. I wanted to achieve a blend of conventionality with contemporary, and for people to see Legology as having longevity and depth. And I really wanted them to be charmed by it, the whole vibe and the words. Focus groups were not involved at any stage of this process!
Did you have any fears or worries when launching your business and how did you overcome them?
I don’t think I had many fears initially, I’m too impulsive. Now that I know what can go wrong I’m more cautious and fearful, but I still put up a good fight with safety. Playing safe gets you nowhere.
How did you come up with the ingredients for your products? I knew exactly what I wanted the formula to do and how I wanted it to feel, so I found an independent French chemist who would make the formula for me from scratch with the most cutting-edge (and, as it turned out expensive) ingredient complexes.
Have you had to develop your scientific knowledge because of your business and how involved do you get with this side of things?
I’m quite an anorak over ingredients and packaging, and I’m as involved as I can be in this. I’ve also developed more of an interest in lymphedema, the lymphatic condition that causes swelling in the limbs, often after chemotherapy. I actively follow the scientific and surgical advances for this, as well as many of the sufferers on social media.
As well as the hardworking formulas within your products, they also have an incredible smell too. How did you choose the scents and what was the inspiration behind this?
The fragrance was driven by a desire to make Legology a brand that made the wearer feel good. I wanted it to uplift, make you feel like you are on holiday and in that carefree state of mind. The scent – I call it my holiday bubble smell – was created by the French fragrance house Robertet and it took just one iteration – they had a very clear and simple brief involving Amalfi lemons and the smell of the Mediterranean, and they got it in one.
How would you describe your brand personality?
Classic, stylish, charming and gentle. I ask people to recall Burt Bacharach’s Pacific Coast Highway, of Herb Alpert’s Casino Royale, the south of France or the Italian Riviera in the Sixties and Chateau Marmont. They usually get the picture.
I understand that your husband is your business partner, what role does he play and how do you strive to have a good work-life balance?
Ben oversees operations, production and fulfilment. He crosses the T’s and dots the I’s over contracts and he is the voice of good sense and reason. He is the perfect foil.
Your initial retail partner was Liberty London, who seem very progressive when it comes to trialling new products, how did you get stocked in there and how long did the process take from initial conversations to seeing your brand on the shelves?
Liberty championed the brand from conception, stuck with me through production, and supported Legology in the most remarkable and entrepreneurial way. They even gave Legology some windows. Liberty can only be described as our guardian angel.
As well as your website, customers can buy your products across a variety of shops and platforms, how do you go about selecting which retail partners to work with?
At the start it was what we could manage in terms of volume, but it has also always been about partnering with retailers who are the best complement for the concept – Josh Wood’s Atelier, British Airways long haul flights, Violet Grey in LA and Niche in Germany. Now we are able to partner with bigger retailers, like Net-a-Porter and SpaceNK, which are also a great fit.
Did you always intend to have a multiple product range, or did you just have one hero product in mind?
My intention was always to develop a brand, even a tiny capsule one, which comprehensively serviced our legs. Having said that, the cult following that Air-Lite has means that I could have probably left it there.
You now have four products within the Legology range (excluding tools and kits) the most recent being your Cellu-lite body oil. Can you tell me a bit more about how this product works and how you came up with it?
It’s very simple. Cellu-Lite does exactly what its name suggests: lightens the load around the cells. This is not a fat busting oil – no such thing exists, and I’m very clear on this. Cellu-Lite is a deep drainage oil, created with potent diuretic aromatherapy oils like juniper, Siberian fir and eucalyptus, that helps release the fluid that gets trapped between fat cells and pushes them out, distorting the overlying skin. Can I just say, too, that I have never seen cellulite that looks like orange peel: it’s never that uniform. There are too many myths around cellulite that have understandably made people wary of ‘solutions’. The only approach is to support the lymph (the system that removes waste from your body) with deep drainage oil and massage, do activities like fast walking, running and Power Plate, that burn calories fast and deliver moderate mechanical stimulation, and to eat a low carb diet. It has to be a total approach.
What is next in the Legology product line?
We all need more positivity in our lives, and we need beauty to help us feel more content with who we are while still generating aspiration to be better. I’ll leave it at that!
Do you have a favourite product or kit from the range?
Air-Lite Daily Lift For Legs is my hero. Of all the products it best encapsulates the brand vibe and the story. It’s a proper workhorse too. I’m still slightly amazed by it.
Looking back to when you were first coming up with the initial business concept, what advice would you give to yourself (knowing what you know now) and would you change anything?
To have more confidence in my ability to do business. I wasted a lot of time and money trying to partner with people as a way of not facing down this dragon. That never worked, because your vision is your vision, not theirs. You have to do it yourself.
Business aside, if you had to give me three beauty tips to make me look and feel fabulous, what would they be?
Lots of sleep, laughter and a little sun on your face.
Do you have any people that you personally look up to in business and have you been able to use this within your own business?
I have the greatest respect for anyone who has set up in business, especially in manufacturing, and not just in beauty. Many of the people I admire most in business are my contemporaries – women like Liz Earle, Marcia Kilgore, Millie Kendall and Anna-Marie Solowij, along with friends in the business who have founded PR companies, design and marketing outfits, or spent years at the top of publishing. Some of them are also great mentors to me.
What has been the most surprising thing that you have learnt about running your own business?
The way it has allowed me to work in a different way with people I’ve known for years and who have gone on to work in other related industries. I love that. There is a real sense of camaraderie and support there which perhaps comes with experience, age and a shared background in media. We worked during the golden years of print and we know how lucky we were.
You are co-founder of the British Beauty Council – can you tell me a bit about it – why you launched it, its ethos, who else is involved and what your plans are (collectively) for the future?
I co-founded the British Beauty Council with Millie Kendall, Anna-Marie Solowij, Jane Boardman and Catherine Handcock because there was no umbrella organisation that represents every aspect of the beauty industry, as there is for fashion, despite it making a very valuable contribution to the national economy and employment. Our first commitment is to define and accurately value the business, so we are taken seriously at government level where we feel beauty should have a proper impartial voice. It’s frankly incredible that until now beauty has not had this.
What do you feel has been the defining moment so far for Legology?
I have a defining moment every time I see British Airways fly over me and remember that Legology is on the trolley.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs, particularly to those wanting to launch a beauty product?
Be so in love with every aspect of your product that telling the story to customers and retailers comes as instinctively and joyfully as tears or laughter, no matter how many times you do it. Honestly, you’ve got to love it. It’s a long journey.