It all started with a soap, a small piece of rope and a dirty old bag on a boat.
One Christmas, I received a soap on a rope. This was the first time that I had seen such a thing. I liked my soap on a rope. It hung patiently in the shower, dripping itself dry, waiting obediently to be put into service once again. I was happy because it had solved one of my problems in life. I liked using soap because I didn’t like the plastic waste generated by shower gel, but the reality of using soap was that I always ended up with a soggy bar of soap sitting in stagnating water while depositing itself all over a soap dish.
One day, my soap fell off the rope and I was unhappy again. I was left with the sizeable remains of the bar of soap, which had obviously been relegated to just soap again, without a rope. The pitifully short piece of rope that I had gained in exchange did not qualify as adequate compensation.
Then we bought a new boat (which is our home). We had outgrown our previous boat when our daughter was born. While cleaning out a locker that was full of rusty old paint tins etc., I came across a small mesh bag with a drawstring, which I recognised as coming from washing tabs. I never did understand why you used to have to put those in a bag, and I hadn’t even seen one for years, but here one was. I have no idea why the previous owner had put that little bag in with the rusty tins, but unperturbed, I thought “Aha! My soap will fit in that bag thereby restoring it’s ‘on a rope’ status once again”. Well, I couldn’t have been happier when I tried it out. Not only did it solve the soggy soap problem, but it was better at scrubbing, could contain any sized soap without the soap falling out, and was reusable.
While this may have made me happy, it didn’t make Kate, my wife, very happy. She had to put up with me banging on about how good my soap in a bag was. She didn’t care about my soap in a bag. She could have used some peace and quiet.
Some weeks later, we were away for our friends’ wedding. Kate had forgotten to take her toiletries so when she came to shower, she reached for my soap in a bag, which I didn’t go anywhere without and that was dutifully hanging in the shower. Well, blow me down with a feather. After her shower she didn’t stop banging on about how good my soap in a bag was. To be honest, I could have used some peace and quiet because she was preaching to the choir.
My sister, Lucy, was also with us and she and Kate decided that soap in a bag needed to be brought to the masses. They also decided that soap in a bag wasn’t a good name. I was slightly put out because me and my soap in a bag had been doing just fine before they came along. Nevertheless, soap in a bag was dead, but from the ashes arose Baggy Soap.
One of our main aims as a company is to have a minimal environmental impact. In cases where we don't feel we've met our sustainability targets, we will always be completely honest about this, so our customers know that we are doing everything possible to make it right.
Our original aim was to use bags manufactured in the UK, using natural, UK-sourced materials, but this has proven to be an extremely difficult task. The cotton mesh fabric that we require for our bags is not currently manufactured in the UK, and UK suppliers of similar fabrics are often importing them from other countries themselves, such as Italy or China.
Our first batch of white and purple bags were sourced from China, having been let down by a UK manufacturer at the last minute. They were unable to provide the cotton labels that we wanted so, whilst the bags themselves are 100% cotton, the labels are polyester (and should be removed before composting).
We then tried working with the world's largest ethical manufacturer of reusable bags, who are based in London, to develop our new range of coloured bags. However, this proved very difficult and, almost a year after placing (and paying for!) our order for 100% cotton bags with them, we found ourselves with more of the same - 100% cotton bags with polyester labels, manufactured outside of the UK (in India). Additionally, many of the bags we received from them did not meet our quality standards, so it was a real disappointment to us.
Anyhow, we are now moving forward with a plan to manufacture our own bags in-house, and have just procured some 100% cotton woven labels. These are from China, as is our fabric, but we are happy that the manufacture will take place in the UK and we will have more control over the creation of new coloured ranges.
Our original aim was to use natural, handmade soaps that are manufactured in the UK, and we have succeeded in this mission. However, we are learning as we go along and are now on our sixth soap supplier. It seems that the definition of 'natural' is subject to interpretation, so we are working on defining our own standards in order to ensure that our products are kind to both skin and the environment. All of our Artisan Collection soaps are SLS, SLES and Parabens free, and they are all vegan friendly (except for our limited edition Ivory Rose Silk). They are all completely natural and are handmade in North Wales.
After receiving valuable customer feedback, we have decided to start selling our Basic Collection soaps, which are all handmade in Bedfordshire using the finest quality ingredients but are not 100% natural. We discovered that some of our customers want to avoid plastic and save the planet by purchasing soap from us, but they are not so concerned with having completely natural soaps and prefer to spend less money on their washing experience. So, with this in mind, we created our new collection, which we hope will please customers as much as our Artisan soaps do, without breaking the bank.
We provide the full ingredients of all products, and go to great lengths to explain each one in plain English as well as providing the official INCI names, so that customers are fully informed about what they are buying.
Our original aim was to use 100% recycled and recyclable packaging, containing no plastic whatsoever. We are able to do this, by sourcing 100% recycled vintage manilla envelopes in which to ship our products. We have found that the cotton bag works well to protect the soap inside, and we have started to include 100% recycled business cards as labels for our Baggy Soaps, following feedback from customers wanting some information about Baggy Soap to be included with their order. Our replacement soap bars are wrapped in 100% recycled kraft paper, and are sealed with a compostable Baggy Soap label. So far, everything seems to be surviving the postal journey without any plastic padding, but we always want to be informed if any products don't reach our customers in good condition, as we don't believe that anyone should pay good money for damaged goods.