During my time visiting each and every one of the factories, I was in so much awe of everything that I was seeing and hearing about, that I completely lost track of time. It wasn't until we stopped off for coffee and checked our watches, that I realised I had been traipsing around goggle-eyed for about four hours by this point. When I realised that my time in the factories was drawing to a close, I did become a little disheartened at the thought. People have told me that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. However, I just hope for my sake that they're wrong - I would hate to think that this was the only opportunity I would ever get to explore my favourite company from the inside out.
As we'd managed to get through most of the sightseeing a lot quicker than planned, Matt my tour guide suggested that we visit the factory that no other blogger had yet to step foot in - the Emotional Brilliance warehouse a few minutes walk from where we currently were. It was not like I was going to say no to that, was I?
Next door to this factory was where the perfumes were trialled and made, and although I would have loved to have explored that revenue as well, I was told that I wasn't allowed in there for two reasons: Firstly, there would have been formulas for each and every one of Lush's fragrances present in that place - recipes I'm sure they are very keen to keep secret. Secondly, due to the very nature of perfume making, there would have been fumes present during the mixing process, and exposing me to them or any of the people with me at the time, would have been a rather naive thing to do.
However, adjacent to this was the warehouse we were heading towards - one that was similar in size to the soap factory, and definitely the most reserved once you got inside. Upon walking through the doors, I was greeted with two rooms divided and closed off by glass panes. Both rooms were adorned with row after row of plastic tubs - each with a specific colour that Lush use for their make-up range, and some of them were even filled with mounds of cocoa butter, shea butter and beeswax. As this range is made in small batches, and much lower qualities that most of the other products that Lush make, there was only a single person in there at the time. Again, everything was clearly made by hand, and the effort to detail that these employees go to was evident in the finished batches.
Next to the make-up room was the 'potting room' - a really small area where a machine (see above) was set up to fill the lip balms and temple balms. Impressively, this is perhaps one of the only times that I've seen a machine do most of the work, but it does allow Lush to ensure that the small 5g and 12g quantities needed to fill the tins, are consistent across each and every batch.
Visiting the final room of the factory, I was told that I was only able to glance into this one from a distance, because of how messy I would have probably ended up, if I had stepped inside. This particular area was set up to mix and bottle the dusting powders and dry shampoos - a job that looked incredibly fun, especially when I noticed that both of the employees inside were covered from head to toe in white powder. While most of the process was carried out by hand, they did use a machine to bottle the finished dust - a way to ensure that the bottle was properly filled once the powders had settled.
Adjacent to all of these rooms was an area where most of the employees were working - many of which were labelling the lips balms and Oxford Street exclusive eye powders. One particular employee, with an eye for detail, was painstakingly filling a set of lipstick tubes with a scolding-hot liquid. Once cool, the tops were sliced away to give the clean-cut look that you'd expect from Lush's lipsticks. They would then be given a quick burst of steam to give the colours that wonderful gleam you'd see in store. The employee proudly exclaimed that he had near enough filled every single lipstick tube that Oxford Street had ever sold, and I thanked him for the five wonderful ones that I had at home and would use regularly.
As myself and my tour guides rounded the corner to go into the factory, I was greeted by Colette - one of the digital team members for the Lush Kitchen. Matt explained that we had yet to visit the bubbles part of the tour and we bid farewell to Colette for a short while. It was then that reality really set in - I was this close to being in the actual kitchen!
As we made our way down to back of the factory, I observed multiple vats being filled and mixed with the ingredients of certain popular bubble bars. While watching the process that employees go to in order to make the base of most of Lush's bars, I suddenly got an overwhelming smell of Mumkin Bubble Bar. And it was then that I turned around and was greeted by Mariusz, who was happily combining a fresh batch together for the Lush Kitchen.
At the time of my visit, I was able to observe the factory working on two different bubble bars - the Rose Jam Bubbleroon and The Comforter Bubble Bar. Unlike the ballistics factory, this warehouse tends to make very large batches of specific bubble bars on a daily basis. So rather than seeing six different products being made at once, most of the employees in that room were all making the same one.
When it comes to the bubbleroons and most of Lush's regular-shaped bubble bars, I was able to observe a machine that measures and cuts pieces of the mixture to size - ensuring that every product is the same size and weight when it goes out into the shops. With the exception of the Lush Kitchen products, and the odd bar such as the Tweets, all of the bars are put through this machine, and then just moulded by employees on the other side.
In regards to the bubbleroons, I was told that the old designs would literally be moulded by hand, and then the buttercream centre would then be spread throughout the middle, just like you would when crafting a Victoria sponge cake or a macaroon. To make the newer designs fairer and neater, Lush have concocted a conveyer belt system that adds the correct amount of filling to the base of the bubbleroon. Employees then just have to push the top down gently, and ta-dah - the perfect bubbleroon!
Throughout the most part of the factory, the other workers were all happily creating mounds of the popular Comforter Bubble Bar. I was lucky enough to not only observe the process of it being made, but then had the opportunity to make a handful myself.
Once the batch of both the pink and white dough have been made, an employee will transfer piles of each colour onto sheets of baking paper. Taking one of each colour, the idea is that you roll both colours to form a two-layered rectangular slab. Then, just like you would a Swiss roll, you have to carefully roll the still-squishy mixture to form the log that you can see in the picture below. The final step is to slice the roll into pieces that weigh between 215g-220g, mould them into shape and leave them to settle for a few hours. During this time, the bars will rise, expand and then set, and then they're ready to be shipped off that very evening to the stores that require them.
One thing that did surprise me about the bubbles factory was that there were a few extra products that were being made alongside the bars. In the right-hand corner, a handful of employees were mixing, pressing and then hammering the henna blocks into their moulds - a process that apparently helps them to develop their shine.
Alongside this were a few work benches that were wrapping various fun bars. While the bubble bar cutting machine is used to cut and shape the FUN to ensure it is the same size each and every time, the employees still have to roll the bars to join the different colours, and then wrap each and every bar by hand. Impressive.
Finally, two employees were also working on creating the solid shampoo bars that have become a very popular seller over the last couple of years. On this particular day, the guys were making New Solid Shampoo, and the smell that was being omitted from this part of the factory was easily the most potent. Using a large crate of mixture that had already been prepared, I watched as they filled a small machine with two piles, garnished the top with a stick of cinnamon and pressed down to form the circular discs we know and love. It was such an easy process, but I was still impressed with how quickly the sticky handful of noodles became a solid block in under a second.
And then it was over. Just like that. The entirety of Lush's backstage revealed, and the ingenious ways they maintain their empire laid out bare for me to see. No longer would I be able to look at a bath bomb and simply appreciate its smell or how it reacts in the water - I would now be able to understand the process that had brought that product to me, and cement my love for the item even more. No longer would I scrub and moisturise my skin without appreciating the lengths that Lush had gone into to get that product to me.
As I left the hustle and bustle of the bubbles factory behind me, I realised that while they may not greet me at the door of my local Lush shop or respond to an online enquiry when I need them to, every single one of the Lush employees I met or observed that day were the very reasons I was able to love and enjoy Lush in all of its glory. If it wasn't for their hard work and dedication, I wouldn't be able to find solace in Lush after all of my hard work and toll that I go through in my life.
A modest wave, a whispered goodbye and I was off - heading towards the exit with my head held high and a batch of memories firmly cemented in my mind...
And that's when I noticed the familiar sign above the door I was walking towards - a sign that promised more magic than I could even fathom at that particular moment in time.
My dreams were about to come true, reality was about to get unreal.
But that's another story...