Five minutes with: Kathy Phillips

Kathy Phillips spent seven years at Vogue as Health and Beauty Director. She left this prestigious post three years ago to pursue various new projects both in journalism and in the commercial arena.

She is now the International Beauty Director for Cond̩ Nast Asia working with all their titles (Vogue, W and Allure) in Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan. April 2004 saw the launch of her own brand РThis Works Рan award-winning aromatherapy bath, body and skincare range

What first attracted you to essential oils?

Twenty years ago when I was pregnant, someone suggested I have an aromatherapy massage. I felt so good during and after the massage that I started using aromatherapy products.

I would use them everywhere – I bathed in them, I used them to massage my body. I found I couldn’t live without them. Here I was with a desk full of products that I could have for free – more than you could ever imagine – and instead I was spending my own money on others.

I was always on the look out for better aromatherapy products than the one I was using. That was a reason I wanted my products to measure up. This has also been a personal journey.

Your products are designed to deliver what the bottle promises. Is this the reason for the name This Works?

Parallel to my beauty editing is my life with yoga. When you start doing yoga you seriously start thinking about the way you live. The standpoint with these products is that I was actually very thoughtful about what I put in them.

The name isn’t just a catch phrase because these products really do work. What I know is that it performs. The benchmark was that it must perform.

Do you believe synthetic products can be toxic to the skin?

All this talk about toxicity in products is mainly scare mongering. Although, the one thing that does prove to be irritating to the skin is synthetic fragrances.

And why bother, when the scent of essential oil is so much more pleasant.

How important was the packaging of your products?

One of the advantages of having worked at Vogue was that I was aware of how art directors perform and how the pages [of the magazine] start working in terms of the design and layout.

If the packaging of a product was not attractive enough the art directors wouldn’t want to put it in even though the product had integrity.

I knew the packaging needed to stand up in a magazine. My background made me think like that. But obviously how it looks on the shelves was important as well.

I wanted a modern image for aromatherapy. In England, anything to do with aromatherapy was always sold in brown bottles in health food shops and had a cottage industry feel. I didn’t want my products to look too handmade.

Being a beauty editor I knew it needed to compete with Chanel on the shelf and to perform as well as products like that. All the things I thought of and wished for as a beauty editor I put into my products.

What are your favourite products in the range?

I love Breathe In, which is a blend of eucalyptus and is incredible for when you fly as it prevents you from getting a cold.

The hero product of the range is the Skin Deep Dry Leg Oil. The story behind it is that I had every product on my desk to try but I still couldn’t find something that truly moisturised my legs.

I used to get my aromatherapist to blend this oil for me to take on holiday to prevent them getting dry and chapped after being in the sun. It was the only thing that worked. Nothing moisturises the skin as deeply as essential oils.

Are the products anti-ageing?

Well, what is anti-ageing? We are all going to age at some point. There is no such thing as hope in a jar. The miracle product for anti-ageing is discipline.

The French way of wheeling their 13-year-old into a beauty school to learn about facials and how to look after their skin really does pay off.

I know from my own experience that the women that look good are the ones that have been slowly but diligently looking after their skin by having a daily skincare regime.

But yes, because my products are of high quality then of course they will help people age gracefully. My products are 30 per cent essential oils as opposed to 2.5 per cent in most other aromatherapy products.

That’s a big percentage. I liken our products to good wine or olive oil. Sure you can drink cheap wine and dip your bread into cheap olive oil, but it is never going to taste as good as the real deal. The essential oils I use are off the highest quality, which make them more effective.

What do you love the most about being a beauty director?

Meeting the most innovative people. I have been lucky enough to meet the most stimulating, interesting people – the greatest practitioners and the most talented make-up artists.

I love getting to see how they transform women. It’s very inspiring. I love the minds of the people who drive this industry. Hearing what the cosmetic sciences in the labs are working on – genetics, cell transformation and so forth fascinates me.

They are people who are on the cutting edge of future technology. I get to meet those at the top and that is what I love.

The Herb Farm

Lynn and Bill Kirkland were determined to give their children, Craig and Sarah, the best start in life by bringing up their family in the country and using natural ways to treat their health needs.

Lynn completed a herbal diploma in 1990 and the results she was getting with her herbal products were wonderful. Demand for her 100 per cent natural and effective products grew.

The vision of a business formed and the tranquil rural property they lived on offered the opportunity to establish a unique destination where the amazing benefits of herbs could be shared with more people.

This vision was taken to the next level of developing a business plan and the doors to The Herb Farm opened in 1993.

Sarah, brought up with this focus on a natural life, went on to travel overseas as an international model. Sarah also studied and completed a Bachelor of Business Studies.

Using The Herb Farm products for her skin, body and healthcare and believing that there was no equal in the market place, Sarah decided to join her mother Lynn, in the business in 2006.

So from being a young country girl surrounded by herbs and nature Sarah has now become the managing director of The Herb Farm. Here she talks with MiNDFOOD.

What are the three most important values behind your skincare company?

Natural, effective and trusted are the three values the herb farm team. We wanted words to describe the products and the ethics of the people and the company.

Natural because we believe nature knows best and the herbs are gifts to enhance our health and give healing when needed. We believe there is no place for synthetic chemicals or harmful ingredients in our products. When we say 100 per cent natural we mean it.

Effective because we have testimonials freely offered on our products and we all use them and know how efficacious they are.

Trusted because we live our lives with integrity and we are honest in our dealings in our lives and business. Our customers know this and trust us.

Do you have any strict policies as to what ingredients you use?

We certainly do and as any of our suppliers will tell you we ask for a supplier pledge to be signed so we know they have their hand on their heart when they are in business with us.

Each ingredient is critiqued to make sure it fits our guidelines and we ask for specification sheets and certificates of analysis for every batch. We have stringent processes to make sure that we are receiving ingredients that we believe will give the best results in our products.

Our own ingredients made on the farm, such as our herbal tinctures and some oils, are made with great care from the herbs that have been lovingly grown in our own tranquil rural paradise and of course there are no sprays used on our herbs.

Why is it important for you to use natural products?

We believe that the cells in our bodies are attuned to natural products and when products are made with a loving energy and using only extracts from nature then the results are unsurpassed.

There is no reason to put potentially harmful chemicals on our bodies.

If you have a choice between putting synthetic chemicals or petroleum-derived ingredients that are potentially harmful to us on our bodies or putting beautifully scented plant-derived products on the skin then what would your choice be?

Today’s lifestyles can expose us to hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals every day but if we have an awareness of this and start to examine labels and look beyond marketing hype we can greatly minimise this exposure.

What does The Herb Farm in Palmerston North offer visitors?

The herb farm offers visitors a unique experience and one we believe is unrivalled in New Zealand or indeed in many countries in the world.

Visitors reaching the peaceful setting on Grove Road outside Palmerston North immediately notice the feeling of tranquillity that envelops the property. All senses are about to get a wonderful experience.

Stepping from their car they are likely to hear bird song in this haven which is well sheltered and has developed its own micro climate. The scents from the gardens permeate the air and this is strengthened when a visitor steps into the herb farm shop.

Shoulders relax and the stress lines caused by busy lives seem to melt away.

The herb farm products are available to buy in the shop where expert advice is often given freely by our herbalist or naturopaths who work in the shop.

The experience can be enhanced by booking in a group to have a hands on workshop or a guided tour of the gardens. (Details on these are on the website

The herb cafe is part of the complex and offers beautiful fresh food and drinks in the loveliest setting with indoor and outdoor dining options. Seasonal menu changes tantalise the taste buds.

And then the lovely buildings are surrounded by entrancing and totally inspiring gardens which can be explored as a self-guided option or a guided tour is available for groups.

The gardens are in 14 themes and are a delight for families, children or individuals needing to feel the healing touch of nature.

Future plans are for a Day Spa at the herb farm which will add an extra dimension to the herb farm experience.

Are all The Herb Farm products manufactured on site?

All our skincare and healthcare products are made on site. We recently received funding from The Foundation of Research and Development to investigate increasing our batch sizes without losing the special nature of the products and without affecting the actives such as antioxidant levels in the products.

Every step of making these natural products is done in a tranquil and healing environment rather than a city factory setting.

Every product is without synthetic preservatives or parabens. Does this mean a shortened shelf life?

Our effective natural preservative system is based on using herbal extracts, essential oils and a small amount of colloidal silver.

We give most of our products a best before date of 12 months and advise customers to buy the size they will use in this time period.

The special nature of our truly natural products means you treat your product with a little thoughtful care. Respectful treatment of the product such as keeping it out of direct sunlight and always using a clean finger or spatula will ensure you can enjoy the benefits of the product to the bottom of the jar.

What is your best-selling product?

Our rose face cream is probably our longest standing and best-selling product, loved by all who try it. We have glowing testimonials on this soft-textured luxouious face cream.

What is it like working with your family?

It has been a fantastic experience as we are both very different but we respect these differences and know that our strengths are in different areas.

We allow each other to have the freedom to work in our area of expertise and support each other when the need is there.

Do you have any future plans to take The Herb Farm into the global market?

This year we are experiencing excellent growth in the New Zealand market and we do have enquiries from overseas markets.

Right now we want to concentrate on increasing our market share in New Zealand. After all the “Buy New Zealand Made” campaign and the upsurge of interest in truly natural products is keeping interest in our company at a high level.