When No7 launched in the spring of 1935, it sparked a new way to produce, market and sell cosmetics that’s still shaping the global beauty industry today.
Millions of people trust WBA’s portfolio of highly regarded beauty brands, including No7, because for more than 85 years we’ve worked to make products that work, wow and respect our world. We also believe in making beauty affordable for everyone and in doing the right thing. This dedication to authenticity starts inside No7 Beauty Company, and we have a team that’d dedicated to preserving it.
Part of that team includes Sophie Clapp, company archivist, who shares what it’s like to manage and promote the rich history of the No7 and Boots brands.
A job that involves digging through the archives of all things beauty sounds fascinating. Can you tell us more about what you do?
Sophie Clapp: I can’t deny it, it is a fabulous job, and one I’ve been doing for 20 years now. My role is ultimately about preserving, growing and promoting our archive and heritage collections, and providing an information service for the business and our customers. We also use the archives to show the authenticity and culture of our brands, to reinforce brand claims and even to inspire future products. I love the variety of the role as well as the chance to dig deep into our past and share our stories more broadly. So many people have connections to our company and our brands. It’s such a privilege to find material that can help people relive memories.
What about No7’s history do you think makes it stand out as an iconic brand?
Clapp: The growth of No7 really represents the story of every woman’s experience of beauty. Available on the hight street, across the country and at an affordable price, No7 became a well-known, much-loved beauty brand, trusted by generations of women. Women grew up with it and grew old with it. The brand has also adapted to stay relevant, modern and accessible, and with its strong scientific credentials, I’m sure it will continue for many generations to come.
There are so many beautiful examples of No7 advertising throughout its history. What’s your personal favorite and why?
Clapp: It’s so hard to pick just one, but there’s a No7 poster from the mid-1960s titled “Alluring You,” which I just love. It’s featured on the Boots head office heritage wall in Nottingham, and I think it’s such a stunning image that epitomizes the era. The glitzy, golden No7 packaging from the 1952-1971 range is my absolute favorite, and the women featured in this poster just ooze glamour and confidence.
Is there anything you wish you knew about the start of No7 that’s missing from the archive?
Clapp: Although the No7 archive is rich in product information and visuals, it’s much harder to reconstruct what the experience of selling, purchasing and using the products was really like. I’d love to have some oral history recordings of the first No7 consultants talking about their role, their beauty routines and their views on how it made our customers feel. Unfortunately, we can only imagine those private conversations, but I like to think of them patiently listening and encouraging women to be brave.
Is there a part of your career as an archivist that you never imagined you’d get to do?
Clapp: I have to say that being an archivist in a beauty company does offer more glamorous opportunities than I had ever imagined. Working with such enduring and iconic brands has meant that I’ve supported national and international press events and VIP visits, and appeared in a few TV documentaries. One of the great joys of being a corporate archivist is that you also have the potential to influence brand development. A few years ago, I was involved in the development of a retro-inspired beauty range and that was pretty special.
We know Florence Boot, wife of founder Jesse Boot, was passionate about her beauty displays. What would she think of the beauty halls we see in Boots stores today?
Clapp: I think Florence would be absolutely thrilled by the prominence, range and stylishness of Boots beauty halls. I’m sure she’d be amazed and delighted by the importance of beauty to the business today – it absolutely proves that she was right.