Since plants became the new pets, attention has turned to how best to care for our leafy friends. Introducing Sowvital: The specialist plant care brand pioneering fertilizer formulations for house plants.
The UK-based brand launched with Appear Here on Redchurch Street, Shoreditch this spring with a botanically immersive (and impressive) store. Front and centre was Sowvital’s signature scent. We caught up with founder Jack Lewis on how Sowvital started, the art of scent-scaping and the secret behind curating a space your customers won’t want to leave.
How did Sowvital start?
Sowvital was born out of a curiosity to understand how the right nutrients can help house plants thrive. Plants are these beautiful biological organisms, which rely on a steady supply of carefully balanced nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from natural rain and soil cycles in the wild. Trapped inside in a pot, a house plant needs human intervention to stay alive.
I felt there was a real gap in the market for premium, high quality, animal-free and environmentally-conscious fertilizer products. It was great to see how popular house plants became during lockdown, but it was a bit like watching everyone get a dog, only to scrimp on the essential food and supplements it would need to live a long and healthy life.
I had started blending my own fertilizer formulations at home. I decanted them into empty Aēsop or Kiehls bottles and would sit them on the shelf next to my house plants so I remembered to use them. I wanted formulations which were rich in every nutrient a house plant needed, animal free – many fertilizers on the market aren’t – and sustainably produced. On a Sunday, I’d add a few drops to a watering can and provide my plants the life-giving nutrients they needed. It was fun. I started sharing it with friends who had amassed plant collections during lockdown and the ritualistic and scientifically-driven concept that is Sowvital was born.
I was lucky enough to work with leading experts to formulate and test products across 18 months, as well as Leslie David Studio, NodNod and Charles Negre, to create the visual world of Sowvital, spanning the digital and the physical.
The Sowvital store created a very unique atmosphere, is scent the secret behind that?
Sowvital’s core mission is to reconnect people with plants, and through showcasing the myriad ways in which plants can be artfully woven into an immersive installation, we hoped to inspire people to bring more greenery into their urban lives. A big part of that was thinking about all of the senses. We wanted to introduce a unique botanically inspired scent, which defined the brand and the physical experience of the space.
We worked with world-leading experts including Isabelle Van Ingen, and the technological development team at Scentmate to construct the brand fragrance. Sebastien Lacouture, a Scentmate technical perfumer, described the fragrance they developed for Sowvital as “a well balanced, elegant and luminous blend of orange blossoms with bright and green aspects.”
While scent played an important role, the use of moving digital imagery on the screen installation we constructed, including the Metavert exhibition of AI generated flowers, was a powerful way to bring the space alive.
Can you tell us a little more about scent-scaping and how you’ve used it to bring your store to life?
Our memory of a fragrance is much stronger than our memory of other sensations. For example, after six months, our brain remembers only 25% of visual information compared to 82% of scent-related information. We wanted our store and brand to be as memorable as possible, which is why we carefully dispersed fragrance across the space and used scented stickers and brand bags. Some customers even told us they kept the bag to continue enjoying the scent for longer.
From the signature scent to the digital wall art, you’ve created something of a botanical mecca. How have your customers reacted?
We have had many people follow up specifically asking about the scent. We had some visitors to the space from as far afield as Korea, Tel Aviv and Malibu who, upon returning home, emailed us to see if they could purchase the scent and have it shipped over. In terms of community building and creating a memorable first impression via a store, this was exactly what we wanted.
What are your top tips for creating an immersive store?
First, think about sight, sound, touch and smell. These are all opportunities to inspire, excite and create a memorable experience for the consumer. Channel your brand through these sensory avenues, particularly touch and smell – two things you cannot control through an ecommerce platform or Insta.
Second, pick a direction and stick with it. Be very clear on creating parameters: color palette, materials. Cohesiveness is really important. Sowvital’s visual identity, developed by Leslie David, is anchored around particular color palettes and certain textures and shapes. We made sure this was reflected in all of the components we introduced to the customer in the store.
If you had to describe your brand in three words, what would they be?
Our mantra is “Love Thy Plants”, so it would have to be that.
What are the next steps for Sowvital? Any thoughts on branching out further IRL?
We will be in Paris in September, at 62 rue Charlot in Le Marais, immersed in another botanical wonderland (with some exciting new products).