Left Politics Ungagged Writing

Soap and Socialism


Matt Geraghty 


Soap and socialism make for unexpected bedfellows. The un-poetic household item, and left wing ideology would, in the run of everyday life, appear to have little in common. An odd couple. Yet the improbable becomes possible when you’re trying to save the world, one bar of soap at a time. An unusual endeavor, but such is the case with Friendly Soap, who hand-make products that are everyday and ethical, luxurious though inexpensive. Artisan soaps for the masses.

It’s a difficult path in good years, a revolutionary one in financially straightened times. For the business models that are most resilient during such periods – are the cheap and cheerless value brands, or the gated community of luxury goods. To follow a path based upon high quality products, sold at low prices, is to confound commercial and capitalist approaches to business. But this is just what friends, and directors, Rob Costello and Geoff Kerouac have done since starting Friendly Soap. From 2008 their every step in the soap arena has been a political one. And a counter to the false utopias, and elevated prices, of the beauty product world.

The last decade has seen a rise in the artisan entrepreneur – from heritage bakers to craft brewers. It has turned the heads of the consumer, and asked them to consider purchasing items that are off the main drag. Not high street. It is an exciting development, because for most of these new ventures, provenance and quality are high on their list of production criteria – a challenge to the world of mass-produced, poor quality, goods that have blighted the late 20th and early 21st century. However, the elephant in the room is cost. There is a premium placed upon these goods that means they are out of the reach of the many, affordable only for the few. The wealthy benefit, and the poor get crumbs from the table. It was ever thus.

Geoff and Rob understood this – and decided that to have a chance of achieving their aim, that of selling artisan goods priced in such a way that they would be accessible to the everyday Joe, or Johanna, they had to sacrifice profit, but not quality. For they had a picture of their products sat next to the bars made by the market leaders. The detergent heavy, mass-produced soaps most people accessorize their bathroom with.

Unlike the relentless churn of industrially produced soaps, their are hand made using the Cold Process method. A traditional style of making that creates no by-products. It’s a slow process. For once mixed, the ingredients take two days to produce the soap, after which it is sliced into bars, then set on shelves to cure for a month, before being ready to sell. And they use little in the way of ingredients. Just as it should be. For soap requires just a few key components to make it – so they make sure all theirs are ethically sourced, and high quality – from oils to exfoliants.

The tack they have taken helps neuters contemporary class structures, where taste, and cost become social weapons – defining and marking off ‘high class’ from the ‘low class’. For they have created a ‘high class’ product with a ‘low class’ price tag. Generally, as an item becomes more fashionable it becomes cheaper, so more people can use it, and the fashionable wealthy look for new ways to differentiate themselves. Yet the Friendly Soap range squares the circle – for it is simultaneously different and universal. Because of their political approach all the range is SLS, palm oil, paraben and cruelty free, vegan friendly, and uses no plastic packaging. Whilst being priced to meet the pockets of most consumers. They are the great leveler – ticking all the important boxes, whilst being affordable.

So at a time in which we face the relentless chatter of advertising, and the shaky promises of countless brands, Friendly Soap’s authenticity is the ultimate currency. A luxury everyone can afford, and soap that can clean more than just your body.

To satisfy you thirst for Friendly knowledge, check out their website.



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