Michelle Feeney is a visionary business leader who has created cult global beauty products and billion-dollar brands in the US and the UK.
Michelle worked in PR (with legendary Lynn Franks) in the UK in the Eighties, before moving to the US to set up her own agency, working on some of New York’s most infamous and legendary celebrity nightclubs including Limelight and Club USA. She was rapidly headhunted by Estée Lauder Companies to work on their Prescriptives brand, her first experience of working globally. She then worked with Tommy Hilfiger to launch his first fragrance which became an iconic scent and global success. A further milestone came in 1994, with the launch of Crème de la Mer. Michelle transformed the newly-acquired brand into an overnight success at the then unprecedented price point of $150 creating the first beauty ‘wait-list’ and communicating the its story in an entirely new way.
Michelle's business success secured the promotion to Vice President, Global Communications of MAC Cosmetics following their acquisition by Estée Lauder Companies, leading their growth to become the world’s biggest make-up brand. Over a period of seven years, she worked in the US and the UK, launching MAC Cosmetics into 40 countries and growing it from a $65 million brand to a $1-billion-dollar brand.
On moving back to the UK in 2003 Michelle was appointed by investors, LDC as CEO of the then little-known brand, St Tropez. She turned it into a household name, market leader and prestige global brand, by creating a $25m business in the USA and remaining committed to be socially responsible by partnering with The Princes Trust.
Michelle returned to Beauty in November 2017 with the launch of her dynamic, sustainable fragrance brand - FLORAL STREET. Floral Street offers vegan and cruelty free products, certified by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals); ingredients that are responsibly sourced and traceable from 'seed to scent'; packaging that is recyclable, reusable, refillable or biodegradable; FSC certified paperboard sourced from responsibly managed forests and via the World Land Trust, they have helped protect over 6,500 m² of endangered tropical rainforest.
We were lucky enough to chat to Michelle about International Women's Day.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
It means a lot. It is a day to remind the world of the inequalities that unfortunately, still exist hugely in the world but also to celebrate the triumphs of many incredible females. The rights and freedoms we enjoy in the UK should be cherished free healthcare, the right of choice, more equal pay — this is not the same the world over.
When you were a child - what did you dream about becoming.
I am not sure I had dreams of becoming something, growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s there was not many female role models in ‘jobs’. I did know I wanted to be useful in life and I did want to travel the world — which I did!! However, I think the pivotal professional moment was via my involvement in the MAC AIDS Fund, launching MAC in over 40 countries and also helping change minds and save lives.
How did you become so successful “in a man's world”?
I was lucky that I entered into fashion and beauty in the 1980’s when there were many women lead businesses. I was lucky enough to work for Lynn Franks of ‘ABFAB’ fame who empowered women to take their ideas and run with them. I feel this background of believing in yourself and your ideas helped me stay strong once I entered the challenging corporate world of NYC Cosmetics!!
What barriers did you overcome and how did you overcome them
I believe often we put our own barriers to success in place by lacking self-esteem. I have worked throughout my life to surround myself with positive role models and individuals who help bolster me. I believe strongly you overcome challenges a day at a time, not in one big leap!!
If you had two minutes and the whole world was forced to listen - what would you say?
Be kind: to yourself, to others and to the Earth.
What's next for Floral Street
I am thrilled that as we enter our 3rd year of business the world has woken up to sustainability in the beauty world. FLORAL STREET is expanding rapidly in the USA and Australia we are launching 35 new fully sustainable home products and watch out this August when we launch an amazing fragrance collaboration!!
We are a fully female team fuelling our British Brand globally!!