“It’s where I’m at my best,” says Andrew Cooper, frankly. “It’s where I really thrive.”
If you’re familiar with Cooper’s illustrious career as supermodel, actor and prolific entrepreneur, you’d be forgiven for assuming that this happy place of which he speaks so fondly must be a shoot, or a set, or even a boardroom. But you’d be wrong on all counts; the place where Cooper feels “at his best” is at the home of an apothecary in Somerset, formulating male grooming products for his new brand: The Fellowship.
What is The Fellowship, we hear you enquire? Well, we’re glad you asked. It’s a men’s grooming brand, comprising specifically curated, expertly crafted products such as the Advanced Moisturiser (more on this later) — with the aim being to equip modern men with high performance, sustainable, wholly transparent grooming products. And it was founded by Cooper and brand expert and marketeer, Duncan Morris.
“Our proposition was: how can we communicate to men that it’s ok to look after yourself and to be the best you can be; and to provide a safe place [for male grooming],” Cooper explains.
No more secrets: a brand on a mission to normalise male grooming
This “safe place” is of key importance, when it comes to The Fellowship. We’ve always been hearty proponents of male grooming as key to a gentleman’s daily routine (and so it is; the day a gentleman ceases to prioritise his grooming routine is the day he can hang up his gentlemanly credentials); but Cooper has found, over the years, that male grooming generally remains far too much of a secret; even a taboo. “When I’ve hung out with [some] guys, [I’ve found there to be] this stigma that you just lose your hair, or you get a bit of a belly; and I found that really weird. I just thought: women are conscious of talking about it between themselves, and comfortable to share tips, and products, and stuff like that; but I’ve found men [to be] the opposite. It’s like they kind of wanted to gratify being out of shape.”
Cooper has noticed men who prioritise grooming a little more; especially men from America, when he’d be flying back from, say, New York — “I was just watching this evolution of men falling asleep drinking glasses of whisky in their suits, to then putting on their pyjamas and an eye mask, and maybe using the moisturizer; so I saw that there was something happening” — but he emphasises that even this level of male grooming felt “secret”.
“They might nick their wives’ products, or the wife might [share the products] — but I didn’t feel like there was a safe space to say: ‘Yeah, I use that brand, and it’s helping me [in this way]’ — and that’s what I want to try and position. Alongside developing performance in a natural brand, I wanted to find a positioning where people found a safe place to embrace it, and be conversational about it, as well.”
This is a brand with truth and trust at its heart
We’d assume that — as a suave, sophisticated sort of gentleman — you’re well versed in dedicated grooming routines, and have products aplenty lining your bathroom shelves. But if you occasionally need a little encouragement to partake in a moisturiser, or to actively seek out a beard oil: well, that’s encouragement that Cooper (and The Fellowship) is all too happy to give.
"You have to be happy and comfortable with your truest self"
“I always say that when you stand in front of a mirror, that’s your truest self and you have to be happy and comfortable with that,” he emphasises. “You can’t mask over the cracks. You’ve just got to do your best. And if that’s diet, that’s diet; if that’s exercise, it’s exercise. But you’ve got to look at yourself and your skin and understand that what you put on it: it’s got to help, and it’s got to make a difference. That’s really where we were when we brought out an essential range of products. We [thought]: let’s not make it too complicated, or too scary; let’s try and upgrade the routine that [men] have, so you can just [feel trust in the products] and actually see the results.”
And where trust in the products is concerned, sustainability is an integral part of that. Sustainability is a buzzword for a great many companies these days, and rightly so; but at The Fellowship, it’s more than a buzzword — it’s an ethos. The brand is vegan and cruelty-free, with products appearing in recycled, planet-saving packaging.
“I just don’t think there’s any other way to do it, and I think it’s too easy to ignore it,” says Cooper of sustainability. But in keeping with his emphasis on transparency and truth — the latter word, in particular, is repeated several times over our talk, indicating Cooper’s unfailing desire for honesty in everything he does — Cooper is frank about the struggles involved in making every product sustainable, when the brand was being built. “It was a real struggle, because [when] packaging is such a big part of your brand, you’re very limited. Especially within what’s fully recyclable. [But] we’re doing our best, and that’ll always be the case. Natural should be a given.”
The Fellowship offers a rare, privileged insight into a unique, high-quality formulation process
Where the actual products are concerned, this is where we get back to the place that Cooper feels helps him to thrive, more than any other. Cooper formulates the products himself, together with an apothecary in Somerset: and when he speaks of the formulation process, his tangible enthusiasm shines through over our Zoom call, his words tumbling over each other in a marked homage to his passion. “We go to [Richard’s] house — he’s got endless amounts of bottles and jars, of different smells and different products. And we sit there for, like, eight hours, just formulating and coming up with stuff.”
The formulation process is simple, and highly collaborative. “[Typically], I’ll go and say: ‘This is a texture I like, this is this is a proposition of what I want in a performance, these are ingredients that I think are great, and that I like on a personal level but which I also see as market-leading.’ And then we’ll work within the proposition to find key actives that deliver the performance. So that’ll be anti-aging, skin tightening: and stuff like that. And that’s where it’s really interesting, because that’s where the science kicks in; and the science is actually proven, so if you have the right amount of the key actives in your formulation, you’re guaranteed to deliver your result.”
The Advanced Moisturiser is the brand’s ‘hero product’; and at a mere £25, you’re getting real bang for your buck here. “What I was always conscious of, when I bought different brands and when I experienced different brands on set, is having something that absorbs and doesn’t leave your skin feeling greasy, and is something that actually tightens your pores, and obviously, as you get to a certain age, delivers positive results around aging and wrinkles,” explains Cooper. “So that was really the brief, when we went into this. And I [think] we perfectly balanced all of that. We used a prickly pear cactus, which is amazing for hydration; and I’m a massive fan of sea buckthorn, [another ingredient], which is a marine plant [found in] Norway and Scandinavia.”
The other products currently available — all formulated by Cooper — include an Energising Body Wash with mandarin and green tea; a Toning Body Moisturiser, aimed at providing firm skin with its cocktail of hyaluronic acid, aloe vera and shea butter; a Strengthening Shampoo, which cleanses the scalp while fortifying the follicles thanks to its heady combination of an amino acid blend, charcoal and coconut; and a Nourishing Conditioner, geared towards hydration and hair thickness, crafted from an invigorating blend of amino acid, coconut and neroli. We’d advise getting your hands on these products just as soon as you’re able; if we know one thing, it’s that they won’t be hanging around for long.
Energising Body Wash
Toning Body Moisturiser
This is a brand that plans to keep the conversation going
In terms of where the brand will go, Cooper has big plans. He speaks of other products — face scrubs, beard oils and eye creams are in the works — and he aims to take The Fellowship overseas, to Europe and America among other places. One thing he’s deeply passionate about is normalising grooming routines for teenage boys; he speaks movingly of how difficult it can be to learn about grooming as an adolescent. “I have this little boy who’s only ten, and I have this ambition that we could try and do something for when he goes through his teenage years, and starts hygiene, grooming, shaving. I’m really excited to look at building a range for him. So that’s an exciting phase for the business: we can look at that teenage young man, and try to build the customer from that age, and walk him through.”
Cooper acknowledges the dangers of trying to do much too soon; but other long-term plans include expanding from wellness to the mental health sphere; another area, together with grooming, that Cooper passionately feels men should be able to talk more about. “I think, too often for men, especially at the age we’re trying to deal with, they’re just not — they spend their whole time pretending everything’s fine, when they’re under a lot of pressure, and I think it’s a thing that needs addressing. Men are often putting a bravado on, when they’re struggling, and they don’t want to ask for help.”
When it really comes down to it, The Fellowship is about truth. Cooper says he wants the brand to be “a place where people can be open and honest about how they’re feeling”; and when I ask what he wants people to think of, when they think of The Fellowship, his answer is frank and instantaneous. “I want them to think of something that works. I want them to trust it. I want it to be performance-driven, I want the good stuff that goes with it to be just a given. I want it to be fair, and truthful in every aspect. My ambition is to grow something that does good. We’re trying to do something good.”
Seeking more grooming tips? Well, these are the fragrances and aftershaves worn by the royal family…
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