As Vyrao launches into Liberty offering our full range of fragrance, incense, candles, and some special exclusive extras, we talk to Sarah Coonan of Liberty London, one of the most trusted buying directors in the world, respected for discovering and supporting emerging brands from start-up to success.
Self-Portrait by Sarah Coonan
Melanie Rickey: I know you have a sixth sense for what products people will love, especially fragrance, interiors and beauty products. How did you develop this?
Sarah Coonan: I’m a magpie for interesting and beautiful things and totally fascinated in the psychology behind why people shop. It’s not just about finding lovely product but figuring out where people’s attention is, what cultural influences are at play, and what conversations are important.
Tell us about a typical day for you?
I don’t subscribe to the idea of painting a picture of perfect balance and composure – I have neither! I live in Dorset so I have quite a journey into town but I’ve grown to appreciate it as a productive start to my day.
I generally spend my day in meetings planning future projects, trading the business or scouting new talent, like Vyrao. The team at Liberty are incredibly creative – the ideas, the passion, and the sense of community make it a really fulfilling place to work.
What have you learned about what people want from fragrance, beauty and interiors since the “return to normal” after the pandemic?
The iconic Millennial aesthetic is over and there’s a significant shift towards authenticity, culture, great design and original thinking which has led to big changes in the way people shop. Fragrance, for example, is seen more as wearable art, a statement about who you are versus a superficial scent in a gimmicky bottle. This is really exciting and has opened the door for brands like Vyrao to set a new agenda.
Vyrao’s Ember candle, at Sarah Coonan’s home in Dorset
How important is emotional wellbeing and wellness to Liberty customers?
Emotional wellbeing is front of mind for most people – I would say it’s crucial to us, and it definitely permeates everything we do at Liberty. Even if you don’t buy a thing, immersing yourself in a creative environment like Liberty for an hour can be soothing. We want that for everyone who walks through our doors.
I know that you loved Vyrao as soon as you saw it, what do you think makes it so right for Liberty?
There are very few brands that give me what I call ‘the feeling’. I get that with Vyrao – the sense where I just know it will be a game-changer. Not necessarily an instant hit – there are plenty of great, on trend brands that have a moment of huge success – but I see very few that mark an industry shaping, and changing, moment.
I’m a big believer in the power of energy and this being built into a brand feels so right. With Vyrao, it’s everything from Yasmin herself, the incredible collective of amazing women I admire who are building the brand with her, and of course the product itself. From the colours used on the bottles and packaging to the Herkimer diamond in every bottle and the incredible scents. Vyrao just blew me away.
What is your favourite Vyrao scent and why? How do you work with the fragrance, and how do you feel wearing and using it?
I Am Verdant – I wear this as a pick me up when my spirit needs lifting. It’s lush and green and everything I love about a fragrance.
Witchy Woo – this fragrance could have been made for me! I’ve always been a little witchy and I spend a lot of my time thinking creatively. This fragrance literally transports me to my highest self. It grounds me, builds confidence and helps me feel at my most creative.
Sarah Coonan with her bottle of Witchy Woo
Which other Vyrao products do you use, how do you use them, and why?
I adore the whole range. Aside from fragrance, my favourite product is the Ember incense. I burn it all over my house. It’s deep and smoky and I find it ultra-soothing. Especially if I burn it while meditating or during yoga.
People love Liberty and you love Liberty – what is it that makes it so special?
I’m a Liberty super fan and have been since the first moment I set foot in that magical store when I was at art school. The fact that for over a century, Liberty has sought to discover and enable talent is very appealing to my personal sense of purpose.
There is something otherworldly about it. The history, the print, our fabric, the fact that the building is made from two old warships in the middle of Soho. It’s a bonkers mix of Britishness, humour and creativity. There really is no place like it.
How do you take care of yourself – what wellbeing routines get you into the zone for creativity, and how do you protect and feed your process?
I crave time on my own. I have to satisfy that need daily or I go mad. I read a lot and consider learning one of my most important values. Spending time with my family is also really important to me. I’m also a fan of a long hot bath which is my favourite way to de stress.
Are you a bit Witchy Woo?
I really am! I love crystals, meditation, energy healing and I’m a big astrology fan. Some of these practices have been around for thousands of years and it’s such a shame some parts of modern society dismiss them. I suffered from a pretty horrible two year battle with depression recently and using these modalities saved my sanity. They helped me make sense of my feelings, and rebuild myself.
Are there any healing modalities you would recommend?
My top three would be: Reiki. It doesn’t work for everyone but if you are open minded it can be transformative.
Yin Yoga. I find the slow movement and time spent in poses very peaceful and it never fails to calm a racing mind.
Acupuncture. I’ve used acupuncture for years on and off and have always found it really effective.
Thank you Sarah Coonan