There’s an interesting commentary out there on corporate America, human relationships, and celebrity; it’s the documentary “Burt’s Buzz,” profiling the famous Burt of Burt’s Bees products. I watched it recently and felt a whirlwind of emotions.
Without giving too much away, Burt’s story is one of a very unique, yet simple man; his roots in nature run deep while his face has become one worth hundreds of millions of dollars, yet he lives in a 400 square-foot cabin while having pocketed only a fraction of the company’s profits. But he is as content as can be. Well, despite having a broken heart. Once a simple beekeeper in Maine, Burt’s life became one of press junkets in Taiwan, photo-shoots on motorcycles, and appearances at Target’s Earth Day events. He never asked for this life, and while remaining cordial to those who organize his schedule in his own quirky way, still doesn’t. However, his business partner from day 1, back when they were simply making candles out of beeswax for country craft fairs, always had this vision of what the company has become today. She brought Burt, who’d developed personal feelings towards her, with her because he was the face of the brand and what the people would pay for, yet all he wanted was a simple life with her and his bees (and beloved Golden Retriever). You’ll watch as Burt (voluntarily) fades into the background and everyone else’s true colors show.
I suggest watching this film first because it is a great character profile and a chance to learn about a brand most of us trust and use, but next because it brings into question artisanal integrity – how it’s defined, how it remains intact, and what it means if it begins to waver. This is by no means a stab at the company; it was one of the first body care lines to emerge in the natural product movement, was able to grow healthy efficient yields without the uses of carcinogens, and still remains an almost all-natural brand despite being mass produced – all impressive accolades.
What I look for in a brand as a consumer, and what we at Lux & Eco look for when curating new brands for the store, is the story behind it. Can the creator of the product say they touched each and every bottle? Did they oversee production on a daily basis? While it is important for all companies to grow in terms of profit, and while the former questions I just posed might be a far reach for even the most sustainable companies, at what point can we trust the face behind the name? “Burt’s Buzz” is the story about a product whose face abandoned it; in terms of the consumer chain, we are no longer actually connected to the original Burt. What you have to ask yourself is how important connectivity between manufacturer and customer is, and what it means to you when the distance grows.
Lux & Eco is a collection of products where even the “big” names are still part of a system where its salespeople, “factory” workers, CEO’s – everyone involved can stand behind the product, the brand, and the story. Watch the documentary for yourself and don’t be afraid to question the money affiliated with corporations and think about what that edge is that allows many brands to able to flourish without mass producing.