What if doing your part to stop global warming was as easy as putting on lipstick?
Luxury beauty label Chantecaille’s founder Sylvie Chantecaille wants to make it easy for beauty consumers to become environmental crusaders.
It all began with butterflies. An avid gardener, Chantecaille’s founder Sylvie Chantecaille noticed that the monarch butterflies that normally swarmed her rose garden in the Hamptons were rapidly disappearing. This, she discovered, was because the milkweed that the butterflies feasted on upon emerging from their cocoons was blooming earlier in the season due to global warming. In addition, the trees that the butterflies rested upon on their migratory route from Canada to Mexico were being cleared away. In short, the monarch butterflies were becoming an endangered species.
This inspired her to launch a series of limited-edition makeup embossed with butterflies in 2006, with part of the proceeds going towards the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Foundation, which conserves land in Mexico to serve as butterfly sanctuaries.
“Everyone said: ‘Oh, [the makeup] is so pretty. And I said, yes they are, but we are concerned about the butterflies. And that was how we started the conversation. I thought that this was so interesting, that we are able to use my company to bring attention to these environmental issues that I feel so strongly about,” said Chantecaille at a rare media interview with CNA Luxury in Beijing.
Next came the corals. “I loved diving, and I pitied the coral reefs that were dying and bleaching so quickly, so I thought: Let’s do corals. I thought that it was so interesting that this was a conversation that we could spark in Hong Kong, Japan, America, Europe, all over the world really,” mused Chantecaille.
From then on, the limited-edition makeup in aid of causes as diverse as the wild horses in South America, sea turtles, lions and rainforests were launched in rapid succession, bringing these causes to the attention of legions of the brand’s customers and sealing Chantecaille’s link with environmental philanthropy. To date, Chantecaille supports over 21 environmental conservation-focused charities and organisations.
“I thought that this was so interesting, that we are able to use my company to bring attention to these environmental issues that I feel so strongly about.”
FOR THE LOVE OF NATURE
“I‘m very lucky that I can use my company to speak. It wasn’t an automatic thing. Because I love [nature] so much, I really wanted to do this. And when I realised that it was working, it was the greatest thing,” said Chantecaille.
“The animals are the guardians of the wild. The more time I spend with animals, the more I understand this. We are part of the same chain. Animals are so much like us, they have the same emotions. They love their families, they are protective, they are very intelligent. But we just don’t listen, don’t watch and don’t pay attention. Once you do, you cannot just go away and do nothing.”
The 74-year old beauty industry doyenne was also the creator of Prescriptives, the beauty brand in the Estee Lauder group that spearheaded innovative concepts like its Custom-Blend Foundation and were a pre-requisite in most women’s beauty cabinets in the 80s and 90s. She left the company after 25 years to found her eponymous brand, pioneering one of the world’s first botanical beauty brands.
“I was very interested in science, and Prescriptives was the most scientifically advanced beauty label at that time, which was great. But there were still women who had a lot of [allergic reactions] to their beauty products.
"I had been sick at that time, and was very interested in traditional Chinese medicine and aromatherapy, and I was interested in doing something very scientific, but using ingredients that are completely natural. Nobody at that time thought of fusing natural ingredients and science. We were vegan and natural before anybody else, but we didn’t talk about it because for me, it was the right thing to do, the natural thing to do,” mused Chantecaille.
“It had to be a luxury company too because it has to be beautiful and the textures had to be incredible, otherwise, what’s the point? It has to be the best, and if it’s not the best, then don’t do it.
"I also knew when I started my company that I wanted to put a lot of money into the product. What was happening at that time was that a lot of money was put into advertising and marketing, and what gets cut in the end is the product. We would take longer [to grow] but people would eventually get it.”
“I was interested in doing something very scientific, but using ingredients that are completely natural. Nobody at that time thought of fusing natural ingredients and science. We were vegan and natural before anybody else.”
To wit, Chantecaille’s high-profile fans include Hollywood stars Angelina Jolie and Kate Bosworth and is on a rapid expansion drive into Asia. The brand has also recently introduced a permanent lipstick line – Lip Veil – where 5 per cent of proceeds go towards Space For Giants, an organisation that protects wild African elephants (Chantecaille’s favourite animal) from poachers and angry farmers along their migratory route.
This month, the brand unveiled a Spring makeup range that is dedicated to drawing public attention to the plight of polar bears displaced by melting glaciers in the Arctic region caused by global warming.
Chantecaille has also committed to planting a tree as part of the Attenborough Green Canopy project in Kenya for each Lip Cristal sold from the collection in an effort to reverse global warming. A minimum of 20,000 trees will be planted with this campaign. The Lip Cristal collection has reportedly sold out in several stores in the US upon its launch in February.
Next up, a Summer makeup collection in aid of Asian elephants, and a botanical face serum created specifically to tackle the ageing effects of blue light on the skin.
“Anti-pollution is not a trend, it’s a reality,” stated Chantecaille. “Blue light pollution is definitely on. We’re coming out with a blue light protection product that we’ve been working on for two years, really working hard on it. Everyone’s thinking about it because it’s our reality now.”
In a time when environmentally conscious beauty is on the up and up, Chantecaille sees the new green beauty entrants as allies in her mission to save nature from devastation. “We [at Chantecaille] are small. I just want to be a voice for the animals. I would love for other people to join in. I’m delighted about more green beauty brands entering the market, I’m delighted that things are changing from what it used to be. Basically, the wild is what we, as humans, need to save. If we don’t save the wild, we disappear. If we lose the wild, we lose everything.”
Chantecaille is available exclusively at the Chantecaille counter at Takashimaya Beauty Hall.