The First Lady of Clean Beauty

Sylvie Chante­caille, daugh­ter of French aris­to­crats, was one of the ear­lier be­liev­ers of na­ture-meets-cut­tingedge-sci­ence sk­in­care and makeup. Her brand fi­nally de­buts here at Takashimaya D.S.

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Ablue-blooded fam­ily, child­hood days in ver­dant French gar­dens, debu­tante balls, and fash­ion de­signer friends – Sylvie Chante­caille’s life seems like the stuff of so­ci­ety pages. But for the 72-year-old founder of her epony­mous beauty brand, the stuff of so­ci­ety pages laid the ground­work for her fu­ture as an in­dus­try game-changer.

“I grew up with a rose gar­den right out­side my bed­room win­dow and fell asleep ev­ery night to that beau­ti­ful scent, so I’ve al­ways cher­ished flow­ers,” says Chante­caille. “As a child, I spent hours with my mother tend­ing her gar­den, and this ap­pre­ci­a­tion grew into a sci­en­tific form when I was given a mi­cro­scope, which I used to study flow­ers and plants,” she says.

Born to aris­to­cratic French par­ents who were art col­lec­tors, she not only ac­quired an artis­tic eye (honed by an ed­u­ca­tion in art his­tory and the­atre), but also beauty know-how and rou­tines through her mother.

“My mum took me for a fa­cial when I was young, and the aes­theti­cian put makeup on me. When I saw how it made me look, I was hooked. As I grew up and went out more as part of the debu­tante cir­cuit, I would spend hours get­ting ready be­cause I was a per­fec­tion­ist. To me, that was the most fun part of my evening!”

When she was 25, she moved to New York, where she met and set­tled down with her hus­band, Olivier Chante­caille. Then in the late ’70s came her first foray into beauty with her friend, fash­ion de­signer Diane von Furstenberg. They opened a small cos­met­ics and per­fume shop on Madi­son Av­enue (the cult fra­grance, Ta­tiana, was among its out­put).

That ven­ture landed her on the Lauder group’s radar, and it ap­proached her in 1979 to start a new brand – Pre­scrip­tives, one of the most for­ward-think­ing play­ers in the mar­ket at that time. “We were the first to of­fer cus­tomblended shade-match­ing to help women iden­tify their per­fect foun­da­tion colour. That was rev­o­lu­tion­ary.”

Through her work on Pre­scrip­tives, she learnt more about for­mu­lat­ing prod­ucts, util­is­ing pig­ments, and the im­por­tance of tex­tures – knowl­edge that would come in handy when she went solo with her own la­bel, Chante­caille, in 1997.

It started as a niche fra­grance house with just four scents based on nat­u­ral es­sen­tial oils. It soon ex­panded into sk­in­care and makeup that com­bined pure botan­i­cals, aro­mather­apy, sci­ence and lux­ury.

“I was an only child and spent a lot of time in na­ture, so it made sense for me to cre­ate a line based on the power of flow­ers and botan­i­cals,” she says. “I know a lot about such prod­ucts as I’ve been do­ing this all my life. So I thought that if I put all my knowl­edge into some­thing re­ally nat­u­ral, us­ing the next level of sci­ence, we’d get amaz­ing prod­ucts.”

Given the num­ber of brands with sim­i­lar claims now, this may feel a lit­tle

been there, heard that. But Chante­caille was one of the first to em­brace clean beauty be­fore “free of syn­thetic colours, fra­grances, petroleum and var­i­ous chem­i­cals linked with der­mati­tis, can­cer and hor­monal dis­rup­tions” be­came the ver­nac­u­lar.

The brand is also open to com­bin­ing sci­ence with tra­di­tional wis­dom. “We were at the fore­front of many new things, like be­ing the first to use plant stem cells. We work con­stantly with the fu­ture; that’s what in­ter­ests us. But it has to be in a way that works nat­u­rally with the body,” says Chante­caille.

“I have al­ways been fas­ci­nated with tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine and, per­son­ally, have used it to take care of my­self for years. Its prin­ci­ples re­ally shine in our Gold line, which de­liv­ers the re­ju­ve­nat­ing ben­e­fits of 24K gold. Gold is in­cred­i­bly heal­ing and has been used in Chi­nese medicine for hun­dreds of years to treat emo­tional and phys­i­cal trauma, and stress. It’s an an­tiox­i­dant, and it boosts cir­cu­la­tion. We are about to launch our first Gold Re­cov­ery Mask, which en­er­gises the skin. It’s proven to make skin look seven years younger!”

Chante­caille’s pas­sion for na­ture goes be­yond its ap­pli­ca­tions: The brand gives back to con­ser­va­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal causes. In ad­di­tion to launch­ing phil­an­thropic prod­ucts ev­ery sea­son that ben­e­fit var­i­ous en­dan­gered an­i­mals, it takes care to en­sure that its prod­ucts are made sus­tain­ably.

“We im­ple­mented plant stem cells in our prod­ucts be­fore any­one else be­cause these in­gre­di­ents are eas­ily re­new­able and have min­i­mal im­pact on the earth. We use plants har­vested sus­tain­ably, and were early sup­port­ers of the Fair­wild Stan­dard that en­sures pro­tec­tion for wild plants. Ev­ery­thing we do at Chante­caille stems from an in­her­ent pas­sion to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment and its wildlife.”

3 3 The rare Rose de Mai is har­vested at first bloom in May from the brand’s fields in Grasse, France.

2 With el­dest daugh­ter, Olivia, when the lat­ter was a baby. Olivia is now the brand’s cre­ative di­rec­tor. 2

1 1 Sylvie Chante­caille with hus­band Olivier in New York City’s Cen­tral Park.

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