Today, I continue to look at how a growing range of cult beauty labels are capturing the zeitgeist with their authentic harnessing of heritage beauty intelligence. Their range of authentic products bring a sense of ‘meaning’ to our bathroom cabinets, by not only tapping into the traditions of far-flung destinations but by being inspired by the very surroundings in which they were born.
Here, exclusively for Forbes, I talk to three further beauty brands, with roots in different corners of the world, about how they have been inspired by their home-town cultures, ancient art of beauty and the very destinations in which they derive from. (Part 1 was published on Friday 19 August 2022).
COCHINE x SAIGON, VIETNAM
After leaving her job as head of skincare for L’Oréal Paris in London, Kate Crofton-Atkins moved to Saigon in Vietnam in 2010. Charmed by the city’s unique style – from the elegant streets overflowing with jasmine and frangipani, to the dramatic and stylish backdrop of French architecture – Kate set out to design a range of fragrances that would capture these inspiring vistas and… Cochine was born.
“When I first arrived in Saigon, I was instantly struck by the timeless elegance and beauty of the city,” Kate says. “There’s the striking architecture, streets lined with palm trees, side streets filled with the scent of jasmine, and tropical heat that envelopes you. It’s a place full of interesting and inspiring people, where you can be who you want to be – and that brings with it a sense of freedom and calm.”
Partnering with an international fragrance house based in New York, Kate spent over a year working with essential oils harvested from Vietnamese plants and trees in order to produce the perfect combination of scents that would reflect Saigon’s unique culture. Cochine is the result – a luxury fragrance house that creates eau de parfum and professionally crafted fragrance oils for the home. Using scents evocative of tropical evenings and sun-warmed terraces – think: champa jasmine, tuberose, frangipani and agarwood – the fragrances each ‘tell a story’ and are designed to transport the user to faraway places.
“It was actually the scent of jasmine in the street where I lived in Saigon that inspired me to start making fragrances,” Kate recalls. “It is called champa jasmine and it was unlike any jasmine I had smelt in Europe. I knew I wanted to bottle it and share its amazing scent with friends back home – this became the central note in our signature fragrance – the White Jasmine & Gardenia.”
She continues: “My journey of discovering plants and oils from Vietnam to use in our fragrances gives us our point of difference – for example, we use agarwood, a type of oud grown in Vietnam; delentii, a scented orchid from central Vietnam, and water hyacinth, a water-borne plant with a lilac flower. Jasmine thrives in the heat of southern Vietnam, where the petals are picked after nightfall when their fragrance is most intense.”
The use of ethically and sustainably sourced materials is at the heart of Cochine’s mission to celebrate and preserve the landscape of south-east Asia. With that in mind, Cochine has partnered with One Tree Planted, a non-profit organisation dedicated to global reforestation. For every product purchased on the Cochine website, $1 is donated to plant a tree in south-east Asia.
“The flowers, plants, fruits from Saigon, that are used to make the high quality essential oils, are unique to Cochine,” continues Kate. “We use oil from certified Aquilaria Crassna trees from the Mekong Delta. We use botanical wax from RSPO certified sustainable suppliers, PET recyclable plastic bottles and our outer packaging is made from over 90% recycled card.”
“When people smell our Frangipani & Neroli fragrance, it is so ‘of its place’ that the user is instantly transported to south-east Asia and balmy evenings on the beach. It is the perfect combination of scents to reflect this region’s diverse flora and distinctive blend of charm.”
For those wanting to be inspired by a visit to Vietnam itself, Kate reveals her favourite spots: “Nam Hai in Hoi An is the most beautiful hotel on a beach of endless white sand, found on the edge of a bustling market town. For somewhere more off the beaten track, I would recommend Mango Bay, on the island of Phu Quoc, off the south of Vietnam. This is barefoot luxury, a boutique hotel with whirring ceiling fans in the rooms set in a private cove, a place where time really stands still.”
BIOSSANCE x SAN FRANCISCO, USA
Biossance, a sustainable beauty brand, was launched in 2017 in San Francisco. It’s story began, however in 2003, when scientists at a Berkeley lab developed patented technology that allowed them to create an accessible cure for malaria. Inspired to continue using innovative biotechnology to make a positive impact on the world, Amyris (Biossance’s parent company) turned to skincare – and the ingredients people use on their faces and bodies every day – and Biossance was born.
Biossance pioneers sustainable beauty through biotechnology with science-driven and clinically-proven, effective skincare. It’s best known for innovating the creation of sugarcane-derived squalane. For years, this substance had been taken from the livers of sharks as a moisturising ingredient for skincare, or other unreliable natural sources, like olive, but Biossance’s version, says the brand, created through biotechnology is said to be purer, more sustainable and more reliable.
Derived from renewably sourced sugarcane, Biossance’s 100% plant-based squalane, found in every one of their products, is a molecular match for the moisture already found in our skin. Incredibly hydrating on its own, it’s also a perfect conduit to make other clinically proven, efficacious ingredients perform even better.
Laura Minch, director of Brand Marketing, at Biossance talks about the brand’s birth in San Francisco: “The Bay Area of San Francisco is considered a global powerhouse in the biotech and eco-scene. Inspired by our surroundings and using our rich expertise in science and biotechnology, we create ground-breaking, high-performance skincare powered by squalane. We do more than just make clinically-proven, award-winning products, we’re shaping the future of clean beauty by reinventing ingredients, creating more sustainable processes, and empowering a community of changemakers. We believe the nerdy side of science and the charming side of beauty can co-exist, and you should never have to choose between having the most efficacious products and consciously created, sustainable formulas.”
She continues: “Our first industry-leading innovation was the creation of sugarcane-derived Squalane. For generations, beauty products were fortified with squalene, a substance that provided exceptional moisture to human skin—but at the cost of millions of sharks. We imagined something better that could outperform squalene without impacting the planet or sharks. In our Berkley labs, our scientists engineered squalane, a hydrator that is purer, ethical, and significantly more efficacious. Made from sustainable sugarcane which we harvest in Brazil, squalane is a molecular match for the moisture that’s already a part our skin, making it an incredibly effective moisturizer that also saves two million sharks per year. We know our work to protect and defend the world’s oceans is just beginning. Our mission is to empower a community of changemakers, using science to create a healthier future for our planet and each other.”
Born in San Francisco, it is no coincidence perhaps that the city is leading the way when it comes to proper disposal of waste, eco-friendly buildings, air quality, carbon emissions, transportation, and land use.
“San Francisco, known as one of USA”S most environmentally-conscious cities, boasts a range of practices and policies that make environmental accountability a part of the fabric of the Bay City area,” Laura reveals. “The city is close to the outdoors and habitants recycle out of habit, while companies have adopted sustainable measures more readily than most other major cities.
“We try and reflect this ethos. So Ω– all Biossance formulations are developed in a facility certified by My Green Lab – the gold standard for laboratory sustainability practices for responsible usage of energy, waste, and water. In our packaging and shipping we utilize sugarcane waste to create conscious packaging, use recyclable boxes and paper certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). In partnership with CarbonFund.org, we plant trees and fund reforestation efforts to offset every order shipped, saving 30 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere each year. We also choose recyclable tubes and bottles made from glass, PCR, ocean plastic and sugarcane based are bio-based (a production process with a zero carbon footprint). Our outer cartons are made from renewable sugarcane paper, without inks or dyes that could affect recyclability.”
SENSAI x JAPAN
Harnessing the Japanese love of beauty and nature is at the core of beauty brand SENSAI. It fuses the latest in science know-how with an elevated notion of beauty, with SENSAI’S brand mission statement being: ‘The Sense and Science of Japan’.
Sandro Allenbach, manager of Travel & Retail at SENSAI, comments: “At the heart of every single SENSAI product is the precious Koishimaru Silk. The cocoons of Koishimaru Silk survive only on mulberry tree leaves found in evergreen forests. Aya Town in the Miyazaki prefecture in Japan is one of the first regions to cultivate Koishimaru Silk. Used in our products, it boosts the skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid for a deeply hydrated and radiant complexion.”
“Above all, SENSAI is infused with a love for Japan,” Sandro continues. “The Japanese culture sees beauty in every detail and many ancient rituals are still alive in the modern world. For instance, visiting hot springs, such as Hakone, near Mount Fuji, is an age-old Japanese tradition, said to purify and revitalise the body, mind and soul. This hot mineral water is also the inspiration for the brand’s hero product, the Micro Mousse Treatment.
“SENSAI combines Japan’s ancient traditions and new innovations to create products which give ultra-premium performance,” she says. “The unique Saho Rituals collection of skincare was inspired by the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, where everything has a place and order. This has resulted in the brand’s signature double cleansing and double moisturising steps that, when used regularly, result in flawless silk skin.”