We were so excited to speak with Sylvie Chantecaille. She is the grandest dame of eponymous beauty and skincare company, Chantecaille and quite well know for having created the most luxurious skin care and makeup, meticulously crafted from natural ingredients. Chantecaille lives in New York City and East Hampton and works together with her extremely close knit family: husband and three children.
Can you give us an overview of your career?
I grew up in Paris! My parents were art collectors, and their expertise in art educated and influenced my understanding of beauty, color, and nature. When I moved to New York, I met Diane Von Furstenberg, and together we started my first cosmetic company. The Lauder family then asked me to create Prescriptives for them in 1979, where I had the chance to change the beauty industry. I loved it, but deep down I wanted to start a brand based on my standards, interests, and efforts. So, I harnessed my spiritual and holistic passions and launched Chantecaille in 1997 – we were the first luxury company based purely on flowers and botanicals while incorporating scientific technology. What began as a niche French fragrance house with four scents quickly expanded to a full line of beauty. Twenty years later, we are an international success, at the forefront of naturals, botanicals, and beauty and fully family-run!
Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now.
I am having a lot of fun. I have a new apartment in New York City, and I am enjoying decorating I have very specific taste – I want things from all over the world in my home! I am also busy preparing for major growth for Chantecaille in the next year. I am spending a lot of time on the phone every morning and night with our international teams in Asia and the United Kingdom.
Did you have a mentor?
No, but I absolutely took a few things from a few people – certain ideas, advice just sticks with you.
I’ve always loved makeup and spent a lot of my hard-won early paychecks at the cosmetics counter but when I first saw that sleek modern grey packaging for Prescriptives, I had to have it all. Rent due? Who cared? Seriously, was your vision for the brand an “aha” moment or a long slog?
I have always had a clear vision of what I wanted – that packaging included. At the time, the person who gave me the confidence in my vision was Estee herself. We were having a meeting on Prescriptives packaging, and I wanted the grey, the others wanted to go with beige. Estee came in, looked at the packaging, walked out for a moment, returned and walked right up to the grey and said “This is it.”
As a marketer, would you say the packaging of a cosmetic as important as what you put inside? Is that true of a fragrance?
Packaging is a calling card, but what’s inside is the most important. It’s what stays with you.
Your daughter, Olivia once said that you see the future? Is this true? In business or your family life or both? Can you recall one such “sighting?”
It’s true – in both business and family life. At Prescriptives, I created a product called Line Preventer. A coworker told me over and over again that nobody would buy it, that it wouldn’t sell, and that nobody would want the product. He was so determined to stop this product, he had a focus group created so consumers could test it. It actually didn’t test well, but I didn’t care. It took a while to catch on, but I knew people would want to prevent aging, not just treat it. That product became one of the first anti-aging treatments on the market.
It seems you must have always been working and raising a family and now working with your family. Do you ever get tired of one another?
Never! I love them. They are my tribe.
Do you see a difference in how we should be caring for our over 50 skin?
Yes – it’s simple. We should use more skincare and wear less makeup.
Other than sunscreen, is there one product we should be using each and every
A great anti-aging serum, like Bio Lifting Serum+.
We respect that you are so eco-conscious and we love your “cause-metics” The lions were so beautiful. What’s next?
We are very concerned about the melting of the polar ice caps. That is where we are casting our gaze next.
Are there any new intriguing botanical discoveries on your radar?
Every day there are! There is so much new research, so many new ingredients that are proven to be effective and efficient at helping the skin look its best. We are about to launch a Blue Light Protection Hyaluronic Serum that uses Nasturtium Flower Extract. This is not a new botanical ingredient, but new tests have proven that it protects the skin from Blue Light Pollution! Specifically, it protects the mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cells where all the energy is produced, from blue light pollution and exposure, which can damage collagen production and accelerate aging. Using this extract in skincare creates a formula that leaves skin brighter and more radiant.
How do you describe your design sensibility? Is it also reflected in what you wear and how you dress? Do you care more about one than another?
I am such a mixture – it’s very French. I would say both clean and bold – never stuffy, always creative. I love hand-created pieces with a story, but I’m not a bohemian hippie. I like pieces with thought, design, and craft. I love Dries Van Noten and loved Phoebe Philo’s Celine.
We meet so many women who like you, continue to grow and innovate, long after 50, yet in the conversation around getting older is still referred to as “aging”. How do we move the needle in a less limiting direction?
Never think about it. Act the age you feel inside.
What do you do to stay so healthy and energetic?
I don’t stop!
What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
Love, Africa by Jeffrey Gettleman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist. Spectacular.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To instantly transport anywhere in the world.
If you had a warning label, what would it say?
Don’t box me in.