At FaB Paris, fashion and beauty entrepreneurs aim for ethical consumption
What challenges does the clean beauty industry face? How can responsible consumption be encouraged? And where does the future hold? These questions and more were tackled by a panel of 12 entrepreneurs focused on the environment and circular economies at a recent Fashion and Beauty Tech (FaB) Paris meetup. Held on December 16, the event was the fourth meeting for the beauty tech community in the City of Lights, with 60 participants attending.
Clean beauty’s future challenges
Opening the first session was Benjamin Garsillo of personalized shampoo brand Juste Paris, who shared that clean beauty is more than merely avoiding harmful ingredients such as coloring, chemical preservatives, and petrochemicals. Clean beauty brands also use biodegradable materials, adopt sustainable packaging and help ensure a circular economy society of zero waste. “Clean beauty is currently not just about what ingredients are used in products; its meaning has also broadened to cover environmental impact.”
Similarly, Arnaud Lancelot from zero-waste cosmetics brand CoZie explained: “Along with raising consumers’ awareness, clean beauty is continuously evolving. We’re making efforts to improve all aspects of our business every day, including formulas and packaging.” His company claims to have created France’s first bio cosmetics sold by weight and that reuse glass bottles. The brand’s weighing machines can be found in 360 organic cosmetics stores across the country. Customers fill a bottle with what they need, and the bottle is weighed and labeled with the product name and production lot number. Used bottles are collected, washed and reused.
On the other hand, Fiona Picot of feminine hygiene brand My Holy, which sells menstrual underwear and biodegradable menstrual cups made of silicon, talked about the issues in branding alongside the growing awareness of eco-friendly feminine hygiene. As she put it: “Clean beauty has no regulations, so it’s up to us to watch ourselves through ways such as higher levels of traceability. However, as ‘clean’ will become standard in the near future, we need to think about how to distinguish ourselves from other brands.”
Candice Collin of cosmetic analysis platform Beautylitic, which analyses the ingredients of cosmetics sold at retailers, also pointed out that despite the increase of clean cosmetics in stores, retail staff does not understand these products and their ingredients enough. If companies and brands are not thoroughly transparent and do not actively disclose information clearly, we will likely find that both retail staff and consumers will not know enough about the safety and other qualities of these products.
Juste Paris’s Garsillo added: “It’s no good if clean beauty is seen as a niche corner of the market, because, as a niche, clean beauty won’t be able to impact society or change consumer behavior as much.” The big challenge will be for startups to try and influence the market.
From excessive to responsible consumption
The second panel featured representatives from startups that are leading the way for circular economy businesses in the fashion industry.
France’s first luxury fashion rental app Dresswing is fulfilling both the need for affordable, fashionable clothes and for making some cash from renting unworn clothes. The platform hosts consumer-to-consumer borrowing and lending, as well as buying and selling.
Fashion rental service Panoply distinguishes itself by bringing together high-end brands. Its selling point is offering users the joy of wearing the latest collections, which are typically beyond the grasp of most people, at much more reasonable prices and in the form of either à la carte (one-time-only rentals) or a subscription model.
Meanwhile, Estefania Laranaga of second-hand marketplace Place2Swap is helping second- hand businesses. She believes that “entering secondary distribution markets is a chance to urge responsible consumption and raise customer loyalty”. Along with reducing excessive consumption, Place2Swap aims to extend the life cycle of products — from pre-sales such as product materials, manufacturing, and supply chains to the after-sales second-hand market and its transactions, recycling and donating.
Then there is the emergence of mobile apps that rethink how clothes and accessories are used. Launched last September, Clear Fashion rates fashion brands’ sustainability levels. Enter a company’s name, and the app will show its score in four categories: “humans” (related to working conditions), “health” (usage of chemical materials), “environment” (carbon dioxide emissions and waste) and “animals” (use of fur and leather).
Creating the clean beauty of tomorrow
The panel also featured fashion and beauty startups with novel approaches.
In 2018, Camille Jaillant launched the sustainable luxury fashion brand Olistic Label, which makes its products from biodegradable materials and an ethical type of silk called “peace silk” or “Ahimsa silk”. This cruelty-free, traditional silk production technique from India uses empty silkworm cocoons that have been discarded after the silkworms have completed the metamorphosis stage. These cocoons are boiled and turned into silk. Jaillant aims to empower the female silk producers by paying them higher-than-normal wages to support their independence.
Another startup entrepreneur is Simon Ménard, who has reimagined the relationship between companies and consumers from a hierarchical top-down model to one that involves consumers. He launched Nidé.co, which creates skincare, haircare and body products together with the general public or users, who are involved in all aspects of the business from product creation to social media marketing. The users launch new product projects via its website and perform market surveys and formula tests within the community of 50,000 registered members. Projects with more than 2,000 votes are turned into products. So far, 3,000 projects have been proposed, out of which five have been made.
France is home to many African immigrants, and businesses that target this demographic are sprouting. Rebecca Cathline runs one such business — the app Ma Coiffeuse Afro that matches users with beauticians who specialize in Afro-Caribbean hairstyles. Launched in 2016, it targets millennial women of African descent in France while allowing only professional beauticians and makeup artists to register. Picked by L’Oréal’s Station F backing program, the app has 90,000 users and 140,000 Instagram followers.
Cathline said: “French African people make up 20% of the country’s population if you include their descendants too, and the women within this demographic spend around 1,000 euros a year on beauty. This is by no means a niche market.” She recently released in_Haircare, a supplement that stimulates the growth of afro hair, which has different needs from other hair types.
Starting a movement for real change in retail
Rounding out the event was guest speaker Ning Li, founder of the small-batch, community-led clean beauty brand Typology. He is a vocal critic of overconsumption and how it worsens global environmental problems, a practice best epitomized by Black Friday shopping. Under the slogan “Black for Good ”, his company donated all proceeds earned between November 29 to December 2 to non-profit organizations (NGOs) that support reforestation. Li did not stop there. He turned this single initiative into a larger movement by calling on startups within the same industry to join him. His call to action saw more than 75 companies participating and 34 NGOs receiving donations.
When entrepreneurs who feel a sense of urgency about the environment team up to appeal for responsible consumption, they deepen the bond their brands have with their communities. This no doubt brings new meaning to their work beyond simply making a quick profit. One startup on its own might not make much of an impact, but the solidarity of these entrepreneurs might just have the power to change consumption as we know it.
Text: Denyse Yeo
Original text (Japanese) and photos: Motoko Tani