#InDialoguewith Sylvie Chantecaille

24 Oct 2018

THE BEAUTY OF INTENTION: SAVING THE ELEPHANTS

Visiting Deyrolle in Paris, a gardening and taxidermal shop rolled into one, is indeed an awe-inspiring experience. Inside time seems to be frozen, with all kinds of lifelike exotic animals – so many that you know you might never see in the wild in your lifetime – staring you right in the eyes. Lion, polar bear, rhino and even giraffe, they all stand still, filling your eyes with wonder. As magnificent as it sounds, out in the wild animals are enduring a much harsher reality: according to the World Animal Foundation, over 900 plants and animals are endangered, while hundreds more are threatened, with most of them disappearing forever because of human activities. It’s heartbreaking indeed to think that shops like Deyrolle might be the last places where humans can catch sight of these splendid wild creatures – if we don’t take action now.

We might not all be zoologists or environmentalists, but we can all contribute in our own way to protecting the earth’s biodiversity, and French beauty brand Chantecaille is offering us a fantastic way to be part of the solution. Chantecaille has always had a deep concern for our endangered environment and the many animals at risk, hence it has always tried to reach out to its customers through its products and via coverage in the press. Every year, this family brand dedicates a collection – they call them “cause-metics” – to different important issues of global sustainability. They have produced the Protect the Wolves Eye Shade Trio to raise funds for Conservation Northwest; and the Philanthropy Cheek collection to protect different endangered species like coral reefs and wild horses, raising money and awareness through shades of colours and serving as a daily reminder to their customers of what we might be overlooking.

Sylvie Chantecaille - Founder of Chantecaille

Giving back to the nature

Growing up in the heart of Paris, Sylvie, the founder of Chantecaille was not a typical Parisian girl. ”I grew up in Paris, near the city’s biggest park, the Bois de Boulogne. I spent all of my weekends in the country, while holidays were in the South of France, and I was always gardening with my mother.” Sylvie remembers her childhood summers, spent on a tiny island off the south coast of France. “The smell of jasmine was so intense! This is why I have loved it so much ever since; the same goes for the roses in my mother’s garden.”

These powerful olfactory memories have influenced her career as a perfumer. “I have always loved nature, felt at peace when in nature, surrounded by plants and animals. My parents were also art collectors, and when they travelled to acquire new pieces, I spent a lot of time alone in museums. But in doing so, I came to understand the importance of beauty: it’s what lifts us up in life, but art galleries and museums are not the only places to find it. When my family went to Italy I would collect all the magnolia and camellia petals I found on the ground, gathering them up in my skirts, as I couldn’t bear to see flowers being thrown away.”

Her love of flowers turned into a lifetime career when she moved to New York and established her first niche cosmetics company in 1977 with her friend Diane von Furstenberg. The friends insisted on using organic aromatherapy essences and botanical ingredients before they were part of the mainstream. “We don't use chemicals – we are very natural! We source all of our ingredients carefully, taking sustainability into account. Nature gives to us, and we give back to nature. It’s as simple as that.”

Passion for animals as a family tradition

From a little shop on Madison Avenue to a multinational brand, Sylvie still wants to keep it simple. Over the past 20 years, not only has she created a successful beauty brand, but she has also raised three beautiful children, who have become her right hands. Her daughters Olivia, the brand’s Creative Director, and Alex, the Vice President of Sales and Promotions, and her son Philippe, who brings his love of art and photography to his work creating brand imagery and videos, all share the same value and vision. “I always wanted to keep Chantecaille a family business and I raised my children by example! I taught my daughters and son to think a certain way, and I explained to them why we care for the planet and the animals we share it with. Exposure is also very crucial – it changes how you understand and see things.”

“I had spent many years in a large corporation, and I knew I wanted – and needed – my own tribe. Chantecaille is a team effort – we support each other, we have the same vision, and that stems from it being a family business. I look at my children as coworkers when we are in the office, and I always look at them with respect. We are quite good at enjoying ourselves together out of the office; we spend many weekends at the beach together where we all just unplug, relax and disconnect from our office life. We all need that. Now our family is living in Manhatten in New York City, and it is so unusual – it's an island after all! We are always by the ocean, and close to one of the largest parks ever, Central Park. Thanks to the park, I always see green out of my window. It’s a sea of concrete and green surrounded by water, so unusual but really wonderful, too. On the weekends we escape to the beach where I can swim in the ocean, garden in my yard and spend time in nature. We have the best of both worlds and I travel constantly to seek out more natural, wild spaces – it feeds my soul.”

Combining business acumen with an inherent passion for the environment, Chantecaille comes up with innovative ways to support good causes, giving voices to conservation organisations every year through their makeup line. This season, they are working with the wonderful conservation organisation Space for Giants, led by Dr. Max Graham.

Space for Giants is on the frontlines in Africa, working to secure ground protection for the migratory paths of elephants across the entire continent. The organisation also promotes legislations that ensure poachers are punished accordingly. “Lip Veil is our exciting new lipstick collection that benefits Space for Giants. These lipsticks are revolutionary because they are very pigmented but light, comfortable and incredibly nourishing. We created them with FairWild, certified and organic Baobab oil from the Baobab trees in Africa.” Through this new permanent collection, Chantecaille will be supporting Space for Giants forever, making an effort in their humble way to ensure that future generations will still have a chance to witness this extraordinary creature in the wild, in all its glory.