10 Questions for Cosmydor
All Images: Cosmydor
In a world obsessed with newness Xavier Quattrocchi-Oubradous is obsessed with heritage. We spoke to the entrepreneur to find out what it takes to bring a heritage skincare brand into a more sustainable world.
Bringing heritage brands back from the past is a passion of entrepreneur Xavier Quattrocchi-Oubradous. When he discovered Cosmydor, the Parisian beauty brand founded in 1877, he fell in love. With a focus on efficiency, as well as a keen eye on sustainable practises, Xavier has reinvigorated the brand, dormant since the 1960s. Describing himself as a (re)Founder, Xavier discovered the brand via a famous poster. What followed was a year long research journey to bring this once forgotten brand back to life. It wasn’t easy, and Xavier’s unflinching principles surrounding efficiency and eco awareness meant the development of the brand’s new look wasn’t as easy as it could have been.
Xavier’s passion for naturopathy meant that he wouldn’t entertain the idea of synthetics and petrochemicals within the range. The formulas are biodegradable and even the processing is eco friendly. He was also uncompromising when it came to the sourcing of ingredients. Ingredients had to be found as locally as possible, in order to reduce the brands carbon footprint. Not only that but the products are really good! Cosmydor select the most active ingredients and concentrate them so the final product contains 10-25 times more actives than most products.. We particularly love the Botanical Toning Face Cleanser*, which smells divine and leaves skin feeling comfortable and clean, not tight. If you’re in the market this winter for a rich, nourishing body cream, the Baume Rescue* will do exactly that.
So what goes into reimagining a heritage brand for the 21st century? In a world more concerned with ethical and eco friendly sourcing, as well as sustainable packaging, Cosmydor are well placed to win the hearts of skincare lovers. They have recently launched at Selfridges as part of their Project Earth initiative, proving they fit seamlessly into contemporary bathroom shelves whilst having impeccable sustainable credentials. We spoke to Xavier to find out more.
The Vendeur: What is your background and what drove you to redesign a heritage skincare brand?
Xavier Quattrocchi-Oubradous: I am an entrepreneur and really interested in brands and history (I also run a creative agency). One day it became clear to me that an exciting project would be to relaunch a heritage brand, and that’s exactly what I set out to do. There was a lot of research involved in archives to identify the perfect candidate. When I saw the illustration created by Jules Chéret for Cosmydor in 1891 (below left), it really struck me and caught my attention, and with the rest of the brand’s fascinating history, I knew it was the one.
TV: What attracted you to Cosmydor specifically?
X Q-O: It was two things really. The fact that the first Cosymdor formula, referred to in an article in 1877, clearly states the brand is 100% plant-based. However, more importantly it was at a time when this was not a key trend or movement. Back then, natural and organic wasn’t in the brand’s DNA as you can imagine, however we certainly have made sure it is now. Secondly, the aesthetics of the brand really caught my attention. Especially from the days of the fascinating Jules Chéret designs up until the end of the 1960’s
TV: When relaunching a heritage beauty brand, what were the most challenging aspects?
X Q-O: The challenges were numerous but I would say that there three main ones. From a design viewpoint, trying to keep a line under the brand’s history was tricky. We didn’t want to fall into a vintage look and feel. Our goal is a more contemporary approach. Full credit goes to our Creative Director, Philippe Guillermic, who found the right balance to make sure Cosmydor looks extremely modern, but with long-standing roots.
The second challenge was to find manufacturing resources that are completely artisanal. We believe the most beautiful and best things we wear or eat (or put on our skin) are handcrafted. This way they are more human, they have a soul, and do not depend on industrial constraints. Specifically in our case avoiding chemical excipients, stabilisers, preservatives etc. We found artisanal manufacturing also enables concentration in active ingredients (hence skincare efficiency) which cannot be reached in conventional industrial processes. It took us almost 18 months to find and start working with our partner based in Vierzon, in the center of France. It was definitely worth the wait.
Last but not least, we wanted Cosmydor to be completely sustainable. Not just its products, but also the packaging and beyond. We embarked on a long, challenging, and often frustrating journey to reach our goal. We started by excluding plastic containers (whether recyclable or not) from our packaging. Then began looking for European suppliers only, reducing our CO2 footprint for manufacturing, stocking and transportation to almost zero.
TV: How are you honouring the old techniques and methods previously used at Cosmydor?
X Q-O: We aligned ourselves with the original 1877 formulation containing plants only. Today we use only plants or ingredients from natural origin. There’s no petrochemicals or synthetic molecules at all, and many of our products are suitable for vegans. We also decided to pay tribute to the long tradition of Cosmydor’s soap making by creating a range of 9 bar soaps – which are all cold-processed.
TV: If it’s possible to create something so beautiful and effective naturally and locally, why do you think other brands aren’t working in this way?
X Q-O: Fortunately there are many other brands moving in the same direction. However the reason is simple: what we decided to do is completely different from conventional cosmetics and would require colossal investments for existing brands. Artisanal manufacturing is almost non-existent on the market, because it requires a lot of know-how which takes years to create and master. It also comes with constraints like shorter shelf life for products. Sustainable packaging, and the ban of plastic especially, implies new processes and economics (plastic is much cheaper than anything else). At Cosmydor we were able to factor better packaging into our brand. It was feasible for Cosmydor as we (re)began from scratch. Unfortunately I don’t think large brands can seriously transition to artisanal/sustainable for these reasons.
TV: Why are organic certifications so important at Cosmydor?
X Q-O: More and more brands are trying to explain to consumers that they are green or greener, more natural, and even more organic. However, some just have one organic ingredient which is shown everywhere, hiding a lot of petrochemical ingredients. This still allows them to claim their products are organic. Organic certifications are a good start because they mean fewer chemicals and more plants. Unfortunately most certifications are not strict enough to our taste, they still enable petrochemicals, and they do not penalise those filling their formulas with water, etc. It’s important to do your research.
TV: How do you go about sourcing ingredients and why are the methods of harvesting and extraction that you use so important?
X Q-O: Our first priority is skincare efficiency, so we need the best ingredients, consisting mostly of vegetable oils and butters. On top of their necessary organic certification, we try to source them as locally as possible. It is not always possible though. For example, shea butter and vanilla are not easily found in the center of France. Handpicking ingredients is a must for us. This is because it helps to boost local activity and decrease pollution. This is the case for our most widely used ingredient, shea butter, the ripe fruit falls naturally from the tree. It is very important to only collect the fruit on the ground and not those still on the tree. The latter have not yet reached full maturity so contain less oil. Thats the part we want. Extraction is another topic and much more technical. It is critical to ensure the ingredients are as efficient as possible. Without being too specific, it is useful to know there are several ways to extract oils from plants:
1/ Chemical extraction: the method used industrially is actually a form of stripping using solvents. The main solvent used in the industry is hexane, a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons. Hexane is added to the plant raw material to extract all the oil. Once extracted, these oils are then refined, and thus made uniform, ie; the same colour, same fragrance, same flavour. This is important for industrial processes. Unfortunately the oil has then lost its teguments, small fibres, lecithin and vitamins. These are the good bits that we want.
2/ Supercritical CO2 extraction method: not widely used, but it seems to preserve the plants’ microelements better than the standard chemical method.
3/ Mechanical extraction: crushing, trituration and pressing involve some form of grinding followed by separation.. When the resulting oils come out of the press, they are rich, thick, colourful and cloudy with pulp residues that can be removed using filter paper. These are what are known as “cold-pressed oils” or “virgin oils”. They maximise the preservation of benefits for the skin (and for the rest of the body when eaten, think about your olive oil). This is because the molecules are not broken by solvents, the vitamins are all still there. At Cosmydor all our vegetable oils but one (coco oil) are cold-pressed. We believe it is the only way to preserve all the natural efficiency of the plants for our skin.
TV: What obstacles did you face when approaching the packaging? Are you able to tell us anymore about the proposed refill system?
X Q-O: As previously mentioned, the sourcing of packaging was a nightmare as we had decided against any plastic containers. This meant we were left with glass and aluminium as options. Cosmydor is now 99.5% plastic-free and we are now on a mission to find solutions for the few remaining plastic pumps and caps on our liquid soaps and Essential Care range. At first, sourcing packaging was a bit of a nightmare as we had decided against any non-European supplier (to reduce the carbon footprint). It was a long and fastidious process with plenty of drawbacks. Being a skincare brand this is really the part we control less. However today our packaging is 99.5% plastic-free, and we are almost closer to 100% – we will get there!
With regards to refillable options, our liquid soaps bottles are all already available in refills and we will soon add the same option to cleansers. However, our next project is to move to reusable. It is tricky, but we hope to be able to announce by mid-2021 our ability to re-use 100% of our glass packaging.
TV: What most excites you about the future of Cosmydor?
X Q-O: I am most excited about the infinite possibilities given by nature to create more skincare with our unique artisanal know-how. Finding the best plants for any skin condition or need, and the best way to accommodate them (like a chef in a way) in a pleasant formula free of any synthetic molecule.
TV: Why do you think customers are starting to demand more transparency from skincare companies?
X Q-O: For the very same reasons they have started to be careful about what they eat! We all understand better now that our skin is permeable, so the ingredients you find in creams, soaps, balms or serums have to be biocompatible with human beings.
Available via www.cosmydor.co.uk and NET-A-PORTER globally and Selfridges
Disclaimer: * We were sent a sample of this product to try before we made our recommendation to you. We were under no obligation to feature the product, we only include products we like and that we think work.’
The content of this article is for general advice only and should not be used as a substitute for professional healthcare or beauty advice. We make every effort to ensure we only recommend safe products however you should always do a patch test when trying new products. This post may contain affiliate links.’
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