If you’ve never heard of Chantecaille, you should. The New York-based luxury French beauty brand counts among its loyal following beauty editors from around the world (including the Her World team), everyday women, and celebrities (Angelina Jolie, David Beckham and our favourite Friends star Jennifer Aniston are huge fans).

Here’s why: All Chantecaille products are based on the healing potential of botanicals – specifically, plant stem cells – and each one has a powerful formula that delivers results. Its makeup too, has skincare properties.  

The brand was also the first in the beauty industry to support sustainability and animal conservation efforts, back in 2006 with its Bio Lifting Mask. Founder Sylvie Chantecaille says that instead of harvesting botanicals for its products, they replicate plant stem cells in their lab – which means a limitless supply of ingredients for their products, and being able to free up more land for farming crops for food.    

Sylvie herself isn’t just a businesswoman. She has decades of beauty knowledge and experience behind her. In the early ’70s, she collaborated with long-time friend and fashion maven Diane Von Furstenberg on a cosmetics line. For two decades, she was part of the team that started the custom-blended makeup brand Prescriptives – revolutionary for its time. And in 1997, decided it was time to start her own beauty brand.

In this Her World exclusive, we catch Sylvie in-between her extremely business schedule for a chat about the brand, its beginnings, its conservation efforts and what the next chapter looks like.  

When you started Chantecaille, what was your inspiration? And has that philosophy changed over the years? 

“My inspiration was women. I wanted to create a very healthy, natural line of products that not only gave them confidence, great skin and beauty, but also kept them healthy. My philosophy hasn’t changed, but wonderful things have happened along the way –  we have discovered we can use our company as a platform and a voice for the wild spaces and animals that inhabit it.”

Tell us about the first Chantecaille product? 

“We began with foundation in 1999 – it was the first makeup we launched after starting as a small fragrance house. I was inspired to create Future Skin Foundation ($134) after a trip to Japan. That trip expanded my knowledge of particular ingredients only available in Japan at the time.”

Which product has been the most challenging to create?

“Recently, we created some of the most complicated, technically-advanced eyeshadow palettes (Luminescent Eye Shades, part of the 2019 Fall collection) that involve a series of different moulds and formulations. They are fun to create but very challenging to master. I am always proud of an end result that looks beautiful and feels great.” 

What were some of the challenges you’ve faced in building the Chantecaille brand?  

“We decided from the beginning that we would grow the business via word-of-mouth. It’s a very good process, but it’s slow too.”

We hear that Chantecaille is a family-run business, with your husband and children deeply involved.  

“Our independence is important to us. We have total control and do what we think is best without explanation. We move fast and take utmost pride in what we accomplish and create.”

What spurred the brand to get involved with environment and animal conservation? 

“I have always felt a strong connection to animals and our environment. I’m an avid gardener and around 17 years ago, I noticed that the annual migration of butterflies to our East Hampton garden in New York, had dwindled, and their population diminishing. 

I was intrigued and worried. After learning about the butterfly crisis, I created a stunning set of butterfly eyeshadows that supported a conservation organisation working to protect the Monarch butterfly. (Ed’s note: It took Sylvie three years from idea and conception to completion, and the brand’s first conservation project in aid of the Monarch butterfly was introduced in 2006.)

It was then that I realised the potential to use my day job for causes I was passionate about. The butterflies sparked this commitment in us and we have been supporting conservation causes – 27 to date – that work to protect endangered species, plants, oceans and issues surrounding global sustainability ever since.”

How do you choose which causes to support with each collection? 

“Philanthropy is a universal language. We constantly find new causes that inspire us. The connections we have made in the world of conservation have been instrumental in introducing us to new causes and groups, and we always pay close attention to the world, to the environment and the animals we share it with. It has become a rewarding challenge each season to discover new conservation concerns that Chantecaille can support.”

Tell us about the most memorable conservation projects.

“I loved the Save the Forests campaign we did in 2017. We had billboards on buses in London with these gorgeous gorilla portraits on them to discuss the genetic relationship between gorillas and humans – only three genes separate us. It was extraordinary. 

This summer, I am looking forward to our collection in benefit of Wildaid, which was inspired by a conservation trip I took to Mexico where I swam with whale sharks, the gentle giants of the deep. (Ed’s note: the collection will be available in Singapore in May 2020)

We are also always protecting elephants, my favourite animal.” 

If you were stranded on a desert island, which three Chantecaille products would you take with you?

Pure Rosewater ($126) is indispensable as a refresher, toner, soother, healer and protector, Bio Lifting Serum+ ($460), so you’ll never look old and our new 100% Natural Sunscreen Mist (launching in Singapore, second half of 2020) that is not only a great protector, but it also won’t damage the coral on the island I am stranded on, and can be used by all my fellow islanders: men, women and children of all ages.”

What Chantecaille product would you recommend for women who have never tried the brand before, based on their age group?

“For a new client in her 20s, the Rice and Geranium Foaming Cleanser ($107) keeps skin perfectly clean without stripping it of moisture. For someone in their 30s, I recommend starting with our new Stress Repair Concentrate+ ($350) to recharge the appearance of those annoying small fine lines around the eyes and mouth. And for the 40-year-olds, Bio Lifting Serum+ ($460) to help with anti-ageing.”

Give us a preview of what’s next for Chantecaille. What exciting products can we look forward to for the rest of 2020?

“Late this spring, we are launching an exciting elixir (The Radiance Elixir, $360, available from May 2020) for the skin that totally revives the complexion with these amazing crystal peptides that naturally exfoliate the skin, clarify and impart a subtle rosy glow. It also invigorates the skin and boosts its lipid barrier. The immediate and long-term effects are tremendous.”

Where do you hope to see Chantecaille in the next 10 years?

“I am always in awe of how the world is constantly changing and I hope in 10 years, Chantecaille will still be making amazing products and forging important philanthropic partnerships. We have implemented a legacy of conservation and caring for our planet, which I know will continue for generations.”

Her World's sustainability issue

Chantecaille is available at Takashimaya D.S and Tangs at Tang Plaza (opening on April 30, 2020)