With nature as its muse, this family run company creates unparalleled luxury products that benefit global initiatives #winwin
Written By CAT BUCKLEY
In a new series, VIOLET GREY profiles female beauty entrepreneurs who are considered industry game changers for their individual approach to business. Each one entered the conversation in her own manner and maintained a steady, if not unparalleled, trajectory with her indomitable spirit.
Sylvie Chantecaille may be known as the elegant matriarch of her eponymous, and uber-successful, cosmetics brand, but her immaculate taste making and refined sensibilities have been in play for years. Née Sylvie de Bois de Soheit, in her youth, she summered in the south of France, brushed shoulders with Coco Chanel as a Parisian debutante, and often went abroad to accompany her aristocratic art collecting parents on their travels. This all served as early training ground that would inform and develop her appreciation for all things beauty.
Madame Chantecaille moved to New York City in the 1970s. In 1977—along with friend and fellow European expat Diane von Furstenberg (yes, the one and only)—the budding entrepreneur started a niche cosmetics company with a shop on Madison Avenue. It was a success, and Estée Lauder quickly took notice. In 1979, Chantecaille was tapped to launch Lauder’s Prescriptives line—a groundbreaking, forward-thinking venture that solidified Chantecaille’s clout in the industry.
It was also in New York where she, perhaps ironically, met her very-French husband, Olivier Chantecaille, then a wine businessman, who hailed from Bordeaux. Three children followed, and her success with Prescriptives kept growing. However, after 18 years with the brand, the now renowned cosmetics guru was inspired to start her own company—one that reflected her own signature holistic passions. Chantecaille originally launched as a niche fragrance company in 1997, with a particular nod to the fragrances of 1930s Paris.
But given her knowledge of and passion for skin care, natural products, Chinese medicine, and aromatherapy, Chantecaille soon expanded her line. Today, Chantecailles’s legion of fans, including Jennifer Aniston, Dame Judi Dench, and Jennifer Lopez, clamor for skin care potions such as the popular Rose de Mai Cream (which has been described as “a tall drink of water for your face”), the anti-aging Bio Lifting Mask and the brightening Stress Repair Concentrate. And the makeup range offers everything from HD Perfecting Powder, Future Skin Foundation, Longest Lash Faux Cils Mascara, and a full palette of Brilliant lip glosses (among the best we’ve tried).
The company, which is family-run—husband Olivier is the Chief Financial Officer, daughters Olivia and Alex are the Creative Director and Vice President of Sales and Promotions, respectively, while son Philippe is the Director of Media Productions—is also hugely philanthropical. Their “cause-metics” benefit myriad organizations, particularly those relating to endangered animals including wolves, bees, sea life, Monarch butterflies, and elephants. “Our customers are very intelligent women with the power to make a difference,” say Chantecaille who proves, every day, that beauty is powerful enough to change the world.
What is the atmosphere of your bedroom?
Sylvie: It feels like a boat. It’s open, cheerful, and bright. I have many windows, and there is a long window seat in front of my bed that is like the stern of a boat.
Olivia: It’s all white—kind of like floating in a cloud. It feels really airy and light. There are huge windows, so we get lots of natural light, which is great in the morning. It’s a nice way to ease naturally into the day with the rhythm of the sun. I love white for my bedroom because it is incredibly soothing. I get so much stimulation during the day that it’s very nice to have a really calming space that feels like an oasis.
Alex: Dreamy and relaxed, with blue tones and a lovely antique blown-glass chandelier that hangs above it all. There are very chic fashion drawings of women from the 1950s on the walls.
Please describe your bed and your favorite thing about it.
S: It’s big with a plush upholstered white headboard. I have white linen sheets, which are very comfortable, and a ton of pillows.
O: My bed had to be large enough to fit my little family because cuddle time and tickle time with my daughter are very important in this house. My bed also needed to be super-comfortable so I can just melt when I fall into it. It has a feather top and super-soft white Frette sheets and lots of pillows.
A: Its size and softness and how completely relaxed and held I feel in it. The pillow top makes me feel like I’m in a cloud.
What time do you wake up?
S: Depends on the day and if I traveled recently. If I just came from Europe, I wake up early; if I’ve been on the west coast, I sleep a little later; if I was in Asia, I don’t sleep at all.
O: I wake up with my daughter, so any time between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m.
A: On weekdays, 7 a.m. or so; on weekends, closer to 11.
How many hours of sleep do you require?
S: Eight. Nine would be heaven.
O: I probably require nine, but I probably get four or five.
A: Buckets—at least eight, but ideally ten. Hence why I need to catch up on weekends. I’m pretty much captain of the varsity sleeping team.
Any bedside beauty essentials?
S: I like to sleep with a mask on every night to let it do its work while my skin is repairing itself. Right now I am testing a really exciting new one that will launch in the next six months. Every night, right before I fall asleep, I spritz on our Pure Rosewater. If something worries me and I wake up in the middle of the night, I reach for my bottle, spritz, and blissfully fall back to sleep.
O: My Pure Rosewater bottle is always on my bedside table, plus a little jar of Lip Potion. I keep a tube of our Bebe Wild Moss Rose body lotion to use as hand cream. There’s also some lavender essential oil and a bottle of water so I can hydrate first thing in the morning before I have coffee. If you don’t hydrate before you caffeinate, you can easily get dehydrated.
A: Hand cream, rose oil–lavender blend to sprinkle on my sheets to feel uplifted and calmed upon falling asleep, and Lip Potion. I also use a humidifier and have a glass of water nearby. These two ensure a deep and comfortable night’s sleep.
Do you drink coffee or tea, eat breakfast?
S: Before I have breakfast with tea and fruit, I drink a tall mug of hot water and freshly squeezed lemon. Then I always drink Mariage Frères Earl Grey with blue flowers. I also use cotton soaked in my tea to depuff my eyes. If I have time, I use our Gold Energizing Eye Masks because they smooth my eyes instantly—looks like I just had a vacation!
O: My first step after waking up is drinking room-temperature water with lemon. Then my system is pH balanced and ready to absorb all of the good nutrients from my breakfast. Right now I’m really into protein smoothies with plant-based pea or hemp protein and a mix of fruits, veggies, and alkalized water. If I need an extra pick-me-up, I like to drink English Breakfast tea with a splash of almond milk.
A: Medium almond milk latte (hot in the winter, iced in the summer). I go to the same place each morning and they know it’s my regular drink, so it’s ready by the time Ella has nibbled on her dog treat and I get to the counter. The guy who runs it, Marco, only speaks to me in Italian or broken French, so we always have a laugh, which is key to any a.m. ritual!
Do you work out in the a.m.?
S: No, I like to work out in the early evening.
O: If I have time I like to do yoga or pilates to get my circulation moving and clear my mind, especially if I’ve had an intense workweek with lots of sitting. It’s a nice reset for the day.
A: I do! It’s such a great way to wake up. I especially love working out in Washington Square Park with my trainer and my dog. I clasp Ella’s leash around my waist so she can speed walk with us—she loves being one of the girls. Then she watches the squirrels while I do burpees and squats and hold plank on the bench.
What is your morning skincare regimen?
S: It changes according to the weather, but I always use a serum and a cream. I alternate between our Bio Lifting Serum and Bio Lifting Cream+ when I am very dry. I use Vital Essence serum and Rose de Mai cream when I’m in a warmer climate. No matter what, I start with the Nano Gold Eye serum rollerball all over my eyes and in my laugh lines.
O: I wash my face with our foaming cleanser and spritz pure rosewater with abandon. Then I’ll use Blanc Gardenia Brightening Essence and our Rose de Mai Eye Lift serum, which gives my eyes an immediate lift and erases fatigue—it’s great for depuffing and for treating fine lines and brightening. Then I’ll apply Nano Gold Eye Cream, which lends a megadose of antioxidants and repairs collagen, which helps protect the delicate skin around the eyes. I notice a big difference when I don’t use eye cream! I’ll use our Rose de Mai cream as an allover face moisturizer. It’s lightweight and makes my skin look radiant.
A: Spritz of Pure Rosewater, then Rice & Geranium Foam in the shower. Lately Blanc Gardenia Brightening Essence with Bio Lifting Cream+, and I refuse to forget Bio Lifting Neck Cream. Now that I’m 40 it’s a non-negotiable step.
What makeup and products do you use on a daily basis?
S: A little bit of radiance gel bronzer on our contouring brush, and a dab of Future Skin foundation where I need it. Faux Cils Mascara is a must, as well as our Luster Glide Eye Liner in Forest, a deep green.
O: Future Skin foundation is my go-to for daily use. I can use it sparingly for a light tint that evens out my skin tone, or do fuller coverage for work and evening. Our cheek gelée in Happy gives a nice, natural flush and blends so easily. I’ll blend a few drops of Liquid Lumière highlighter along the bridge of my nose and across the top of my cheekbones for some light-reflecting brightness. I’ll also use Mermaid Matte Eye Shade in the Lion shade. It’s like a primer and eyeshadow in one; it leaves the eyelid so smooth and lifted and makes my eyes look really refreshed and awake. I always have an assortment of Brilliant Gloss and Lip Chic shades in my bag for on-the-go touch-ups—my fave shades are Amour and Glee.
What’s your hair situation in the a.m.?
S: Hopefully fine, and with 30 brushstrokes it looks fresh. If I need a blowout I schedule one near my office, but I am also pretty good at doing my own hair. The secret is Velcro rollers for two seconds on almost-dry hair.
O: I don’t wash my hair every day. I usually just run a brush through it and that’s it—I don’t spend a lot of time on my hair. The less I do, the healthier my hair is. I do love using Leonor Greyl and Christophe Robin products—they make a noticeable difference on the texture and feel of my hair.
A: It is remedial at best. I have rather stick-straight hair, so a quick sweep with the Mason Pearson and I’m out the door. Basta.
What’s the first thing you read each morning?
S: Unfortunately, I reach for my phone and read whatever headlines pop up. Generally, it’s the BBC with the latest nightmares. But I turn off my phone before I really start the day, and I have 15 minutes of meditation. This gives me the clarity of mind I need. And I thank the universe for my life, and the earth and all the beauty we share.
O: I check my emails and our social media accounts, and I always check the Accuweather app—it’s the most reliable.
A: I’ll read The Skimm on the subway, as it’s a good recap of the latest in world news. I call it cocktail news—just enough to hold your own at a cocktail party. Then I review daily sales from the various retailers to see how we’re performing.
What business do you conduct before 10:00 a.m.?
S: I read all my emails from our Asian and European teams. I try to get on the phone for anything urgent. I like to walk in the office knowing that international business has already been taken care of. I then try to finish getting through all my emails before I get to the office.
O: I’ll post to social media and go through business emails and see if there’s anything from Europe or Asia, as they are hours ahead of us.
A: Emails, emails, emails. You’re never NOT available in the world of emails. But lately I’ve really started to appreciate face-to-face meetings and phone calls—my brain can only retain so much info via reading the hundreds of emails I get each day.
What time do you head to your office?
S: Any time between 9:30 and 10 a.m.
O: It depends if I have meetings out of the office. Usually around 9:30 a.m.
A: 10:30 a.m. I guess this would be part of your AFTER TEN section.