Caroline Neville, president of Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) UK speaks with Oriele Frank, chief product & sustainability officer and co-founder of skin wellness brand, ELEMIS.
Can you explain your experience in beauty and how it has led to where you are today?
After university, I travelled the world and explored my passions, studying traditional Thai massage in Thailand, aromatherapy, anatomy and physiology. My first job was in marketing, working for beauty entrepreneur John Harrington, who distributed UK Phytomer. I was then introduced to the Steiner family, creators of haircare and apothecary products since 1901. Entrepreneur and investor, Linda Steiner, founded ELEMIS with a vision to create a skincare range as close to nature as possible. I joined as a co-founder with Noella Gabriel and Sean Harrington and together, we set about evolving the brand to where it is today. We have transitioned through three very different owners – Steiner Leisure; private equity with L Catterton; and now, part of Groupe L’Occitane.
What was the initial thinking behind Elemis?
ELEMIS has always been a skin-wellness brand with an aromatherapist’s soul and a scientist’s commitment to results. We are an innovative British brand with more than 30 years of expertise. We develop skincare powered by active naturals with proven results. Products such as our Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm and Pro-Collagen Marine Cream adorn bathroom shelves globally.
Who is your customer and how do you communicate with them?
We create, nurture, and engage with the ELEMIS community in a meaningful, authentic way and obtain feedback from current and future customers in real-time to guide product launches and campaigns. Our ethos of ‘Truth in Beauty’ shapes how we formulate our products, how we talk to our customers, how we present the brand: honest, clear, and impactful. We create stories that bring to life our ethos and product innovation in educational and entertaining content pieces, which live on elemis.com, owned social and are syndicated across third-party retailers.
What is the beauty industry’s biggest challenge?
The consumer has changed their relationship with beauty over the last 12 months. Self-care has become more prevalent with the increased amount of time we have had on our hands and the importance of looking after our health and wellbeing has accelerated. Make-up has taken a backseat for the first time, with the importance of skin health becoming more significant. Customers are looking for routine, AM to PM, with skincare formulations that provide effective results that they can see instantly in the mirror. Changes in our daily social and work routines have allowed customers to become more flexible, with moments of self-care now taking place each day versus once a week.
The other challenge has obviously been how the business has been affected by Covid-19. Overnight, lockdown closed three of our key channels – retail, spa and cruise. The business had to pivot massively into digital and TV shopping. We had to react quickly, focus on different ways of working and be nimble, efficient and creative. It was incredibly tough, we learnt a lot and I know as a brand we emerged stronger.
What do you hope to achieve in your new role as chief product and sustainability officer and why is sustainability important to ELEMIS’ future?
I feel passionate that business has to have a balance between profit and purpose. With our new owner, L’Occitane, I am thrilled to have such a collaborative group of people to work with on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability. We are focused on how we can continue to grow ELEMIS globally, whilst supporting biodiversity, addressing the climate crisis and supporting people’s health and wellness. We have to ensure we source and manufacture responsibly for the future. I feel fortunate to be back in product development, allowing me to help create change at the source of the brand. By 2025, we are aiming to make all ELEMIS packaging 100 per cent recyclable. And, we are committed to being carbon net-zero by 2025.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in beauty?
It’s such an amazing industry with so many opportunities. Always keep learning and be open to change and development. Find a mentor to help steer you on your career path.
What’s next for ELEMIS?
The pandemic has put a laser focus on the importance of the development and implementation of a sustainability and CSR mandate for the brand. We have implemented Carbon and Ecovadis Assessments and I am excited to say we have started on our journey to B Corp status. This is one of the most exciting times for this brand – it feels like we are grounded now in a long-term business plan that has a purpose, which we know we can deliver successfully.