I’m the Co-Founder of a Legendary Beauty Brand—This Is My World

Fashion

As an editor who’s been working in the beauty industry for over a decade, I’ll happily sit down with anyone who wants to talk makeup and skincare. Easy access to some of the best insider tips and tricks is a perk of the job, after all. But only on the most special of occasions do I get to pick the brain of a true industry mogul. Olivia Chantecaille is exactly that. The daughter of beauty-industry pioneer Sylvie Chantecaille (aka the woman who revolutionized the foundation game by creating foundation that actually looked like your skin), Olivia grew up spending school holidays in cosmetics labs with her mother. “I loved watching my mother develop new products,” Olivia tells me. “She gave me the best education, and I’m quite discerning now. I have a real feel for textures, and I know immediately if a product is created with botanicals.”

It’s no surprise, then, that Olivia is also shaking up the beauty industry. (Like mother, like daughter, right?) The duo co-founded their botanical-based cosmetics company, Chantecaille, in 1997 with the intention of blurring the line between the French and American approaches to beauty. “My mother’s French upbringing meant she instilled a natural approach to beauty in me,” Olivia says. “We wanted to merge the French aesthetic of natural, healthy, effortless makeup and fresh skin—the original ‘I woke up like this’ look—with an American expertise and knowledge of how to apply makeup well.” What’s the best way to achieve a natural, healthy makeup look, you ask? With natural ingredients, of course. “We studied the plant stem cells of jasmine, roses, lilies, apples, and tomatoes and knew they had potent healing powers that could be applied to skin,” Olivia says. “We paired ancient knowledge with modern formulas that offered real results, and people were hooked.”

If you’re anything like me, then a lesson in beauty from the woman who’s using tomato stem cells to get flawless-looking skin is music to your ears. Luckily for us, Olivia was nice enough to agree to an interview and is spilling all her beauty and skincare knowledge below (including a list of everything that’s currently in her purse). What’s her favorite Chantecaille product? “They’re like my children,” she says. “How can I pick just one?” Spoiler: She can. Keep scrolling to read our interview.

Your mother has such an extensive background as a leader in the beauty industry. How did that impact your childhood and love of beauty?

My mother always worked while I was growing up, and she showed me that you can truly have a successful career and a family as a woman. I was very lucky to grow up surrounded by art, color, exploration, animals, and nature (my daughter now has a similar upbringing!), and I was always given the space to explore my artistic side. My mother encouraged me to try new things if it felt good to me, especially when it came to beauty. Don’t be afraid—makeup comes off! She always told me to follow my instinct, explore, see it through, and have fun with beauty. That approach has been key to our success in discovering new ingredients and formulas. Our passion is to make products that look, feel, and do incredible good for your skin.


Did your French upbringing influence your style? What about the way you view makeup and beauty overall?

Yes. I was raised by my French parents and grandparents, and a European approach to dressing was instilled in me at a young age. We did not grow up wearing sweatpants or leggings. We got properly dressed for the day. It was more about self-respect and feeling good about yourself, and it never looked forced—maybe just a bit itchy! My Parisian grandmother taught me to buy things of quality that would last and to invest in my style. Timeless, well-made items last longer and fit best, and now I can save my favorite dresses for my daughter, too. The same premise lies behind the creation of our cosmetics company, Chantecaille. We merged our passion for naturals with innovative science to make all of our products. You get real results and the ultimate quality.


Before launching Chantecaille, you were a model and spent hours on set getting hair and makeup done. What was that experience like? Could your skin handle it?

Modeling was an incredible education in the world of cosmetics. I learned how products should look and, most importantly, how they should feel. At the end of long days in heavy makeup, I would look forward to washing it all off. It made me wonder if it always had to feel like that or if there was a lighter, gentler, more breathable way. We all want to look our best, but feeling our best is where the magic is. Also, in the mad rush of applying makeup backstage for a fashion show, I saw there was a need for multitasking makeup that could be applied easily and fast. That’s where the idea to create hybrid products that give skin radiance bloomed. The fun part was learning interesting application tips from different makeup artists.

Chantecaille began as a fragrance brand. What is your signature scent? Does it change?

Pétales ($185) has always been a favorite. It was inspired by my mother’s backyard, where she has beautiful gardenia bushes flowering by the door, and every time you walk through the door, their scent wafts in with you. I had gardenias in my wedding bouquet because I wanted that scent with me on a special day—a touch of home, a sense of security and peace. So I love a gardenia scent for that reason. I wear Pétales at home. When I travel, I bring Le Wild ($210), another white-flower gardenia scent that’s a bit greener and wilder.

Given your use of botanical ingredients in formulas, you must find flowers very powerful. Why is that?

Botanical ingredients are the most harmonious with our bodies, working with us and not against us, whereas chemicals are designed to shock the skin to achieve results. After growing up in the industry, I can immediately feel the difference. My skin is highly sensitive and speaks to me very clearly. I know immediately if a product is created with botanicals. We put our efforts into making the purest products, and our clients recognize that skincare and makeup should also be good for you.


Your role at Chantecaille has evolved over time. What do you focus on now, and what do you find to be the most rewarding?

My favorite part of my work is tying our love of animals and conservation into an upcoming color collection—the possibilities and inspiration are endless. Our family is very passionate about conservation, and we work arm and arm with our partners. We get to know each of them personally, and they become our dear friends. It’s important to us to help them on the front lines of conservation. It’s so valuable to visit our conservation partners in their world, to see what they’re working on, and discuss how we can make a bigger impact in their important work. You feel so much more connected, especially to the animals and the wild. Seeing the progress and the animals in person is deeply rewarding. It also gets us thinking about what to do next! Our growing passion for the environment and endangered species has truly grown hand in hand with our brand. It’s become such a powerful and magical platform for education and support on a global level. It’s incredibly rewarding and hopefully inspiring for other brands, too. But of course, my favorite part of every day is coming home to my family—my daughter, Delphina, my husband, Ren, and our growing number of pets.


How do you think your personal growth has impacted Chantecaille’s evolution?

When it comes to aging, I believe that the older you get, the more fun you have—and you care less about what people think. I don’t focus on a number with age. I focus on what feels good. And when I look in the mirror for too long, I’m grateful that I get to develop products that I myself want and need. I work on developing the most potent, innovative plant-stem cells to really repair and rejuvenate tired skin. Chantecaille’s skincare line and I have grown up together, and I’ve been able to create products that I realize I need and that our clients need, too.

French women are known for their style. What makes you feel the most confident?

For me, it’s an attitude first and foremost. I feel confident if my skin looks good and I’m dressed in clothing that reflects my happiness (but also in clothes that feel like me). I reach for colorful clothing that exudes joy and often incorporates florals or animals. And I love dresses. Some of my favorite designers are Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Altuzarra, Erdem, La DoubleJ, Stella McCartney, Emilia Wickstead, Brunello Cucinelli, and Giambattista Valli. When I feel most like myself, I feel confident.


What’s one thing you will never leave home without and why?

Lip Chic in Prairie Smoke ($48) from our fall Cougar collection and my phone so my daughter can always reach me.


If you could only pick one Chantecaille product to use for the rest of time, what would it be and why?

One I turn to over and over is the Bio Lifting Mask+ ($198) because it addresses all of my skin’s needs and it can be a sleep-in mask, too. I can use it as a cream in the morning and sleep in it at night. If I used only that one product, I would look fresher and more radiant every day—more lifted, smoother, firmer, denser, with the healthiest, most hydrated skin. Some days, I use it as an eye cream or on my hands. It has endless uses.


If we went through your purse today, what would we find in there?

I’m convinced it gets heavier every day with lab samples I’m testing. Today, I have my cell phone, vegan mints, Oliver Peoples sunglasses, a Bottega Veneta wallet, ginger candy, Chantecaille Rose Geranium and Basil Hand Sanitizer ($14), an Alexandre de Paris hair clip, homemade jewelry my daughter drops in as little surprises, Perfect Blur Finishing Powder ($79), a handful of Lip Chics ($40) in Amour and Bourbon Rose, Lip Tint ($34) in Beach Rose, and a travel-size Pure Rosewater ($34).

What does beauty mean to you now?

I see beauty as a tool to help women embrace their natural beauty. It gives women the power to feel their best, most confident selves, whether that’s through revitalizing skincare or makeup that helps them express their identity and creativity or gives them a dose of courage. Beauty is love of yourself, and it’s important to remember that beauty comes from inside. Our products are amazing, but if you’re not taking care of yourself and finding joy in every day, it shows. Self-care is striving for a healthy balance—getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, and eating nourishing food. The most important thing I can teach my daughter is the lesson of self-love, which I think is paramount to self-care. Positivity is important. Practicing saying I love you in the mirror is a good place to start!


What’s next for Chantecaille? Are you planning anything exciting for fall or holiday?

We’ve been very busy! This fall, we’re launching two conservation collections and a revolutionary new skincare-makeup hybrid (including an incredible balancing moisturizer). For holiday, we have a gorgeous collection that’s wonderfully gift-able. For our recently launched Cougar and Black Jaguar collections, we’ve partnered with two organizations, both of which help big cats. The Cougar collection is a neutral, warm-toned line inspired by and created to benefit Yellowstone Forever and their work preserving the wild within our ever-growing and expanding country. Keeping wild spaces wild benefits animals like the cougar and their entire ecosystem, which we cannot stand to lose. It benefits our air and our lives for generations to come. For our Black Jaguar collection, we’ve partnered with Amazon Sacred Headwaters to help prevent loss of black jaguar habitat, establish protected regions, and ensure that 86 million acres of the Amazon Headwaters ecosystem across Ecuador and Peru remain governed according to traditional indigenous principles, which benefits every animal, flower, plant, and drop of water that stems from this crucial epicenter of wilderness.

As Olivia says, when we pull inspiration from nature, the possibilities are endless, and Chantecaille continues to prove that with each new product and collection launch. Keep scrolling for a look at the products from the Couger and Black Jaguar collections and more Chantecaille staples.

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