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Three Beauty Empires That Are Keeping the Business in the Family

By Renée Batchelor

From left: Christine d'Ornano, Isabelle d'Ornano and Daria Botin d'Ornano, are members of the family- owned luxury skincare brand Sisley.
Oleg Covian
From left: Christine d'Ornano, Isabelle d'Ornano and Daria Botin d'Ornano, are members of the family- owned luxury skincare brand Sisley.

It’s no surprise that many brands start out as family enterprises. After all, who can one trust to help carry out the vision of budding entrepreneurs if not a trusted member (or more) of the family? From funding and imparting their technical and industry know-how to aiding in the expansion of the business, the support rendered can be invaluable. However, the reality is that as a brand grows, and more funding is required to expand product lines and production volumes, it’s not uncommon to see such businesses sold off — in parts or as a whole — to larger conglomerates, many of which inevitably alter the original DNA of the purchased brands in some way and form, all in the name of profit.

Here are three families who still run their skincare and cosmetics brands, each driven by their passion to keep the original philosophy of their brands intact.

Courtesy of Vintner's DaughterApril Gargiulo who started Vintner's Daughter.
April Gargiulo who started Vintner's Daughter.

For April Gargiulo, who launched her skincare brand Vintner’s Daughter in 2014, her family business was in an unrelated field. “I come from a family of winemakers in California’s Napa Valley, which opened my eyes to the importance of the finest quality ingredients paired with exacting formulation methods — to me, this was true luxury. After I became pregnant with my eldest daughter, I realised that my ‘luxury’ skincare products were anything but. Typically, there were only .01 per cent active ingredients and the rest was made up of low-quality, unsafe fillers. I was inspired to create my holy grail product that would deliver uncompromising efficacy, quality, and safety in a single, powerful step,” she says. The result: the brand’s stellar Active Botanical Serum, which retails worldwide via the online shopping portal, Net-a-Porter, and is in constant demand.

In the case of French skincare brand Biologique Recherche, Rupert Schmid, its co-president and a close family friend of the original founders, was asked by the late Josette Allouche, a physiotherapist who co-founded the brand with her late biologist husband Yvan, more than 40 years ago, to find someone to buy over the business. Schmid decided, in 2008, to take over the business himself, along with Philippe Allouche, the son of the original founders, and a third partner, Pierre-Louis Delapalme. Together the trio has taken the brand to greater heights, expanding it by over six times in the past 11 years. Biologique Recherche retails mainly through spas and has one of the most extensive skincare ranges of any brand, focussing on truly personalised solutions.

Courtesy of Vintner’s DaughterVintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum from Net-a- Porter.com.
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum from Net-a- Porter.com.

Sisley – despite being a global phenomenon and a pioneer in phytocosmetology – remains in the hands of the founding family. Christine d’Ornano, the global vice president of Sisley is also the daughter of founders Count Hubert and Countess Isabelle d’Ornano. “Sisley is still 100 per cent family-owned. This is unique for a cosmetic company of our size. It allows us to take the time to develop products of the highest quality. It also gives us the freedom to do things our own way. We can decide to launch products with very expensive active ingredients or patented technologies (this was the case of All Day All Year),” says d’Ornano. She believes that having a stake in the family business is a good thing for Sisley. “I think it is a great asset to have two generations working in the business. We have the experience but also the fresh perspective,” d’Ornano says.

The Luxury of Time

One of the main differences between a family-run business and one that is not, is that it does not have to answer to hectic production schedules and an endless stream of launches. Gargiulo recently launched the brand’s sophomore effort, the Active Treatment Essence.
“We waited five years to release another product after the Active Botanical Serum because transformational products take time to develop. We do not take shortcuts in anything we do, whether it be ingredient- sourcing, formulations or new product introductions,” says Gargiulo.

Courtesy of SisleyThe Sisleÿa L’Intégral anti-ageing range of products.
The Sisleÿa L’Intégral anti-ageing range of products.

As it is too, with Biologique Recherche, Schmid says there is no launch schedule to adhere to and that the brand does not chase trends. “Regarding new products, we only develop a product which is an answer to real needs of the skin and if research findings have discovered something,” he says. Instead, the brand has chosen to reformulate existing products, upgrading 20 to 30 of its products each year. Schmid adds that the sound bottomline of Biologique Recherche further allows him and his partners to pursue their own long-term vision for the company, and projects or research that are not immediately “cashable”.

However, Sisley has a different take on product updates and launches. “We update products if we feel there are new active ingredients or new technology that can enhance their effectiveness,” says d’Ornano and mentions their bestseller Sisleÿa Eye as an example. And of new products, some of which have taken over 10 years to develop, d’Ornano shares that Sisley only launches them if “we feel we have something really new to offer to the consumer.”

Taking It Slow

Courtesy of Biologique RechercheDr Philippe Allouche, Pierre-Louis Delapalme, Rupert Schmid and the late co-founder Josette Allouche of Biologique Recherche.
Dr Philippe Allouche, Pierre-Louis Delapalme, Rupert Schmid and the late co-founder Josette Allouche of Biologique Recherche.

“From winemaking, I have a very deep respect for the time it takes to produce something great. I know that short cuts will never be able to make the finest of anything, whether that be a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon or a bottle of Vintner’s Daughter. Like fine winemaking, we move at the speed of quality,” says Gargiulo.

Each bottle of her serum takes three weeks to formulate so that the 60 or so nutrients in the formula can be delivered to the skin in active ratios. The time taken to produce each bottle is why she is so selective with distribution, preferring to partner with Net-a-Porter, which has a strong international presence.

For Biologique Recherche, its legendary P50 lotions which were reformulated by Philippe Allouche five years ago, take up to five days to make a batch of, which surprisingly, is considered a long process in the cosmetics world. “The P50 is a slow, chemical reaction process and usually in the whole industry, a batch is done in four hours. That is one of the reasons why we have our own lab — for some products, we want to take our time. If we were to be part of a major group, we would have to reformulate, so that it can be done in four hours. But we take five days, because we mix up two to three ingredients and we let it react slowly. Again, it is like a kitchen, we cannot produce every meal in half an hour. Sometimes you need two days. It is the same for us,” says Schmid.

Courtesy of Biologique RechercheBiologique Recherche’s range of products.
Biologique Recherche’s range of products.

Life Lessons

Gargiulo shares that she has learned important codes from her family’s winemaking business. In fact, the vintner’s daughter referenced in her brand name doesn’t refer to herself, but to her own daughters and she hopes to inspire them to work towards their own dreams. Having a family run a business also allows individual members to contribute their respective skills, says d’Ornano. “My father [and] my mother created the brand, my brother now runs it and I work alongside him. We all bring different attributes to the business and it is a wonderful adventure to work together. Now my niece Daria Botin has also joined us. She is in charge of the creative studio. I work a lot alongside her and I really enjoy it,” says d’Ornano.

For Schmid, being a “family” with his two partners means sharing the same underlying philosophy for the brand and not wavering from that vision. “Each family will fight sometimes. We do not agree on everything. But the fact is, when it’s family, then there is no way to get ‘divorced’. The only thing we know is that we stick to that DNA and we have no will to change anything. That is the truth.” he says.