I’ve used primarily natural skincare products for years but admittedly it wasn’t until recently that I started to think about where my beauty products were made. I’ve been checking all of my labels and I found that a lot of my products were made here… but some were made in surprising places. I wanted to learn more about the industry, so I did some research and spoke with two of my favorite skincare experts, Adina Grigore of S.W. Basics and Suzanne LeRoux of One Love Organics… what I learned is that American made beauty products may be the ideal, but numerous responsible options exist. Read on to learn more about what to consider when purchasing:
Beauty products are subject to similar regulation as other production processes in a country, so look to responsible producers such as the US, the EU, Australia, and Japan for your beauty products. The EU has the strictest regulation, which can explain why ingredient lists on European products seem much longer than on other products – there may not actually be more ingredients than other products, but companies are required to list more information. Some national brands will make an EU version of a product and a version for the rest of the world – if this is the case, the EU version is likely your best option.
Product Safety + Integrity.
Exotic ingredients are frequently used in beauty products – these products typically come from developing countries, where you are more likely to run the risk of human, labor, and environmental exploitation. Focus on supporting brands that utilize fair trade ingredients, which are closely regulated and help to empower individuals around the world.
Everyone has had a bad experience with a beauty product at some time or another – by purchasing products from smaller (non-mass) companies, you have a better opportunity to speak to the maker or the company itself to learn about the product and how it will benefit you, or to share your experience and prevent other people from a similar one.
Is the brand open about the products? Is there a way to access someone to ask questions? Most smaller American made beauty brands have become incredible pioneers in terms of product and ingredient transparency and are doing far more than they are technically required to do, thus raising the bar for all brands.
All products made in China must undergo animal testing.
Big companies have million dollar advertising budgets. The amount of money spent advertising the newest lipstick or face wash is incredible. But when you are purchasing a $3 lipstick/face wash/etc., you are paying as much for what is in the lipstick as the marketing itself, which is a little scary. Conversely, when you purchase a $20 product from a smaller brand, you are most likely just paying for the ingredients and labor in the product as these brands focus less attention on marketing and more on making amazing product.
For every $1 of goods produced in the USA, an additional $1.43 is generated for the economy. It can be really, really hard to produce in America, but it’s easier to create beauty products than some other products. The more we support domestic production, the more it will grow.
Thank you, Adina and Suzanne, for making incredible products that I feel safe using, and for taking the time to share your knowledge with me!
Instagram. It’s not only an enjoyable, aesthetically pleasing time suck, but it’s also a great way to discover new brands (check the following tab to see the instas the people you are following like). Case in point, Preston & Olivia, one of the coolest brands I’ve come across in a while – discovered via instagram! Dara Kent-Cobb studied millinery at FIT and launched Preston & Olivia shortly after – she is also an accomplished photographer and launching an American-made camera bag line with her husband! The hats are gorgeous, the perfect combination of classic styling and modern, fashionable details. Read on for more about Dara and Preston & Olivia and let me know your favorite hat – I see this black & white straw hat becoming a staple this summer, and I wish I had the guts to rock the resort line!
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF!
I am Dara, the designer behind the brand Preston & Olivia. Drawing on my background in textiles and apparel design, I founded Preston & Olivia in 2010 out of the desire to create accessories for men and women looking for classic, heirloom-quality pieces with a fashion-forward sensibility. With every collection I strive to marry traditional Southern style with the more modern world I’m surrounded by in downtown Manhattan.
WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR LINE?
When conceiving the brand, I envisioned a beautiful lifestyle brand, and what a brick and mortar store would be for a guy and a girl shopping my pieces. I wanted a name that would embody that feeling. I thought having “the guy & girl” as the name and Preston & Olivia are family names that I’ve always loved. Olivia is very dear to my heart as it was the middle name of my paternal grandmother. My memories of her, and images I now cherish very much influenced the brand. I have an old picture of her from the 30’s taken on the old Louisiana State University campus, both of our alma maters, holding my grandfather’s cane and wearing his bowler hat. My brand identity was born from that photograph.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Without a doubt, images inspire me the most. I think as a photographer and a designer, I’m very visual and I tend to see things as how they would appear in a photograph. When I design, I think of how the person would look wearing a hat, and I always envision it as a moment captured in time. My husband and I have many books by our favorite photographers, and we both have inspiration photo walls above our workspaces of images that inspire us. Mine all happen to be hat focused, but they’re still inspiring none-the less.
WHAT MAKES YOUR DAY?
I love when a customer emails me to tell me they just received their P&O purchase and how it totally made their day. I love hearing how much they love their new piece, whatever it may be, how they can’t wait to wear it, etc. I love what I do. My heart really smiles when I hear that whatever I’ve made has brought joy to someone’s day, because, I’m truly living my dream. It’s in those moments when I just feel blessed.
WHAT IS NEXT?
We are currently working on the Fall 2014 and new Bridal Shoppe pieces.
WHERE DO YOU WORK?
My husband and I currently have a live/work space. We have designated workspaces in our apt where we work on all of our businesses with our little pup, Lola, by our side.
WHY IS AMERICAN-MADE IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I see the shift in production happening, and I feel that there is going to be a rebirth of production of goods in the U.S. I believe in keeping the production of P&O items American-made to help our local and national economy and I am able to control the quality of my goods by keeping them local. If everyone spent 5% more on US made products, we could create 1 million jobs.
While in San Francisco last month I visited the new Heath Ceramics Tile Factory with Alexandra of The Merchant Home. It was fitting that this visit would follow my day at Faribault Woolen Mill; inarguably, Heath has set the standard for reinventing American classics and preserving traditional production methods. The two iconic brands share a similar history and are alike in ethos and meaning; I’d imagine that Faribault today is in a place similar to where Heath was a few years ago.
Heath was founded in 1948 by artist Edith Heath and her husband, Brian, and became known for minimalist tableware and tiles. In 2002, Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic stumbled across the factory while walking in their new neighborhood in Sausalito. The couple were consultants, in industrial design and engineering, respectively, looking ‘to build a more satisfying and tangible design life highlighting designing and making.*‘ Though they thought the factory and the business looked interesting, they also could see that it needed some attention, so they built a plan to preserve the brand while growing the business. In 2004, they purchased the brand from Edith Heath, retaining the 24 employees working at the factory at that time*.
Beautiful, broken bud vases.
Tung’s ceramics collection.
The collection of Heath bud vases.
The entrance to the studio.
Today Heath Ceramics employs over 100 people, and along with the original Sausalito factory, has opened an LA store and design studio, a shop in the Ferry Building, and most recently, a state of the art tile factory, retail space, and design studio in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco.
Alexandra and I had the opportunity to speak with Tung Chiang, the San Francisco Studio Director, in his incredible, light-filled workspace. The Heath Studio serves as a creative space to explore what Heath is and what it can be. The studio is self sufficient but set within the factory to increase interaction between the artistic, manufacturing, and selling processes. Heath is a perfect example of an end-to-end and wholly vertical process – there is no distance between making and selling.
Brand new, state-of-the-art machinery. Donna is petite, but that kiln is enormous. And this tile cutting machine reminded me of a transformer!
Working in the factory. Though the space and machinery is brand new, the process is still primarily the same as it was many years ago. The employees were methodical, attentive, and clearly happy and proud of their work. Likewise, Heath is equally as proud of their people.
Moving the tiles to the drying rack.
Smoothing the edges of the tile. Heath tiles are a little trickier to use than your typical tile due to the inconsistency inherent in hand-finished pieces and are typically installed by experts. Tile specialists at the retail space are available to help customers choose the right tile for their space. Edith Heath hated consistency, particularly in glazing, as it took away from the handmade effect.
Although new colors are the norm for the traditional Heath ceramics (per Tung, color is Heath’s modus operandi), the brand is cautious to add new products. After seeing an opportunity to add candle holders due to the amount of handmade candles sold in Heath shops, Tung worked for an entire year developing candle holders, merging traditional Heath aesthetics with contemporary techniques. At the end of the year, the products were reviewed as an exhibit, in order to evaluate which items worked within the context of the Heath assortment. Along with the new products, prototype sets were also sold to the consumer, as a way to explain what exactly it takes to get to a final, sellable product. To me, this is the absolute fulfillment of Catherine and Robin’s quest to make design tangible. As someone who once worked on monthly product launches and refreshes that were focused on newness and trend as opposed to viability and sustainability, this attention to detail and focus on doing the right thing is astounding and amazing – and likely a driving factor in why Heath has become the incredibly innovative yet still classic brand it is today.
The shop carries the entire Heath line and an incredible assortment of products from like-minded brands : Faribault, Commune, Matteo, Non-Perishable Goods, Iacoli and McAlister, Ladies & Gentleman Studio, Lodge, etc. While you are shopping, or drinking a cup of coffee at the Blue Bottle, you can see the light-filled factory through glass walls, allowing you, the consumer, to feel in touch with the maker and the process.
My favorites from the shop… Garza Marfa leather chairs, test vases by Adam Silverman, the Los Angeles studio Creative Director, traditional white Heath vases. That grey Adam Silverman vase absolutely came home with me.
The San Francisco Factory will also be home to a new, exciting aspect of Heath – a creative campus for artists and makers. Heath has plans to fill the block with creative businesses (currently, Small Trades, an ethical apparel line, The Aesthetic Union, a letterpress studio, and Blue Bottle Coffee have opened); it is designed to foster collaboration and facilitate communication, not unlike the relationship between the design studio and the factory. For this campus, for collaboration opportunities, and for retail products, Heath seeks out brands and businesses that not only fit aesthetically but are also run with a sense of integrity and value-driven goals. This, to me, was one of the most interesting takeaways from this exciting visit – it’s incredible to see a brand like Heath, which can and has aligned with some of the best brands in the world, focusing on developing the community of makers and designers at large.
Heath is an incredible example of what can be – if Faribault served to remind me why focusing on conscious design, production and commerce matter, Heath’s purpose is to teach us all that is possible and what can be. Ten years ago, Catherine and Robin did not intend to turn Heath into what it is today – they thought it was an interesting opportunity that would allow them to make design more tangible. Today, Heath is at the forefront of this movement, and instead of sitting back, the team is focusing it’s collective efforts on strengthening and building the community. That’s pretty amazing. And I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Thank you to Donna Suh and Tung Chiang for taking the time to meet with us, and to Alexandra for setting up this visit!
Pregnancy. To be honest, it terrifies me. TEN months spent managing an ever-changing body in order to prepare you for a lifetime of parenting, teaching, loving, and coaching an actual human being. I don’t know how anyone does it. Sometimes I wonder why. But the pregnant women and mothers I know have gracefully managed their pregnancies and become incredible, inspiring moms. And babies are pretty awesome… so I know it’s worth it.
But, one aspect of pregnancy that seems incredibly unfair to me is that it is a lot of work. On top of the changing body and the buying all of the things the baby needs, pregnant women are suddenly inundated with all new needs – particularly new clothing and new beauty products that won’t harm the baby. I’ve watched my friends try on clothes and research products – everything feels like a compromise – style or comfort? safety vs. efficacy? How do you choose? It could drive anyone crazy – why should we subject a woman (who could potentially be carrying a future Nobel Peace Prize winner!) to that?
Courtney Klein is working to solve this problem with Storq, a new collection of pregnancy basics. Black and white cotton basics, made in LA, and all natural beauty products (also made in the USA) that are safe for pregnant women. Pregnant women can buy individual items or bundles, and the work and research is literally done for you.
I’m not pregnant, but honestly, I’d love a set like this for myself with non-maternity basics. We make decisions all day everyday, most of them shouldn’t be that difficult. I love that Courtney and the Storq team are redefining pregnancy, making it easier – and more fashionable – for new moms. Thank you, Courtney, for taking the time to answer some questions… Looking forward to seeing what is next for Storq!
Maternity fashion can be pretty bleak. There’s a lot of poor quality and questionable style out there. We saw an opportunity to provide women with thoughtful pregnancy essentials without getting in the way of their personal style.
WHAT ARE YOUR STYLE ESSENTIALS?
We’re in favor of minimal silhouettes, super soft fabrics, and a good shoe.
WHAT IS NEXT?
More chic essentials from your friends at Storq. Stay tuned.
WHERE DO YOU WORK?
We work in SF and NY. We have a lot of Google Hang sessions in Pregnancy Town (you can name your hang, so we do that).
WHERE DO YOU MAKE YOUR COLLECTION?
Our basics are milled and manufactured just outside of Los Angeles, CA. We’re proud to support our domestic garment industry.
WHY IS YOUR COLLECTION DIFFERENT
We don’t like bows. There won’t be any small bows. Also, no tags, fewer seams, fabric that’s soft with lots of stretch, minimal shapes. In short, it’s a comfortable uniform that will take you through all 9 months without breaking the bank.