Good: When did the concept of Clean Beauty come to mind and what did it take to get off the ground?
Fleur Insley: I launched Clean Beauty Collective because after working in the cosmetics industry for more than 20 years, I knew that we could do better, and that better beauty existed. I came across clean beauty as an emerging category about three years ago now and have been watching what was happening internationally for many years. I’ve been lucky in my career working for a large global beauty corporate to have travelled to international retail markets and have seen some amazing innovation and entrepreneurship in beauty that we just hadn’t seen in the New Zealand market. So about two years ago, I decided that I would take the plunge as I knew that we could do better in the beauty market, and it made sense to me to be doing it in New Zealand, where Kiwis fully embrace cleaner lifestyles and natural products and skincare. Getting it off the ground has had some challenges — mostly locational with getting brands and suppliers on board initially, but I’ve been blessed with great connections, friends, family and mentors.
Can you talk about the testing process you put the products through before you range them?
Well to start with, it’s probably best to understand how we define clean beauty. For us, it means skincare and cosmetic products that contain sustainably sourced safe ingredients that are natural, organic and non-toxic, because we believe that harmful chemicals should not be in the products we put on our skin. But it doesn’t just mean natural and organic, clean also means ethically sourced and products are not tested on animals. At Clean Beauty Collective we value natural and non-toxic ingredients and say no to artificial colours or fragrances, parabens, petrochemicals, paraffin, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, sulphates, silicones, triclosan, carcinogens, neurotoxins, PABA, PEG or DEA. However, some of our products contain ‘safe synthetics’. These synthetics are developed by what is known as green chemistry, which aims to create safe and non-toxic ingredients that can imitate nature and, in some cases, even provide more effective results. Either way, our policy is, natural or synthetic, it must be safe.
Brands can quite easily market themselves as being clean because there are varying opinions in the beauty industry on the definition of what is clean, natural or organic, which is largely driven by the under regulation and lack of transparency in the industry. Brands can quite literally determine their own definition. It’s called greenwashing – they might use colours, images, packaging and wording that suggests that they are, but in reality, they might be partially or not at all.
Transparency and honesty are key for us and that’s why we have a clearly defined selection criteria and process that we follow before brands are chosen to be sold at Clean Beauty Collective. There have been many brands that have sought us out to stock their brand since we launched, but unfortunately if they don’t fulfil all the criteria that we have, then they won’t be ranged. It has meant having to share the news with some brand founders, who have spent years crafting their brands, that unfortunately they aren’t clean enough for us. But it is our firm belief that consumers deserve better beauty and there are lots of brands fulfilling this already. There are alternative ingredients out there for brands, they just have to make those choices to include them in their formulations, and often what stops them is cost.
As mentioned, all brands must comply with our dirty list, which has been compiled with the help of specialists in the industry and through my own research. The ingredients that you will find on our dirty list are known to be or have been linked to health or environmental issues, so it’s important for us to partner only with brands that have chosen not to include these in their formulations. With clean beauty being the fastest-growing beauty category, innovation in this area is rising rapidly, so our list is constantly being updated and evolved as knowledge and advances are made.
Our team also tries all the products before they launch, so you can rest assured, we’ve checked out its texture, smell, efficacy and performance.
What has been the most fun part of getting Clean Beauty Collective up and running?
Getting to try all the products! Seriously though, for me the best part is being able to share knowledge and having the ability to bring better beauty to Kiwis. Getting feedback from our customers on their experience with us and the products we sell is the most rewarding part of my job.
What about the most challenging?
I mentioned earlier, that we have had some challenges around our location. Whilst being based in New Zealand and having a great network here and in Australia, it has been more challenging establishing that in other markets like the US, UK and Europe. It will be an ongoing challenge, but one that gets easier over time. Going to trade shows overseas has been beneficial with networking and being exposed to brand founders and their subsequent networks. I’ve met some great people along the way and many, funnily enough, that come from my old stomping ground!
Do you think New Zealand is adopting sustainable/natural/responsible beauty products at a quick rate?
It’s my belief that New Zealanders are early adopters in this space, being that we were one of the quickest populations to embrace natural beauty products and have done for years. In fact, some of the best innovation in natural and organic beauty worldwide has evolved from our country. For me, it’s been really pleasing to see how many people are interested to know more, though, and specifically around clean beauty and how they can have better beauty routines. Sustainability in beauty still has a long road ahead, however as an industry we are already seeing zero-waste products making waves and impacting on Kiwi lifestyles positively.
What’s next for Clean Beauty Collective?
Where to start! We have so many plans for Clean Beauty Collective, especially with regards to extending outside the retail space. There’s still lots more brands joining us throughout the year, both from New Zealand and globally. And of course the vision is to one day have a permanent location where we can host our customers and immerse them in the full experience of clean beauty.