Qompendium is an evolving and ever-changing platform for philosophy, art, culture and science, represented by a series of print publications: magazines, books and monographs. Furthermore, it is enriched by a gallery concept, a work shop and a fast-moving online portal.
Long story made short, we released our magazine Qompendium in Portugal and the Creative Director of O Epicurista, Armando Ribiero, spoke highly of a small cosmetics brand called Absolution. After a cyberspace introduction and a few emails it was clear we agreed on each other’s visions and wanted to hook up. Meeting Isabelle Carron, founder and Creative Director in Lisbon made me even more curious about this bespoke certified organic brand, it is not about the looks only, there is more to it.
Kimberly Lloyd: Absolution’s brand philosophy and production sets you apart from your competitors in many ways as the brand is conceived to meet the needs of women and men looking for the right balance between eco-consciousness and urban lifestyle, people who are concerned with their beauty, wellness as well as that of the planet. A conversation with Isabelle Carron. Isabelle, when did you start your brand Absolution and what made you do it in a supersaturated beauty market?
Isabelle: I started evaluating the idea about a year and a half ago, to be exact it was around May 2008. As a creative director, I often had to work on beauty accounts throughout my career and as a woman, I had not fallen in love with any brand as an entity.
Some products were good here and there, but they were not the kind of range or brand I was looking for. Then, I started using organic cosmetics four years ago, and my skin really changed. I am convinced that organic products are really better for the skin and health but moreover they are as efficient (if not more) as the traditional cosmetic products. I also strongly believe in the philosophy that the skin is a living ecosystem, a communication interface always balancing to be at its best according to various information it receives. Whether external such as weather, pollution, heat, air conditioning, etc. or internal such as diet, smoke, sleep, moods, etc. Therefore our skin doesn't need the same kind of care every day. There is no other cosmetic brand offering the possibility to treat our skin daily according to its very specific need.
Finally, I also was the opinion of that organic "codes" were not modern enough, always about communicating an expression of nature, flowers, green, etc. I was looking for more than just that; for something that can express more than just the fact that it is organic. Being organic has become such a common thing that I didn’t believe it was going to be enough to appeal to the consumers by giving them just a fact and some typical organic aesthetics.
For me there was a real niche, a real place in the market for a new proposition, with more spirit and soul, with a great quality and organic high standard. It was time to create a daring product to communicate differently to people who are ready to go for organic but not willing to go for it by giving up on pleasure of all senses. I tried to merge all these objectives in one brand, and so Absolution was born.
Isn’t this organic production scheme just another trend bandwagon to jump on?
Even if it’s a trend, it's not just another one. And organic is part of a living concept, about consciousness of the things we will not be able to cherish for long and ever. Organic is not an "end" by itself. It's true, this term is being exploited a lot and not always for the best. But I think it's just going to become the new standard. Not tomorrow, but in the long term for sure it will be more and more of a basic living standard. This is also why Absolution is not an organic brand with “organic” as its unique selling proposition. I haven’t even designed it to be organic looking. For instance, I was determined to design the look as a hand drawn look, black and white instead of green, keeping the fact “organic” as low profile as possible. I am trying to bring more beauty in the world of cosmetic by always creating our merchandising by hand, exhibit artists in store windows, creating a magazine, organizing showcases and so much more. All this is part of my aim and idea that beautiful things, art in the most general sense and the effect, the emotion it can provide on you can motivate us even more... beautiful! Organic might be a trend, but it's one of those that will stay for long... hopefully in the most diverse ways possible!
As far as we are informed you produce your cosmetic line in France, correct?
Correct! Our entire range of products is made in France; we're based in Paris and all our suppliers work in the same region of France. This avoids increasing carbon footprint and why should I look far away for ingredients that can be found here, and that of a great quality! Of course this choice has its consequences; producing in France is more expensive but it's like in the fashion industry. You pay for quality. You pay for preserving the planet. This is one of the first steps you have to take to make things change. We all know by now that going a sustainable way costs, but it's a bet on the future, our future. Another reason for France is that I also like to be able to work with people I know, to maintain real relationships with them and in committing ourselves to this project by doing our best all together. France is famous for its cosmetics and fragrance industry for years – what a shame not to take advantage of this great patrimony.
There are quite a few organic brands around on the market, what is so special about Absolution, beside the organic fact and its visual look?
Absolution skincare offers a new approach to beauty delivering a smaller range of products, more simplicity, highly organic skincare that can be customized to suit the different moods of your skin. Each day as it comes.
You mean a bespoke line of crèmes?
Yes, this a new vision in beauty and skin care market. No other brand has worked on this philosophy yet. Each product can be customized daily to target a specific need, in a way that is easy, safe and efficient. Our airless bottles were conceived to do so. Moreover, I'm really betting on a concept that is not "commercial" per se. Absolution is not telling the consumer what she/he has to do, it is suggesting the user to listen to oneself and to their skin. It's not exploiting the trend of "body segmentation" which means a product for each little part of the body in your bathroom. We're more into "back to basics". Treat your skin really well and use the right product, you don't need thousand of products, there are no imposed rules, you don't have to use a scrub twice a week, an eye treatment if you're 29 and a half, etc. Therefore, our range is small, and will stay limited to the essential products.
And the aesthetical differentiation...
Yes, Absolution brings a new aesthetic on the beauty market in general, and the organic one in particular: black and white, graphics on round bottles - I haven’t seen this before in skin care, you?
What about the formula?
Last but not least and the most important, the formula is really sophisticated, highly organic but with a result which is at least equal if not better, than that of the "traditional cosmetics" and moreover the benefits are long terms because it won't affect the nature and balance of your skin. Textures and scents are nice and subtle, all our customers agree on this, and this way it helps organic products going beyond preconceived ideas that would say it's always thick, greasy with a strong smell.
Coming back to your packaging and design, how important is that for your beauty product?
The packaging is the first contact you'll have with a brand. It has to reflect its universe, its spirit and soul. When it comes to beauty, it's important that the packaging expresses a vision of beauty. Beauty products are the most intimate ones, they enter your privacy, and these are the first things you will use in the morning and before sleep. They will become part of your daily life. It has to be neatly designed, the packaging must convey its own message about beauty, about efficiency, actually about whatever you want the customer to get from you brand or product at first sight.
A few days ago there where some bad headlines about Le Mer, please tell us what ingredients are in your crèmes and will they be able to give women what they are looking for?
Absolution is not about magic, rare, unknown ingredients. Absolution is about offering the best formulation of the best ingredients treating your skin with efficiently. Our entire formula is based around natural vitamins, organic and wild herbs and minerals. Their combination can be found in all our products, each specific ingredients chosen for a specific need. There is always a great mix of all the best ingredients to provide an effective skin care, like anti ageing, nurturing, and regenerating and specific active ingredients in high concentration to accelerate the efficiency.
Can you give me some concrete examples?
Yes, we use Aloe Vera in great quantities instead of using more water; we use Echinacea, which is commonly used as a food supplement to boost your natural defenses, to boost the skin's immune system and we use Thermus Thermophillus, a microbacteria from the deep seas that is being more and more studied for its anti pollution, anti waves, protective properties used in La Solution+ Energie. We also add crajiru and propolis for their purifying and healing properties in La Solution+ Contrôle. Absolution is not about one good ingredients, it's about a whole combination of the greatest to offer the best to the skin.
Isabelle, your vision, brand and design is inspiring and I am already a big fan or call me addict. But when I hear of wild herbs and minerals I need to be sure that there is a qualified team behind this. Take us behind the scenes of Absolution - is there a laboratory? Who chooses the herbs and how do you know which micro bacteria can be put on the skin? Are there doctors and skin specialists behind all this?
As my wish was to offer the best skin care ever and obviously not to create another show off brand made by a wannabe advertising guy, the products' formulation was one of my main preoccupations. Of course, even if I am quite educated with all the ingredients I'm not a biochemist. I work with a formula developer, specialized in herboristery and holistic medicine. Once all the formulas were sketched, we chose a laboratory, focusing solely on organic and natural cosmetics with the aim to develop high end organic products. Together, we sourced the right ingredients and adjusted the formulas to perfection with them. So, relax about what is in the jar. Trust me, it is only the best for your skin, your soul and your life!
20 years of Creative and Development Direction experience. Carron was part of the founding team of Draft France, she has also worked at Rapp & Collins, Publicis Dialog, Taxi Jaune, Kenya and was CCO of K Agency 360. Carron has beautiful eyes; she still wonders why there are only 24 hours in a day – probably her mystic chase... Isabelle Carron adores all “girls singing with a guitar”, might be her missed career. Further she loves reading books you didn't know even existed; discovering new stuff and creating with people. For example like an organic cosmetics brand called Absolution.