It’s estimated that the world throws away a total of one billion lipsticks each year. That’s not only an inconceivable amount of lippy, but it’s also tonnes upon tonnes of plastic waste added to the sobering crisis impacting our natural environment today. Not to mention that most lipsticks also contain microplastics in order to achieve a smooth glide on the lips. The truth is, the beauty industry has had a long-term love affair with plastic, and it’s just too difficult to change that now. Or is it?
La Bouche Rouge is a luxurious, eco-friendly lipstick line from Paris that offers the perfect shade of red made from natural ingredients in sustainable packaging. The leather used for the monogrammable lipstick case comes from the same French tannery that brands such as Hermès work with, and it can be refilled infinitely. During their recent Hong Kong debut at Lane Crawford, we caught a moment with the president and co-creator of La Bouche Rouge to find out about his startup life and how he aims to bring forth a new era of luxury beauty, one powered by sustainability.
Name: Nicolas Gerlier
Profession: President of La Bouche Rouge
Start up since: October 2017
Tell us about your business. What do you do?
At La Bouche Rouge we create pure makeup formulas and clean refillable objects in France for the future of the planet. Our ambition is to reconcile luxury and sustainability.
What’s behind the name, La Bouche Rouge?
La Bouche Rouge means “red lips” in French, but it also stands for having a voice, sharing a message. It represents our revolutionary spirit. A red voice!
Tell me about your best and worst days at work?
The best days are when I see that we are creating meaningful projects that surpass beauty. When we invite artists to express themselves within our Maison, like [contemporary Swiss pop artist] Sylvie Fleury for instance. I believe creativity and design are the only way to create the desire to consume differently.
Also, I find motivation in our Positive Economy project: for each lipstick sold, we give 100 litres of safe water to Togo [in western Africa]. We recently visited the first well that we were able to drill with Eau Vive Internationale in a village called Hilou.
I don’t have bad days at work. As I always say: sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. I have learnt a lot from every difficulty we encountered, while developing the brand.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I am the father of three children, so mostly I enjoy family time and ride my bicycle.
Looking back now, what would you have done differently?
Nothing, I believe every step is part of the adventure.
What is a normal workday like for you?
My days are very dense. I arrive at the office early and begin meetings with my team, PR agencies, partners, development and production teams, until I run back home — often late!
What advice would you give to someone looking to start up?
Be passionate, because this is a 24/7 job!
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing what you do now?
I would be working in contemporary art. Possibly to serve a creative project, as this was always a passion of mine.
As a child, what did you aspire to be?
I wanted to be an archaeologist because I was passionate about ancient Egypt.
What has been your biggest hurdle and how did you overcome it?
Definitely the creation of a clean but efficient formula. We researched for two years. To overcome it, I recruited the right person with the right know-how.
Why is Hong Kong such an important market for you?
Hong Kong is our gateway into Asia, which is a major market for us. It’s a leading market in the world for cosmetics, but it’s also a special place with ancient rituals and beauty traditions. I feel that it’s imperative to share the values of reconciling luxury and sustainability with the people who are key in the environmental issues of tomorrow.
If you were to invest in another start up, which would it be?
I would invest in my brother’s startup: Namatata, a meditation app.
What are your goals for 2019? And in the near future?
My goals are to grow the Maison and remain a leader in our market. The objective is to continue to create the desire to consume differently all over the world and to invent new objects. In terms of where next in Asia? It will be Japan and Korea. We are also working on different products (which we are not ready to share just yet!) but it’s a long process of research to achieve the perfect result. What is important to me now is to become the leader in luxury and sustainable beauty, create positive economy projects and share this with others.
How hands-on are you?
I started this adventure by myself, so I had to do all steps of the creation.
How do you define success? Do you consider yourself successful?
No, but my team is successful! Success for me is being the first cosmetic brand to commit to reducing plastic from the beginning. And to lead a revolution in the makeup industry while being so small. One year ago, we were a team of three people. Now we are fifteen. So that’s five times more committed to the cause. I am convinced we need to change our habits and very proud to say it can begin with a lipstick!