Pillars + Values

Two years ago I Marie Kondo’d my home, and pulled a number of books from my bookshelf that I had not read. I committed to reading them all.

This week, I picked GROW by Jim Stengel from that pile, and the timing could not be better. Alchimie Forever is growing, and growing fast – and this book is reminding me to stay close to our mission and ideals.

“Great businesses have great ideals,” Stengel says. Our big ideal is to improve people’s lives by improving their skin.

Self care through skin care.

Looking good, means feeling good, means doing good.

Specifically, Stengel challenges businesses to clarify pillars (values) that will guide every aspect of the business. Here are our five, which guide everything we do from product development to distribution partnerships to caring for our employees and customers.

Clean. We focus on the safety and efficacy of our ingredients rather than the source. We are paraben-free, vegan, gluten-free, cruelty-free.

Read more here.

Clinical. We are dermatologist-formulated. We believe in science. We believe professional skin care treatments are a necessary complement to home care.

Approachable. We believe in making products that are available to all, in price and place. We like to think we are aspirationally accessible.

Responsible. We are fiscally responsible. We are environmentally responsible. We are humanly responsible.

Transparent. We work with integrity. We say what we do and do what we say.

Self-care + skincare + looking at yourself in the mirror

To me, skin care has always been more than skin deep. 

At the heart of our origin story is self-care 

“Self-care through skin care.”™

Also at the heart of our origin story is the idea that how you look impacts how you feel, which in turn impacts how you act. 

“Looking good, means feeling good, means doing good.” 

You can learn more about our tag lines by watching this video

In a time that seems defined by over-work, over-connectedness, stress, and mental health concerns, taking care of one’s self is an absolute must. Self-care, of course, takes many forms (exercise, meditation, religion, food, and more), and means something different to everyone. 

In my world, self-care relates to beauty, skin, and looking at myself in the mirror with kindness and gratitude. 

In my world, self-care means applying creams, lotions, potions. Self-care means spending time in my bathroom focusing on myself, and only on myself (my bathroom is a phone-free zone, the only one in my home). Per my mother’s advice, I spend a lot of time looking at myself in the mirror. I inspect all of the infinitely minute changes that take place every day. Changes in my skin, my face, my body. I look at them, I acknowledge them, I welcome them. I smile at myself. I tell myself I am beautiful. Not in a vain way, rather, in a kind way.  

In a time when we all need to be reminded about the importance of self-care, I am grateful for the many brands (beauty and otherwise) that focus on this message. The most recent example (which inspired this blog post) is Birchbox – and their new You-Time campaign 

Next time you look at yourself in the mirror, ask yourself “Who do you see?” Answer with positivity and kindness. 

 

WWD Beauty Summit Highlight: Warmth & Competence

Yesterday, I saw a (self-proclaimed) cold-hearted German economist tear up. It was the highlight of the Women’s Wear Daily Beauty Summit!

Organized by the brilliant Jenny B. Fine, this conference brings 400+ beauty executives together to listen to leaders, explore the state of the industry, and network.  

Markus Strobel, President of Global Skin & Personal Care, Procter & Gamble and said cold-hearted German economist, presented a case study on the turnaround of SKII in China.

Any brand, he explained, needs two complementary aspects to be successful:  

  • Warmth. Meaning “what are your intentions?” This is the humanity of the brand.
  • Competence. Meaning “what is your ability to deliver on your promises.” This is the efficacy of the brand.

SKII, he explained, was all competence and no warmth. Indeed, consumers in China perceived the brand’s intentions as “selling us as much products as possible.” Not what the marketing team was going for…  

The team thus set out to bring emotion back into the brand, to relate to the humanity of the consumer, specifically targeting the “leftover woman,” who in China, is a woman over 27 years old and is not married.

The intention of the brand became to give a voice to this “leftover woman,” to see her, to listen to her, to elevate her. And thus, the Change Destiny video campaign was created. With millions of views on YouTube, in China and around the world, this emotional video changed the trajectory of SKII in the Chinese market.  

Yesterday, as the audience watched this video, many teared up in empathy, including said German economist – who admitted: “this one gets me every time… even after watching it 100 times.”

And thus, we were all reminded that we are human, that we crave emotion. Strobel left us with the following insightful question and marketing challenge: “How do you all find the humanity in your brand?”

The Power of Hand-Written Thank You Notes…

I love to send handwritten notes. Birthday cards (yes, even to adults); “random” notes (sometimes with an article I think will be of interest;) and of course, thank you notes.

One of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received was from my girlfriend Heidi Kallett, former owner of the Dandelion Patch. She gave me 365 thank you cards and envelopes, and the book 365 Thank yous by John Kralik. The cards are long gone, the book is on my bookshelf as a reminder to keep at it.

If you don’t write thank you notes, try it. A hand-written thank you note is an overt act of gratitude, something the world needs more of.

When to send

  • Anytime you open a gift in absence of the giver. Really, anytime you receive a gift.
  • Anytime to are invited to someone’s home for a lunch, dinner, or party.
  • As soon as you can possibly write the note is the most opportune time to send them.
  • Keep in mind it is worse to never send the note than to send it 6 months after receiving a gift. While more timely is better, the time for a thank you note never has lapsed. Not sending a thank you note is always worse.
  • The most memorable thank you notes are thank yous for random acts of kindness, because those are the most unexpected.
  • Anytime you question whether you should or should not send a thank you note, you should send one.
  • There is never a wrong time or occasion to send a thank you note.
  • Always send a thank you note to a prospective employer who has taken the time to interview you.
  • It is always appropriate to send an immediate thank you email, but only in addition to the hand-written note that will follow.

What to say (and what not to say)

  • Always mention something specific about the gift, preferably how or where you are going to use it; this specificity is particularly important if you received a gift card.
  • Remember that even if you do not like the actual gift, you are thanking someone for his or her thoughtfulness and for the fact that they put time and effort into the gift.
  • Never say you won’t enjoy the gift, have a duplicate of the gift, or will never use it. (Yes, this seems obvious, but you would be surprised…)

Modern day rules

  • An email thank you is never a replacement for a hand-written thank you note.
  • Because of the prevalence of email, actually, a hand-written thank you note will have even more of an impact.

Start today. Send one thank you card to someone, just because. And then sit back, and enjoy how it makes you feel, and how it makes the recipient feel. 

Alchimie Forever… The Story Behind Our Name

It is Marketing 101 that when choosing a brand name, something short, easy to pronounce and spell, and memorable in various cultures and countries is the way to go.

My sister Cyrille and I chose Alchimie Forever as our brand name, many years ago in a delightful tea shop in the Old Town of Geneva. If I had a penny for every time our brand name was misspelled or mispronounced… What were we thinking?

Watch me tell the story here or keep reading.

As we started brainstorming, we identified four guiding principles:

  • We wanted a name that started with A (first letter of the alphabet, A like Ada, who knows…)
  • We wanted a link to Forever Institut, the medical spa our skin care brand was born in
  • We wanted a word in French (elegant, Swiss, international), and a word in English (universal, American, approachable)

We started listing French words starting with A… and suddenly my sister lit up and said “Alchimie!” And then we switched from drinking tea to celebrating with champagne!

It made sense for so many reasons. Alchimie (pronounced al-shee-mee) is the French word for alchemy. And alchemy is very much at the heart of our skin care philosophy.

  • Alchemy is the medieval science that became chemistry. And how can you formulate skin care products without chemistry, without labs, without clinical studies? There can be no skin care without science.
  • Alchemy is also part magic. The Alchemists were involved in such mystical pursuits as transforming lead into gold and finding the stone of eternal youth (both endeavors somehow related to beauty and youth). And skin care is indeed part magic…
  • The Alchemists were also among the first to identify plants as having healthful benefits. And potent botanicals are at the core of our formulations.

So yes, our brand name is hard to pronounce, and hard to spell – and now you know why: science, magic, and powerful botanicals!  

Big Apple highlights

I spend a lot of time in NYC. Every 6-8 weeks, I take the train from DC (usually train 180 leaving at 5:20am) and spend two or three days working in the Big Apple. While I could never live here, there are some unique places that make this city truly glorious. Here is where you might find me on any given day in New York City, in between client and press meetings.

My friend Trisala’s apartment in Tribeca. We have known each other since we were 12, could talk for hours on end, and her home-cooked meals are to die for.

SoulCycle Tribeca. To work off said home-cooked meals.  

Edward’s. Also in Tribeca. My favorite place to catch up on emails (free and fast WiFi) with a glass of wine (they serve it European style, in tall “water” glasses) or have apéro with a friend. The terrace is a delight in the summer, the bar is a delight year-round.

Felidia or Il Bucco for the best Italian dinner in the city. I have a sentimental attachment to Felidia, but my Italian father would tell you to head to Il Bucco instead.

You have your choice of amazing museums, but my go-to if I need to clear my head, be inspired, is the Guggenheim. The space itself is like a work of art and usually has me thinking in a different direction by the time I leave. Another wonderful museum, a little more off the beaten track of the “classics” (The Met, MoMa, Whitney, etc) is the Neue Galerie, which was co-founded by Ronald S. Lauder.  

The Highline. This repurposed railway space (almost 1.5 miles long) was inspired by a similar project in Paris (Promenade plantée) and is truly peaceful, regardless of the weather or the crowds.

Heyday. A trip to New York City is not complete without a facial at one of five Heyday locations. Sprinkled throughout the city’s various neighborhoods for convenience, this is the perfect place to get your skin in order and learn about home care and products  (and yes, Alchimie Forever is featured at Heyday).

Julien Farel Restore Salon. Inside the Loews Regency Hotel, this is my favorite spot for the perfect blow-dry. And if I’m lucky, I’ll run into the uber-glamorous Suelyn Farel (CEO of Julien Farel the company, wife of Julien Farel the man).

You may be surprised that there are no stores on this list… Indeed, I am not a shopper. But if I happen to walk by ABC Home I can’t not go in (amazing for gifts). And I feel the same about any beauty boutique