The Interview: Xavier Quattrocchi-Oubradous, Re-Founder, Cosmydor
Despite the unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, luxury sustainable beauty brand Cosmydor has flourished in the past year, with online sales via its own e-commerce site up 50% year on year and sales via online stockists (including Net-a-Porter, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges) having boomed by 300%.
The French-born brand has also accelerated its international coverage, with the signature of distributors in five new countries since March 2020.
Central to its success has been the brand’s unique approach to sustainability and hero range of indulgent, yet highly effective, products.
From nourishing masks to hydrating soaps, rich creams and rescuing balms - Cosmydor's offerings have been keenly sought after as part of the pandemic-accelerated “self-care” trend.
With a brand heritage that dates back to 1877, founder Xavier Quattrocchi-Oubradous talks us through Cosmydor's fascinating history, re-birth and ongoing evolution.
Please tell us a little more about your career path…
I actually started my life in classical music, which is really my family background. After graduating I went straight into investment banking in Milan, Paris and then London.
The next path was an unplanned turn into entrepreneurship in branding, communication and marketing agencies where we had quite a few cosmetics clients and I still run a creative agency called ‘We are not chickens’.
Then about five years ago I decided to start a brand new adventure with the exciting re-foundation of the French heritage brand Cosmydor.
What inspired you to bring the brand back to life?
I have always been deeply passionate about history and brands and it had always been a dream of mine to work on the re-launch of a heritage brand.
I started digging into archives, old magazines and the databases of trademarks to identify beautiful “sleeping beauty" brands and it was during that process that I discovered Cosmydor.
The Cosmydor brand stood apart for many reasons, with the first one being its initial focus: even way back in 1877 the brand was already all about its 100% natural formula.
The second was the aesthetic focus of the brand, especially through its partnership in 1891 with the famous artist Jules Chéret - one of the first artists to depict women in advertising and whose burlesque style is charecterised by its density, level of detail and embellishments.
Thirdly, the name itself is interesting, starting as “cosmetics” and finishing with -or (which is gold in French), like Dior.
Finally, for a less inspiring but more practical reason was the brand's SEO: Cosmydor is easy to find on search engines!
What unique properties set the Cosmydor products apart?
We relaunched Cosmydor with two key additions to the brand DNA: craftsmanship and sustainability.
When it comes to craftsmanship, for me, true luxury means man-made. What comes out of a factory can't be really luxury, it lacks true know-how.
I had the intuition that what is true for fashion, accessories, or gastronomy should also apply to cosmetics.
Artisanal manufacturing enables formulations with far more (10 to 25 times) active ingredients and higher quality ingredients, such as virgin vegetable oils vs refined ones, so product efficiency is exceptionally high.
Sustainability is our second pillar. From the ground up, Cosmydor was re-built with sustainability at heart. Every single step in the business has been made as sustainable as possible, from the way our ingredients and plants are grown, down to transportation to final suppliers and clients.
We are so proud of our 100% biodegradable products, regional sourcing of packaging, exclusion of plastic containers and gentle manufacturing processes, with no waste of energy or water.
Tell us about Cosmydor’s most recent innovations and the insights that have driven them?
Our innovations usually revolve around:
- Formulation: finding the most efficient plants for specific skincare needs, and making them work together (the principles of botanical science).
- Scent: we do not use any fragrance, so our products literally smell of the ingredients. This is actually a formulation constraint as we want our product to smell good, even if the scent is not consistent across products. Sometimes the combination of oils gives a surprising result, good or bad. When bad we have to find other ways to provide equal efficiency with different plants. Sometimes I think it resembles the work of druids and their cauldrons!
- Texture: we do not use texture agents, so the “look and feel” of the products mainly comes from the manufacturing know-how. We have recently created a new make-up removal product which is derived from our “little balms” but features a more chantilly-esque texture, enabling the removal of make up without a greasy feeling on the face. There's been quite a lot of back-and-forth before finding the right balance so we hope our consumers will like it when it launches before this summer!
What kind of an impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had on the brand?
The brand was already carrying values which have been reinforced by the pandemic, especially around its truly natural formulation, its sustainability (for instance the 99.5% European sourcing of packaging) and its authenticity.
These trends were significant but it seems that consumers really are insisting on them far more now as they seek to take more care of their own health and that of the planet.
How has the brand pivoted operations to deal with the challenges?
Our main operating challenge has been to manage growth. We were often told our artisanal manufacturing would not be able to cope with higher volumes but luckily so far that has not been true. As our logistics are as artisanal as our manufacturing (no robots…) we have had to improve and "Covid-proof our warehouse operations which has meant that we have had to invest in warehouse management systems. It's not the most glamorous part of the business, but it is essential.
Which Cosmydor products in particular have experienced a growth in demand in recent times and why?
We launched a range of hand creams (E/1 to E/6 Essential Care creams) just a few months before the Covid-19 crisis started. The creams have become our best-sellers as people continue to seek out products that help to repair and nourish hands which have suffered from the over-use of alcoholic gels and industrial soaps.
What’s next on the agenda for Cosmydor?
2021 is going to be a busy one as we press go on numerous launches that were paused last year: This April we will launching our first lip balm named KISS and then in May a range of body milks, then a make-up remover, new serums and more.
One thing that never ceases to amaze me when we work on innovations is just how marvelous nature is at providing us with the ingredients needed formulate ultra-efficient and incredibly-pleasant skincare.