Today’s inspiring #ForteFemale is Bee Shapiro, founder of the clean fragrance line, Ellis Brooklyn. At Irene Forte Skincare, we believe that the best skin products offer a full sensory experience and that scent is fundamental. In addition, we believe in Psycho-Cosmetics (Psico-Cosmesi), i.e., that what we put on our skin should benefit us through our emotions, as well as physically, and that the psychological, emotional impact of skin care can come from the smell and texture of the product when it is applied. We thus jumped at the chance to interview Bee Shapiro about her very intentional approach to fragrance.
YOU LAUNCHED ELLIS BROOKLYN IN 2015 AFTER AMENDING YOUR BEAUTY ROUTINE WHILST PREGNANT AND DISCOVERING A LACK OF CLEAN FRAGRANCE OPTIONS. YOU NOW HAVE NEARLY 20 FRAGRANCES AND ELLIS BROOKLYN IS AVAILABLE IN NEARLY 600 DOORS ACROSS THE WORLD. YOU HAVE CERTAINLY MADE GREAT PROGRESS TO CLOSE THE GAP YOU SAW IN THE MARKET! WHERE DOES YOUR INSPIRATION COME FROM WHEN CREATING A NEW SCENT?
Creating scents is my absolute favorite part of running Ellis Brooklyn. It’s the story telling and dreaming that I love the most. I think of each scent as a story. What kind of scent character can it transform the wearer to be? Where can this scent take you?
AS THE TERM ‘CLEAN’ IS NOT REGULATED, WHAT DOES ‘CLEAN’ MEAN TO YOU, ESPECIALLY WITH REGARD TO FRAGRANCE?
When I started Ellis Brooklyn, I was writing for the New York Times as the beauty columnist and I was also pregnant with my daughter Ellis and living in Brooklyn. I wanted to know what I was putting on my skin but also what I was breathing in. In the US, we didn’t then and still don’t have much regulation or even information on fragrance. When I started Ellis Brooklyn, because I was pregnant and product testing, I was approaching clean from a data and science-driven level. So the first thing I did was make the brand globally compliant but cruelty-free. Europe and Australia and other regions are far more advanced in their testing of ingredients etc. Next, was to then look at ingredients that were used in fragrance currently and there were some that were not banned but were questionable. It was a discussion with the perfume houses on whether we should have those or not. So it wasn’t this marketing approach I had in mind. I think “clean” is very difficult to define.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FRAGRANCE FAMILY AND WHY? HOW DOES YOUR CHOICE OF SCENT AFFECT YOUR MOOD?
I love musks. I particularly love musks that “bloom” on your skin and take on its own life with your body chemistry and warmth.
YOU ARE A NEW YORK TIMES BEAUTY WRITER – WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR YOU THE FIRST TIME THAT YOU WERE INTERVIEWED BY A BEAUTY JOURNALIST?
I definitely babbled on and on in my first interview. I didn’t realize how awkward it’d be on the other side! I’m one of those people that can go on and on about beauty and fragrance. I have definitely learned to rein it in a little.
YOUR TAGLINE IS VERY INTRIGUING! “FRAGRANCES INSPIRED BY STORIES” – WHO ARE THE STORYTELLERS IN YOUR LIFE?
Oh I think we are all storytellers. We make stories each day — little modern tales and also big sweeping dramatic ones that happen here and there. I think the best beauty products, and certainly fragrance included, reflect where we are currently. I’ve never been a huge one for nostalgia. I like to think about now and the future. So when I create fragrances, I’m inspired by the written stories, poems, song lyrics and books I’ve read, but I’m also inspired by our everyday weaving of narratives.
YOU RECENTLY EXPANDED INTO FACIAL SKINCARE WITH THE LAUNCH OF “SATISFYING SKIN CARING MOISTURIZER.” WHAT MADE YOU BRANCH OFF IN THIS WAY, AND DO YOU PLAN TO CONTINUE TO CREATE MORE PRODUCTS FOR THE FACE?
I was making a face cream for myself! I have somewhat sensitive skin but I also have a lot of sun damage. I wanted a cream that was good for sensitive skin but also was very active. I also do love a scent in a face cream and so I worked on one that was allergen free.
WITH ELLIS BROOKLYN, YOU “FOCUS ON MAKING SOMETHING STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL AND MASTERFULLY CRAFTED THAT BECOMES PART OF REAL DAY-TO-DAY LIVES.” AS A FOUNDER/CEO AND MOTHER TO TWO DAUGHTERS, WHAT DOES YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LOOK LIKE, AND HOW DOES FRAGRANCE FACTOR INTO IT?
My day to day life is hectic! I’m not sure if there is such a thing as balance or if it’s just organizing your day around priorities. I love to start and end my day with fragrance. In the morning, it’s a mood-setter and often times mood-lifter. I find fragrance personally to be deeply pleasurable. It might be just seconds, but it can reset my mindset in the morning, especially when I’m tired or grumpy.
WHAT DO YOU FIND EXCITING IN THE BEAUTY SPACE AT THE MOMENT?
I love the open mindedness in beauty right now. There’s a curiosity of different scent formats for example. We recently launched body mists and they were so wonderfully received and it was such a fun creative journey for me personally.
WHAT IS YOUR BEAUTY ROUTINE?
I’m big into skincare at night. I’ll do an acid peel about three times a week. Then it’s a serum and our Ellis Brooklyn face cream. I love a proper Vitamin C serum that brightens. For the daytime, I love the Hourglass primer as it has spf and it holds everything in place. I also love to do a hydrafacial every few months. I have melasma and sun damage so I haven’t figured out a way around wearing daily concealer or foundation. I don’t love a ton of coverage but I definitely need to wear it. Then I love a cream bronzer and a dash of blush. I like the blushes that read more pink than coral. For eyeshadow, I’m a big shimmer girl. I like anything that gives a little light or dimension to the eye and then lots and lots of mascara.
WHAT IS THE BEST BEAUTY OR SKINCARE ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
The best beauty advice I’ve gotten is actually from backstage. I used to cover backstage beauty for the New York Times for fashion weeks and I learned that there are truly so many different types of faces and beauty to not fight your face. By that, it’s to truly take a look at your face and accept all its features and then work with what you have in front of you. The top makeup artists I met backstage would say, see the canvas in front of you.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE…
Song: I love the entire Bon Iver, Bon Iver album.
Quote: 'The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.' – Isak Dinesen
Book: I just read Charlotte’s Web to my daughter Sky recently and it was one of my favorites from my own childhood. It’s such a beautiful book.
Documentary: I loved the Rubik’s cube one. It’s called Speed Cubers.
Podcast: I still love the New York Times one The Daily, the most.
Irene Forte Skincare Product: I love the Hibiscus Serum. It covers just about everything I need from brightening to firming in my book.
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