BEAUTY’S TAKE ON QUIET LUXURY
To experience the world of quiet luxury in the beauty sphere, you must travel to the Tuscan hills, about an hour’s drive from the Renaissance city of Florence. Lucky travellers take their holidays at the Borgo Santo Pietro, a destination hotel so well-attuned to true luxury that it is one of the most harmonious places you could hope to spend time. It quietly gets on with the business of getting everything right, yet never feels forced or pretentious.
Wander around the 300 acres that make up the Borgo estate and you’ll encounter a row of Portofino-esque gelato-coloured hen houses. Next to them: the resort’s own rose fields; come May, the area is a riot of pinks and pastels. But the flowers are more than a visual, or fragrant, feast; they are harvested and distilled on site to be used in the hotel’s sister skincare and spa brand, Seed to Skin. The estate grows a further 50 herbs, all processed in-situ for the beauty line. The rest of the ingredients are sourced from micro farms and small women’s co-opsin Madagascar, Morocco and elsewhere. The lab and production are located here too, facilitating founder access and minimal environmental impact.
The quiet beauty sphere is a place where every choice is considered, products are consciously crafted and brands are focused on quality and ethics rather than bombarding us with marketing and outlandish promises. These are the brands that if I were the official bathroom shelf-styler for TV shows and movies (and if that’s an actual job – beyond transactional product placement – then please consider this to be my formal application) then the lead characters in Succession would have been allocated these as key props and status-markers, the Loro Pianas of lotions and potions. These labels are as much about excellence as integrity. Seed to Skin, for instance, has just launched two creams (The Light Source and The Night Force) which have taken four and a half years to perfect.
“It’s about conscious beauty and really wanting to do something great,” explains founder Jeanette Thottrup, who says the clinical results on those creams have been worth the development time. But for Thottrup, quiet –and what she also calls ‘new’ – luxury is a about more than efficacious products and sustainability; nurturing people is important, too. That means a former cleaner at the hotel is now a key member of the beauty lab team and her husband, a former bell boy, is now head of logistics. “When this industry can feel a bit superficial at times, this is what I think about,” says Thottrup with pride.
The story behind English skincare brand Reome resonates with a similar search for sincerity. Founder Joanna Ellner is a former beauty magazine editor, covering the business in the 2000s and 2010s. “Beauty at its core had been hyper-clinical, youth-obsessed and innately critical: correct this, reverse that. Noisy branding, shouty claims and a general abrasiveness dominated beauty counters with thinly veiled messaging that denigrated the beauty consumer and cast beauty as indulgent, superfluous frippery, devoid of the meaning or artistry that we so readily attribute to fashion,” she explains.“But in the wake of the pandemic, we, as consumers, no longer had the bandwidth to absorb beauty in the same way. We craved simplicity, honesty and truth, and began to shop differently, eschewing mindless purchasing for a deeper connection to a brand. Buying less, buying better.” With Reome it was a deliberate decision to channel the “codes of what is now known as quiet luxury, but that tome is about minimalism, quality, elegance and integrity. A brand that doesn’t chase trends but is committed to creating the finest formulas in the world.” Her Active Recovery Broth has some of the most impressive clinical results you’ll find, even better than those from some louder luxury brands. A new cleanser and cloth have just been added to her line-up.
While Reome is less than a year old, heritage brands like Amanda Lacey, founded by the eponymous OG facialist who discreetly looks after the faces of screen legends and the global super-rich from her Chiswick home/salon, have stealthily earned cult status even if in an industry so obsessed with the allure of the new over the proven they don’t always get the media attention they deserve. Nevertheless, for those with keen beauty skinterests her Cleansing Pomade, Revealing Pink Mask and Miracle Toni are beyond excellent and come packed with beauty gravitas. Those truly in the know wouldn’t be without them
From her gentle demeanour to the simple lines of her clear glass packaging, Austria-based Susanne Kaufmann is also adept at going gently into the hurly burly of the beauty space. Just as in the fashion arena, quiet beauty, she says, is about “craftsmanship and quality, substance and purpose; the product speaks for itself. It’s also about being conscious toward what and how we consume, part of a movement towards minimalism, thoughtful shopping and less waste.”
Staying true to her values and celebrating the heritage of the brand’s origins in the small village of Bezau, and its mountains and tall pine trees, is key to her quiet philosophy: that’s why you’ll find touches of nature such as sprigs of herb or pine inside her bath oils. “It’s my way of sharing a piece of the beautiful nature we have here with the world. For me, skincare, wellness and nature are all intertwined and I want our customers to be transported to the clean freshness and calm of the Alps.”
When it came to finally creating a fragrance, Kaufmann did so recently with her friend Ben Gorham of Byredo; a Bregenzerwald (Alpine forest) roll-on fragrance oil and body oil which also offer skincare benefits. “I especially admire Byredo for its strong brand integrity. As we do, their products celebrate and honour heritage, rituals, traditions, craftmanship and communities,” says Kaufmann of her partnership decision.
The fragrance world seems to be particularly adept at leaning in to the quiet beauty mode. Lyn Harris, who grew up inYorkshire and Scotland and used to head her eponymous fragrance line, is now at the helm of the more mysteriously monikered Perfumer H. Her boutiques – a third opened last month in Mayfair, to add to the two in Marylebone – feel more like art galleries.
There’s a focus on refills, with lux packaging options including hand-blown Venetian glass bottles for perfume, complete with stopper lids, and candle jars. The same philosophy, says Harris, has been her focus for the 25 years she’s been in the business and includes the aromas themselves. “I believe in creating fragrances that quietly evolve and express you as an individual, that meander and turn around you and, in turn, touch the people close to you who will give you that knowing nod of approval.”
Somerset-based Ffern do things in their own hushed way: production of their seasonal natural fragrances is essentially to order. “We’ve always created fragrance in small, finite batches and now we use a waiting list to carefully control their size,” explains creative director Emily Cameron. The resulting limited editions enable Ffern “to be a luxury brand that doesn’t leave so much of an impact, which is part of our founding principles. Since introducing our waiting list we have been delighted to find that, in a sector where immediate gratification can feel like the only way to do things, people are willing to wait for something that has been crafted with care and has real artisanship behind it.” More than that, as each fragrance is curated, subscribers have no idea what’s coming – each new bottle is sent with a small sample so if you don’t love it you can return it – but this works in Ffern’s favour. “There’s something beautiful about the surprise element, something peaceful in sitting back to wait and see what arrives.”
Make-up artist Gucci Westman says fragrance packaging inspired her “in the look and feel” when creating her impeccable Westman Atelier range. Find her products at Liberty, Harrods and Selfridges and you’ll see no overload of endless palettes, just a perfectly curated selection of consciously crafted essentials for a glowing, natural-but-better, face. “There can be luxury without being flashy, it’s the opposite of needing to be validated through a label,”she insists. “I’m interested in heritage, craftsmanship and investment pieces in general. I’d rather spend money on something that will last a little longer and bring more joy, ultimately.” She and her husband and co-founder David, formerly of Rag & Bone, are passionate about doing things “with integrity and purpose. We take pride in our packaging, formulas, ingredients and mission.” And those formulas, from her Baby Cheeks blush stick to her Vital Skin foundation stick to her Eye Want You mascara, are truly among the best in the business.The clothing brand with perfect beauty pitch is The Row. They simply offer three discreet rollerball fragrance oils (R, O and W) housed in clear glass and displayed in-boutique like prized museum artefacts. An email to theirPR for a comment was met with an exceptionally polite refusal to expand further. Not just quiet luxury beauty but actually silent. That’s seriously disruptive stuff.