Co-Founder of Green Barbès, DIY homemade cosmetics.
THE INSPIRATION TALK
BONJOUR CLEMENTINE, TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR YOUNGER SELF : WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHAT WERE YOU ASPIRING TO DO IN LIFE?
I grew up in the chic suburbs of Paris with my mom and dad. As an only child, I was surrounded with love and friends. My mom is a dance teacher so I remember lots of dancing. I also loved going to costume parties and my mom would make me the best costumes. My dad used to work for IBM in the business district of Paris (La Défense). He would always take me there; I loved being around computers. I remember wanting to become a vet because I loved the animals so much. When I was 11, I suddenly wanted to be a truck driver in the army. I have no idea why, and then I watched Top Gun and wanted to become a pilot. I guess I just had big dreams.
BUT BECAUSE WE MET AT SCHOOL I KNOW YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER IN COMMUNICATION.
After I graduated from high school I didn’t know if I wanted to be committed to studying, for the simple fact that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I was outgoing, I loved being around people but I didn’t know how to define who I was… So I guess I went to that school specialized in communication in order to buy me some time to figure it out. When I had to choose where I wanted to do my final internship before graduating, I picked the USA! I don’t know why but I felt I needed to go there. Maybe because my dad would always travel to the US for work and it fascinated me when I was younger, maybe it was because I used to love Leonardo DiCaprio (laughs). I had once visited my best friend who was spending time in San Francisco as an au-pair and I loved it, so the choice was easy for which city to pick. A friend who owned a web company there offered to help me get a visa. It took me 6 months, while I was still at school, to gather all the administrative papers going back and forth to the embassies and convincing my daddy to let me go and help me financially.
Once I arrived in SF, the friend who told me he would hire me to work in his company announced me he had sold his shares! But he put me in contact with a friend of his, Ted, who was launching a new business. So here I was, not speaking any word of good English, being Ted’s new assistant, helping him out furnishing his office. I would drive his truck all around town to pick stuff up. Now that I think about it, it was kind of weird but I was learning how to become a real American, and I loved it. Everyday felt amazing. Once my mission with Ted was done, I thought “I need to find a real job”. I had to learn something relevant for my career, you know. But my visa was under the name of the first company with whom I wasn't in contact anymore, so I became kind of illegal in the US. Still, I found a job in a web agency which made more sense to me. I was happy and embracing San Francisco’s crazy party scene, going to "tutu" parties every Tuesday and discovering Burning Man… My love for costumes was truly fulfilled again. I felt at the right place!
I REMEMBER EXACTLY WHEN YOU WENT TO BURNING MAN FOR THE FIRST TIME AND POSTED THE PICTURES ON FACEBOOK. BACK THEN PEOPLE IN EUROPE DIDN’T REALLY KNOW ABOUT BM. LIKE 10/12 YEARS AGO. I REMEMBER THINKING “WE LOST CLEMENTINE”. HOW DO YOU COME BACK TO REALITY AFTER THAT?
I think this whole experience revealed who I really was. But it was not only about party, what I learned in SF was beyond that; everything was about sharing, caring, loving and experiencing. At some point I felt I wasn’t happy anymore at this job so I quit and went to work in a pet shop. I really wanted to work with animals, my second childhood passion. And there I was, raising nine yellow Labrador puppies. At night I was partying like crazy, during the day I was taking care of them. It was fun but super tiring at the same time; I had no idea you had to feed them every 30 minutes! But again, at some point I wanted to do something else, realize myself, you know? The only problem was that I could not find a proper job without the green card. The owner of the shop didn’t know about me being illegal, he trusted me. He really wanted me to stay and work for him for the long run, until I got busted because I had been given him a fake social security number. This was the end of this great SF adventure for me. It was pretty brutal and harsh on me. I loved SF, unfortunately I had no other option than to go back to France at this point. But it was the right thing to do, move on and grow up.
When I came back to Paris, I had new expectations in life and I had to re-build everything up from scratch. I moved in with my mom in order to save money for an apartment, I reconnected with all my childhood friends and I met new people. This turned out to be a great motivation to get what I wanted from life.
DID YOU START WORKING IMMEDIATELY?
I started working as a hostess for events until one of my friends told me about an assistant producer position at Wanda. I didn’t know anything about production companies but I went there anyway. The company needed someone fluent in English and I guess I did okay because I got hired and stayed there for four years. When I started there I was a baby and although I learned a lot, at some point I decided to leave, the pay not being that great. As I was really good friends with one of the partners, he helped me getting into BBDO, as the new agency’s PR. It ended up being very different than I’d thought; I was really unhappy there. I guess I wasn’t ready for it. Without this short experience I wouldn’t have had a real start to my career. When Wanda heard I was looking for a new job, they called me back. People there finally started taking me seriously: I wasn’t the young producer assistant anymore. I had gone to another big agency and now I was coming back with a new aura and new skills. I spent another three wonderful years there. Soon enough, I became fed up with people from advertising agencies. They were taking themselves so seriously when we were working on -kind of- superficial things you know? Not saving lives here. I started thinking that I needed something different. At that time I was also having a lot of fun making my own recipes addressing domestic “problems” like how to get a stain of wine off a white couch with only natural products (laughs). I shared them with one of my closest work colleagues, Hélène Ségol, who has a Swedish background being into natural and healthy things, and so it became our favorite conversation! We were exchanging natural homemade recipes that soon focused only on beauty. We gathered a lot of tips and recipes but I also wanted to find a way to keep these recipes in nice containers rather than in used packaging from industrial products. It became this side project that grew without planning anything. Hélène is now my business partner and co-founder at Green Barbès.
TELL ME ABOUT THE WORKSHOPS PART. I FIRST LEARNED ABOUT GREEN BARBÈS WITH THOSE LITTLE ATELIERS YOU ORGANIZED TO SHARE YOUR FAMOUS RECIPES.
We had this amazing network in fashion and advertising, me being a PR and Hélène working in production. One day, Maroussia from the brand Andrea Crews, who is friends with Hélène, called her about a vegetal theme going on at her gallery in le Marais. She asked us if we wanted to create a workshop and teach other people to make their own beauty products from our recipes. This is how it started... People, venues, brands would reach out to us to initiate new workshops and it grew like this. It was very transparent and genuine; we would always be up for new ideas to explore even when sometimes we didn’t have the recipes yet. And then Etsy contacted us. When the biggest marketplace specialized in creative and homemade products knocks on your door, you start thinking about the bigger picture. This was a great opportunity to try and sell the result of these DIY workshops: our own products!
SO THIS WAS THE REAL BEGINNING OF THE BRAND GREEN BARBÈS.
You have no idea. We had to work from scratch for that specific occasion. Creating beauty kits with packaging, ingredients, visual identity… While still having full time jobs! We had decided to focus on the deodorant and beauty cream as they were super simple to make and very efficient. We did it and it was a great success. Every step of the way we would release the stress of the hard work and celebrate with a drink. When we did small workshops obviously we didn’t earn a lot of money but still, we would “invest” the money in celebrating these small victories. Until the day a real accountant came in and told us it wasn’t the smartest thing to do if we wanted to grow the company (laughs). That is basically how the DIY kits started out. Green Barbès was born. And we drank to that!
I GUESS THIS ONE WAS JUSTIFIED.
Haha yes. Soon after we had even more reasons to pop the champagne when Le Bon Marché called us. Everyone who knows le Bon Marché, understands that this is a major step for a brand. But as I told you, everything kind of grew naturally, we didn’t have time to think nor plan anything. Sometimes it is great because it allows us to be very resourceful and reactive. But other times like this one for example, it was less positive. The perspective of entering the retail industry was great but it also meant a lot more rules and restrictions. For that specific case we were lacking certifications from the beauty industry. I was like “yes sure, we don’t have them yet but it is in the pipeline", when it wasn't exactly true. But it was also the beginning of a new chapter for Green Barbès : the new adventure of finding a good laboratory without knowing anybody and discovering the timelines for the production of beauty products. We actually lost a lot of money and time figuring this out. And yet again, this was not a fail but a way for us to learn and look even deeper into the best fit for us, which we eventually found! I feel we are on the right track: surrounded by the best beauty specialists with the best communication and image professionals. We are now working on the next product launch and I hope we’ll be sold at Le Bon Marché and other cool shops so that people can come to us.
WHAT MADE YOU UNDERSTAND IT REALLY COULD BE MORE THAN JUST A FUN SIDE PROJECT?
Had I been alone in the project, I would have focused on Green Barbès full time since way earlier than we did. But financially it was complicated. I still don’t make money but I guess step by step you find the courage to implicate yourself more and more. Every time I do something is because I feel it burning inside. And also sometimes you just need someone by your side telling you to go for it because it is worth it. For me, it was the boyfriend I had at that time last year who was really supportive and gave me the strength to really, fully, go for it. And also in France we can get great financial help from the state, which obviously helps a lot in the decision!
I AGREE BUT EVEN WITH THE FINANCIAL SECURITY, I THINK IT CAN BE SCARY TO LEAVE SOMETHING YOU KNOW, FULLY CONTROL AND ARE COMFORTABLE WITH, FOR A NEW ADVENTURE LIKE THE ENTREPRENEURIAL ONE, WITHOUT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT BEAUTY.
Yes but you know working as a freelancer I also had a lot of stress to find good missions. It was not that comfortable. I had my liberty but I wasn’t really free. I was still working for other people.
WHAT KIND OF STORIES DO YOU WANT TO TELL THROUGH GREEN BARBÈS?
We don’t want to teach people because there are no rules to be dictated on how to be beautiful. We want to make people aware of the ingredients they put on their skin. We want to show how simple it is to create a genuinely good body cream with the best yet simple ingredients out there. The DIY concept already existed before Green Barbès but we wanted to create a better sensorial experience, nourishing all your senses. When you open our kit, you first interact with the different raw ingredients, smelling each one of them separately, before starting the recipe. Once you are done you can keep the empty containers to re-use them for something else. The recycling part is really important for us. And we wanted our products to be pretty even if they are home-made products. This is our vision of pretty. Green Barbès stands as the curator of this new beauty experience. We are sourcing the best ingredients' actives that nature has to offer. We are all about transparency, good quality and efficiency.
WHAT’S ONE THING THAT SURPRISED YOU IN YOUR PATH UP UNTIL NOW?
Every day is an adventure. I am learning so much and I really feel I am building something real. It is my baby and the way people react to it is really motivating. They tell me how brave they think I am quitting a “safe” job to venture into something I didn’t have any specific legitimacy in. This gives me strength. What also surprised me is how people always think about us when these more healthy/natural topics come to the table; they always put us in the loop to participating in more events. It is a very collaborative network we are surrounded with.
I THINK PEOPLE CAN FEEL WHEN SOMETHING IS GENUINELY RIGHT AND DONE WITH PASSION. AND I GUESS THEY WANT TO ENCOURAGE THESE KINDS OF INITIATIVES.
I think being transparent like the fact that I am constantly learning new things and adapting, shows my determination, passion and implication. I take it very seriously. As a matter of facts I am going back to school this month to specialize in botanic, anatomy and galenic (which is the science of actives). Not only will it legitimize my work but it’ll also quench my thirst of learning.
WHAT’S THE COOLEST THING YOU’VE EXPERIENCED RECENTLY?
I was invited to a workshop along with big names from the industry like L’Occitane, La Prairie, Chanel… I was the only one not specifically working in a scientific/lab department so I was proud to be amongst such inspiring women and learned… a lot! Also I think this is a proof that we slowly but surely are building our legitimacy in this industry, thanks to our hard work. People take us seriously even if we just arrived here.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT NEXT FROM GREEN BARBES?
I want Green Barbès to become sustainable. I want to keep developing beauty kits and for that I need the next one to work and sell good. Next year we will probably talk with investors. We want an official Green Barbès home with a workshop space, our offices and a shop by next year. And obviously I want the brand to grow big in the beauty industry and be known as a good reference. Finally, I want to keep collaborating with people and this could be in any area: yoga, food…
I THINK IT IS A PHILOSOPHY THAT YOU NOW WISH TO PROPAGATE. PERPETUATING THIS BRIDGING OF DIFFERENT MEDECINES FOR YOUR BODY AND MIND.
It is exactly my life thread: sharing, kindness, learning, fun and good work ethics. Our next step I think will be the development of our DIY perfume that we have worked on with a perfumer artisan. We decided to focus on the high end market for this launch because we truly deliver the best quality from the best products and savoir-faire. And we want to share that.
THANK YOU CLEMENTINE.
CHECK OUT CLÉMENTINE'S BEAUTY TALK HERE AND CITY TALK HERE.
GREEN BARBÈS ON INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK AND HERE.