Susannah Taylor talks to Christine D’Ornano, Global Assistant General Manager of Sisley cosmetics about what it’s like to run the family–based, global luxury skincare and cosmetics brand
THE SISLEY BEAUTY HERITAGE
ST: Can you give me a brief history of the beginnings of Sisley?
CD’O: Sisley was created by my father - his family had a history of working in cosmetics [her grandfather was on the board of Coty before starting up Lancome, and her father founded the scent company Jean D’Albret and cosmetics house Orlane]. They sold the brand and he wanted to create a new business. He felt that the future of cosmetics was in plants because you could isolate active ingredients, and he knew that if he created a new brand he wanted to make it high end. He also wanted to use the best quality active ingredients he could find, and to give as much time as possible to scientists so that they could create the best quality products they could.
ST: How do you feel Sisley has evolved over the years?
CD’O: Sisley always stays true to its roots but I feel the products have evolved – we now have active ingredients that we wouldn’t have dreamed of using at the beginning. We also have a lot of products in the pipeline. We are now a second generation of family within the brand, whilst remaining true to its identity, and very much a global brand, although every country feels like it’s part of the family.
ON BEING A HI-TECH LUXURY BEAUTY BRAND
ST: How do you feel Sisley is regarded by its consumers?
CD’O: I think our reputation lies in making great quality products that really make a difference to your skin – the most important thing for us is the quality.
ST: How does Sisley stay ahead of the curve when it comes to product development?
CD’O: The skincare is very much about working with our lab and the scientists and trying to develop the most efficient products we can. When it comes to the fragrance and the makeup it’s very much about being an artist, and drawing on our family taste. Originally, Eau du Soir was created by my father for my mother – it was created privately for her and she wore it for 10 years before they decided to launch it to the public. (She doesn’t actually wear it anymore, she wears Soir du Lune ). Most famous classic fragrances have been developed like that – it was a very personal approach and we are able to do that because we are a family business. With regards to the makeup we let our creativity run free and we are quite original - we like to have fun.
ST: How does France influence the brand?
CD’O: It’s a French brand first and foremost, my father created two very well known French brands before this, and the French woman has always been very well known for looking after her skin. I feel she is quite looked upon by other countries.
ON BEING A FAMILY-RUN BUSINESS
ST: You are a family business still – how do you maintain this wonderful vision but still manage to grow to be such a big global brand?
CD’O: Family plays a very big role – it’s hugely important for our identity. I think you can really feel the family within our products, especially in the fragrances and the makeup. You can feel the personality. I work in Paris on the product development side and I work with my mother who has worked on this since the very beginning. My brother heads up the business and we very much do what we want instead of looking to what other brands are doing.
ST: You are a family that’s well known for your style and impeccable taste, how does this influence the brand?
CD’O: A lot of it is my mother’s style. My style is a bit different - it’s a bit more modern (although my mother is very up to date in many ways), but we complement each other very well and it’s so much fun working together.
ON THE PRODUCTS
ST: What is your best selling product?
CD’O: The Ecological Compound – it’s a best seller and always has been, but also Sisleya Global Anti-age , especially the eye cream. Supremya at Night also does very well. Eau du Soir fragrance is also in our top 10 best sellers as is the Black Rose Precious Facial Oil .
ST: What is your biggest market?
CD’O: Our biggest market is still France and our second is China.
ST: How do you maintain the quality of the products?
CD’O: We try to do the best at every level of creation and production – we use the best research and the best quality of active ingredients we can find, which makes an enormous difference on the potency of the product. We have actually been known to discontinue products before because we couldn’t source the same quality of ingredient. We also do very extensive tests on product that last a year before launch, and we work very hard on very complex formulas. The reason we use the word global a lot is because we tackle skincare issue from every angle. We also make sure that we are very connected with everything that’s happening around the world.
ST: What excites you about the brand at the moment?
CD’O: I feel the most exciting development lately is the Black Rose Precious Face Oil . I have very little time as a mother of 3 children but I really believe in layering products. Used under my moisturiser, this product really hydrates and plumps the skin in 3 minutes.
ST: Where do your new ideas come from for products?
CD’O: We are always researching active ingredients, and some ideas come from us, they come from things we feel we need in modern life.
ON HER ROLE IN THE BUSINESS
ST: As Global Assistant General Manager of the brand, what does your job entail?
CD’O: I represent the brand publicly and work on every single aspect of brand development. I work on all sorts of global projects and while I live in London, we have meetings every week with the scientists in Paris. I’m also very much involved with everything that has to do with us retailing side department stores.
ST: Who has influenced you in your career?
CD’O: My father, and my first boss in the buying department at Saks 5th avenue where I work as my first job. My father is probably the biggest influence though. When we were young, if we had a problem he would always say 'What are you going to do?’ Business is a lot about resolving problems, so we would have to think about it ourselves. It would empower me rather than being told what to do.
ON BEING A WORKING MOTHER
ST: You have three children – how do you juggle it all?
CD’O: I think you have to try and be very focused at work so you can leave it and be very focused at home and try and not let them cross over. Although easier said than done of course! I think the worst thing is doing neither work or home well. To be half on the phone, or half in the office isn’t right, but this is the challenge of the modern woman. I feel less guilty now as they get older.
ST: Do you have any great organisational tips?
CD’O: I am very short on emails and I try to spend time between other things doing emails. I try to get everything for the kids done on the weekend. I go to Paris once a week and that’s a really good time to catch up on all the emails.
ON HAVING BEAUTY STYLE
ST: Is there anyone you feel that has amazing beauty style?
CD’O: I love the way French women look. I love my mother’s style. She looks after herself but not obsessively, so she’s groomed, she eats well. I like an effortless look – where something is very relaxed in every outfit. I love Emmanuelle Alt (the French Vogue Editor), she always wears the same thing – a shirt and skinny black jeans - and shaggy hair and she looks great. I love the idea of a uniform… when you have three kids to take to school, it’s nice to have a uniform that looks business-like but young-looking.
ST: Can you sum up Sisley in 5 words?
CD’O: Serious, plant-based, results-driven, sensorial, family-run.
Written in partnership with Sisley. All products are available at Sisley-Paris.com . Sisley have just launched the Intensive Dark Spot Corrector, £92, which uses a patented complex of active ingredients to improve the appearance of pigmentation.
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