CONSCIOUS FRAGRANCES: Behind the scenes at an eco-friendly fragrance brand
2020 . 08 . 14 |
There is a worldwide movement towards being Conscious Consumers as spending shifts towards responsible, eco-friendly and sustainable brands and away from materialistic acquisition. In the fragrance world, this comes with an increased interest in ethically sourced ingredients, natural fragrances and organically certified products from brands who are eco-conscious and respectful of the planet. Camille Le Feuvre, founder of pH fragrances, was ahead of this trend, having launched her brand in 2018. Here, I get a behind the scenes look at the challenges she encountered on the way to launching this ambitious project.
Tell me about your career: how did you get involved in the fragrance industry and what positions have you held?
I first became aware of the fragrance industry when I was working for Chanel in London at the beginning of my career. When I came back to France, I decided to discover the fragrance industry in Grasse. First I worked in sales developing the French market but then I went through many positions over my ten years at Givaudan where I worked with major consumer product companies. I worked with fine fragrances, home products, and personal care on a worldwide basis on the creative end, on the marketing and on overall business. I was also the COO of a luxury group for some time until at age 40 I decided to create my own company: pH fragrances.
What motivated you to create your brand?
During my career, I could not find any clean brands that didn’t include controversial ingredients in cross categories, so I decided to create pH fragrances, which is the first premium, clean, eco-friendly/eco-conscious brand that is 100% Made in France. I put all my expertise into creating formulas that would respect a new and even higher standard. European regulations are already the strictest in the world, banning 1,500 ingredients. On top of that I decided not to use an additional 100 ingredients that are controversial, so here we had the challenge of creating a full assortment of fine luxury fragrances, body and home care, while using a drastically reduced palette of materials.
What is unique about your brand?
After two years of R&D, pH fragrances is a new generation of perfumed products with these 8 points of difference:
- Biodegradable and natural formulations throughout the entire range
- Clean formulations resulting from our restricted ingredient palette
- Clean labels that communicate the safety of our products with no residual effect on the environment
- Premium fragrances created by Givaudan by some of the best perfumers in the world
- Sustainable sourcing using ingredients from Givaudan’s Orpur portfolio, which are both of the highest quality and are respectful of the planet
- Sustainable packaging with no plastic overwrap
- Locally produced, working with over 20 suppliers and partners exclusively in France
- Circular economy, our packaging is recyclable and made from recycled materials
These are our guiding principles and the values that are important to the brand. We are transparent on our website on what is inside our products, how they are made, where they are made and so on. We have total traceability.
I also want to mention that I made the conscious decision to create only one fragrance oil per collection. Typically there are multiple versions for the fragrance, for the deo, for the shower gel and so on, but I was insistent. This was a fantastic technical achievement made by the perfumers which also benefits the environment.
Let’s step back for a minute. Can you explain more about the meaning of controversial ingredients?
There are ingredients in the finished products which are considered controversial because of possible effects on humans and the environment. On average we are in contact with between 100 to 200 ingredients daily, and 10 to 20 of them are controversial. In addition, there is the cumulative effect that can occur when these ingredients are used on a regular basis. This is known as exposome. We have taken the visionary step of banning all of these ingredients, providing a solution to the needs of consumers who demand healthy formulas and eliminating the fear of cumulative exposure. It means, after two years of research and development, we can affirm our total commitment to human health and to the environment.
Given these self-imposed constraints, was it challenging to find the quality of ingredients desired in terms of scent, efficacy and tenacity?
To formulate each of the 8 fragrances in the collection, we have selected the most noble raw materials in perfumery, collected in an ethical and responsible manner throughout the world. We put our trust in Givaudan’s Orpur ingredients because they are of the finest quality, ethically and responsibly sourced, coupled with an assistance program that supports the communities around the world that grow these crops.
The most difficult task was to select the ingredients in our formulas in personal care and home care to be able to state that there is no formaldehyde, no phenoxyethanol, no SLS, no SLES, no BHT, no EDTA, no UV filter, and no colorants. We have been able to create qualitative formulas, ecofriendly and without controversial ingredients. This was a real challenge.
And on top of this, your brand is 100% “Made in France”?
Absolutely! We are totally committed to the local economy, and we are proud to be able to say this. From packaging, to production, through formulation, to marketing ... everything is done in France. It makes more sense to have our products made in France, rather than having products that go around the world before arriving in our home. And of course, it is better for the carbon footprint too. When you are a startup, and when you take this decision to have a 100% made in France brand, it is much more expensive of course, but we are aligned with our values and consumers are looking for locally produced brands today.
We also see this as a way to pay tribute to the heritage of French perfumery and the French “Savoir Faire”.
Why did you choose this name, pH fragrances?
There are many influences behind the name. Think of “p” like “personal care ” and “h” like “home care ”. And of course the term pH in chemistry refers to the balance between acidic and alkaline values well known worldwide, but it also conjures up images of apothecary shops.
In addition, our personal care products, have a neutral pH, closed to the pH of the skin, which boost the efficacy and helps to respect the balance of the skin.
You have many references to the number 8. Does it have a special meaning?
Yes, we have 8 points of difference that we discussed, and there are 8 fragrances in the collection. With the flacon and the cap, we go back to the apothecary for inspiration, where classic bottle shapes were octagonal. And, truth be told, 8 is my lucky number!
This year pH fragrances was named the best brand of the year by CosmetiqueMag. Congratulations, this is a huge accomplishment! What does that mean to you?
pH fragrances received the award of the Best Perfume Brand Award at the Cosmetics Mag Award Indies & Beauty Tech. We were selected by a jury, composed by decision makers and CEO’s of the industry, from among 40 other competing brands, honored with the Gold Award which recognized our brand for its innovation. It is a beautiful recognition of our commitments and we are very happy to have received this Award.
What new projects are you working on for the next 6 – 18 months?
We are working on several new products including room sprays, a smaller size for one of our laundry detergents and, given the times, face masks in fabric, washable with our laundry detergent! I am also looking at growing the brand worldwide, specifically focused on Europe, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Asia. Perhaps there will be a very innovative concept store when the time is right.
In your opinion, what kind of innovation do you see coming to the industry?
The rise of Clean Beauty, which is directly linked to the health and expectations of the consumer, is driving innovation. In fact, pH fragrances provides a solution that considers health, the environment and society for the consumers of today and tomorrow. Consequently, as a change maker, we feel we are among the leaders of this new generation of Clean Beauty as we gently push the entire industry towards making consumer products that are clean, locally produced, ethical, sustainable and qualitative. Our ecological and societal commitment is revolutionizing an entire market.
The Clean Home will be the next trend, and pH fragrances is in advance with our clean label on our home care products. Thanks to our 2 years of R&D, we have obtained the right to refrain from labelling our products as “toxic for the aquatic organisms”, or “may provoke a long-lasting effect “which many products in Home Care are obliged to put on their labeling. This is unique on the market. We are an innovator because we don’t have to worn customers about hazards to using our products.
As the world comes out of confinement, what do you see in the future?
A huge shift is coming, a complete overhaul of the economy and this shift will be an accelerator of mega trends. Clean Beauty is a mega trend, a hygienic wave is coming and an awareness of the importance of what is in a product, where it is made and under what conditions it is made. Ingredients had been a secondary criteria when purchasing fragrance and beauty, but now this will move to the top. Health will become a key element with strong consumer expectations towards even more transparency. This crisis will redistribute the cards of an entire economy and will allow us to consume in another way.
What inspires you?
Nature and people who act to change the world positively.
What advice would you give your younger self?
This industry can be challenging for female entrepreneurs and pioneers, but if you have a dream, do it!
For more information on pH fragrances visit:
For more information about Givaudan’s Orpur ingredients, visit: