Women Worldwide : Sustainable Luxury Beauty with Melissa Obeid

LA FERVANCE is an independent Australian-French company who are experts in sustainable luxury beauty. [...]

LA FERVANCE is an independent Australian-French company who are experts in sustainable luxury beauty. The founder of LA FERVANCE, Melissa Obeid, has directed and overseen every aspect of the product profile, performance, ingredients, packaging and testing.

Melissa’s love affair with France was ignited whist studying at The Paris Fashion Institute in the 90’s. She worked with the biggest names in the fashion world extending these experiences to senior fashion roles back in Australia, followed by a stellar career in high-level arts management. Melissa’s passion for clean beauty lead her to initiate the development and commercialisation of a suite of Australian made, 100% natural beauty products created under proprietary brands sold nationwide. This was an Australian first.

Melissa is a really heavy weight in the beauty world and we spent some time with her to find out more about her plans for the brand, what a day in her life is like and more…

Tell us about the journey that lead you to launching La Fervance…

The LA FERVANCE journey is a truly inspiring one, even to me as the brand founder!  It’s one of enormous courage and faith after Jamie and I were inspired to bring our family to France for a sabbatical in 2016 and here we are in 2020 having launched a high-end luxury skincare brand!

Whilst in Senior Management at the world renowned National Gallery of Victoria it is here that I got my inspiration and I discovered the Napoleon directed, Baudin led expedition to Australia (Terre Napoleon).  I learned of the fascination which Napoleon and Josephine had with Australia and given my ties with both Australia and France, I found this particularly fascinating.

Then, following the development of natural skincare collections in Australia and my family’s relocation to France for a cultural sabbatical and to better understand the luxury skincare space, I was struck with an inspiration during our initial stay in Paris, to create a skincare brand containing high concentrations of 100% natural, active ingredients from Australia and France within a certified high-end, sustainable framework.

It was upon settling in Provence, that the idea took on a life of its own and very soon we found ourselves aligned with the most reputable laboratories and partners in France – the prestige cosmetics mecca of the world – as we understood that if we wanted the best, it had to be done in France.  In many ways, I feel LA FERVANCE continues the journey of fusing these two cultures which are so diverse.

You did a lot of research before launching the brand and perfection was the only way for you. Why was this important?

I’m a firm believer in that if one is to do something, ‘either they do it well or not at all’.  One of the motivations for creating LA FERVANCE was to fill a void in the high-end skincare space through the provision of true authenticity around the provenance of active ingredients from 100% natural origins and offering a brand which spoke quality at every touchpoint.  The ‘luxury’ is simply a consequence of this.

In order to achieve such ambitious outcomes, there was simply no choice other than to strive for perfection within EVERY aspect of the journey and product offering as our benchmark.  We are very familiar with the process and regulations around skincare production in other countries, which is why upon discovering the details around producing skincare in France, particularly within a natural, certified framework, we knew that this was absolutely where we needed to produce LA FERVANCE.  The very strict requirements around testing, compliance, regulations are second to none, therefore as time consuming and complex as it was to adhere to a 100% natural and 100% recyclable framework, within the specifications of a globally certified framework, the results are just exemplary and offer a guarantee to the consumer that they are truly buying the best products possible.

The striving for perfection will resonate with those who value the artisan approach which is LA FERVANCE and who appreciate that this comes at a premium.  They understand and appreciate that handmaking and hand-filling our European made packaging here in France, compared with doing so abroad will mean they get a premium product and experience.  The fact that we insisted on ingredients which are sourced predominantly from France and Australia, rather than choosing more cost effective ingredient options, also contributes to these outstanding results.  Those who value our ethos and quality will resonate with the brand and be happy to align themselves with LA FERVANCE.

Talk us through an average day in your life…

I don’t think the word average has ever really had a place in my life ?  I start my day at 5am.  Whilst this certainly does not come naturally to me, I recognise the importance of the extra two hours waking up early as being sacred and highly productive to me as what I can achieve during these ‘power hours’ far exceeds anything I can accomplish throughout the remainder of the day.  I use this time to meditate, focus on my intentions, plan for my day.  I’ll then wake the family and after a hearty breakfast I drop the children off at school.  They attend an International bi-lingual school in Paris as they’re fluent in French, after being spoken to in French since birth and spending two years in a village primary school in Provence.  Depending on the morning meeting schedule, I’ll then try to squeeze in a power walk, whilst admiring the stunning architecture and street scenes which inspire me daily, then it’s back home to prepare for the day.  This can consist of meetings with our laboratories, packaging experts, suppliers, attending various industry trade-fairs, meetings with stores, product photo shoots – or planning sessions at our office near Opera Garnier. .

Being an independent brand, Jamie and I manage every aspect of its development in collaboration with experts in these fields to create the intended outcomes, so this means many diverse tasks being juggled simultaneously – and lots of ‘to do’ lists!

The afternoon sees me take on the role of Mum’s taxi, commuting our children to their various horse-riding, golf and tennis activities.  We’d love to see some Aussie rules football in there, but it’s yet to catch on in France!

A family dinner follows during which we share about our day.  The children are so invested in the LA FERVANCE journey, as they have lived every single moment of it since we arrived for our ‘sabbatical’ in 2016 and then decided to stay in France to  develop LA FERVANCE.  They have shared in discussions around colours, perfumes, textures etc.  It’s been wonderful for them to be privy to the process and witness the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial journey.

The usual night-time routine follows and once the children are in bed, Jamie and I will continue working, before I apply ECLAT EXTRAORDINAIRE as a sleep mask before much needed good nights kip.

Who is your ideal customer?

I see the ideal LA FERVANCE customer being defined by an attitude not an age.  It’s the savvy consumer who is astute, outward thinking, who won’t be influenced by smoke and mirrors marketing.  They understand the skincare space, are aware of the ingredients they choose to place on their skin and appreciate their place in the market.   They understand the motivations behind us using locally produced glass and responsible forestation packaging and both recognise and appreciate the various LA FERVANCE points of difference.  In many ways it is a cynical consumer who questions and takes an interest in the story and who is inspired by such.  Our ideal consumer takes the time to understand how our various decisions around minimising our carbon footprint and streamlining the product range, were made to support a more sustainable brand offering.  They are astute, worldly, aware and can see through marketing hype by turning the package over to read the fine print ingredients – beyond the product name and positioning.

How do you want people to feel when they use your products?

LA FERVANCE feels like another member of our family.   We have spent years perfecting the formulas and have approached every element with great integrity, so when people purchase the product we want them to feel special, to feel joy, to see and feel positive outcomes.   Since launching on 29 November 2019, we have received nothing but positive and glowing feedback which is an absolute joy – extremely satisfying indeed.

We want people to feel completely indulged within the sensorial experience that is LA FERVANCE.  The packaging, the product visual, texture, aroma, feeling and affects of LA FERVANCE are like no other in the market and so when people use LA FERVANCE, we would like them to feel transported to a different world when using the product.

ECLAT EXTRAORDINAIRE is our launch product and is an original ‘conflict free’ Italian gold infused multi-mask formulation, which may be used in several ways.  It is a world first and by being an all-round beauty balm, with such a divine texture and perfume, it is proving most popular.  As a morning instant glow product, there is nothing more active than this 100% natural, real gold balm which glides over the skin and doubles up as a ‘leave on’ treatment.  As a sleep mask, it feels so soothing and indulgent and it may also be used as an innovative treatment mask, as after the treatment time the mask emulsifies with water and massage, leaving the skin plum and glowing upon removal!

What’s your best selling product?

This is a question best asked a year from now, once our first collection is rolled out in its entirety.  We decided to launch with one stand out product ECLAT EXTRAORDINAIRE in November 2019, which is our certified, beautifully presented, exquisite multi-mask gold infused product, and the response to this has been exceptional.   At the time of launch we ran a parallel sampling exercise, with those who had received a sample going on to order the product as they had become ‘addicted’ to the affects, the perfumes and the affects of placing real gold on their skin first thing in the morning.

Over the past few years we have developed equally exceptional and complimentary products, all within the ‘Fusionistique’ multi-functional framework.

Our philosophy is based on using targeted active ingredients in higher concentrations for more effective results, along with fewer more potent products within the collection.  Less is more!  This is what luxury is all about.

What has been your most successful moment to date?

There have been so many moments of success since we launched.  I think that in terms of the turning point for LA FERVANCE – it was when we got the invitation to participate in the Positive Luxury, Positive Week event in London last October, hosted by the Universal Soul Company at Gazelli House in Knightsbridge.  This is where I introduced LA FERVANCE globally for the very first time in view of the official launch in November and was able to talk about the brand journey, it’s inspirations, the ECLAT EXTRAORDINAIRE and answer questions from the guests.  To be able to finally share LA FERVANCE within a public forum was deeply satisfying.

For me personally, this visit to London was also hugely rewarding, as it enabled me to reflect on my own personal and professional journey – having lived in London as a young Australian traveller back in 1994.  Reminiscing about my time in that shared apartment in West Kensington, and all I had lived since then, only to come full circle, being in London again 25 years later as the founder of a luxury skincare brand, was cathartic experience – the feeling of which I will always remember.

You relocated to France to focus on this brand, why did you feel this was an important move?

Relocating to France from Australia was important for many reasons. For me personally, having lived in Paris in the 90’s where I worked in fashion and established many strong friendships and connections which continue to today, it was important to return to the source of this creative energy, the buzz, the inspiration. As a family, it was invaluable to have the experience of being able to travel throughout Europe and expose the children to such a rich history, different cultures, languages, friendships and memories.

From a brand perspective, to return to the source of the initial inspiration and that of the Napoleon directed, Baudin led expedition to ‘Terre Napoleon’ (Australia) was crucial to the essence of the brand. LA FERVANCE is a ‘Fusionistique’ brand and as such it fuses many elements, namely these two extraordinary cultures.

France is the global mecca of high-end skincare and perfume creation, so to develop and launch LA FERVANCE in France, to my exact brief and under the guidance of the global experts in skincare – with a combined experience of centuries, provides the brand with a clearly advantageous proposition and an energy which could not be achieved had it not been developed in France.

Are you planning on extending the range in future, if so, how?

A complete and complimentary collection has been in development since the LA FERVANCE journey commenced in 2016.  Every product complies with the most stringent global certifications for natural cosmetics and fit within our ethos of 100% naturally sourced, active ingredients and have undergone rigorous testing.  When skincare is designed to an exact brief by experts in their field, it is not necessary to have an excessive number of products within the daily regimen.  The intention of LA FERVANCE is to streamline the routine, with highly concentrated products which fulfil several functions successfully.

Our current customer base is already asking when the next product will be released as they are so satisfied with the ECLAT EXTRAORDINAIRE which is a great sign.

How much does social media play a role in your business?

Being an independent, self-funded brand social media plays a significant role within our business model.  We enjoy the instant responses received by those who engage with the brand and the potential we have to reach a wide and diverse audience.

Having said that, I still really enjoy print media and also like seeing the brand represented in this way.

Looking back since launching the brand, is there anything you would do differently?

Not a single thing.

Given the long gestation involved with the research, development, testing, finessing, production, Jamie and I had a long time to consider our approach and to plan accordingly.  We even managed to do a brand ‘refresh’ before the brand was launched! – hence by the time we came around to going ‘live’ with LA FERVANCE, we were content and confident.

Of course there are always some areas which one questions, but I believe this is all part of the journey and should be viewed as opportunities to do things differently in the future.

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

Oh, I love to travel too!  I am yet to visit Central and South America, so this is on the bucket list.  I only wish I had visited Cuba 20 years ago!  Russia is also a country I am looking forward to visiting.  I studied Russian history at senior school which I found fascinating and having also been in Senior Management at the National Gallery of Victoria for many years, I had the pleasure of viewing The Banquet of Cleopatra which was originally housed in the magnificent Hermitage museum, so this is absolutely a building in which I would like to lose myself for a day or two!

What are your plans for the brand in 2020?

To continue to spread the word about LA FERVANCE and what makes the brand a stand out in a crowded skincare space.

To establish key retail partnerships with global retailers aligned with our principals and brand culture.

Tell us your favourite quote to read when you are lacking inspiration…

I have so many favourite quotes.  I live by quotes and Khalil Gibran is the author of many of my preferred ones.

Before I set off on my first o/s adventure as a young adult post university, I was considering the pros and cons of doing so and in a magazine I came across ‘Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome’.  I cut that out and placed it at the front of my journal.  I guess the same thinking applies today.

For any one aspiring to launch a company in the beauty industry, what advice would you offer?

Create a brand which is defined by your own passion, rather than one which complies with market trends.  This will stand the test of the many challenges you will face and resonate with a genuine target market.

Find out more…

People can follow us on the usual channels of our website www.lafervance.com or #lafervanceskincare or our Facebook page.

We welcome any queries or questions at [email protected]

 

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