For French eco-beauty brand La Bouche Rouge, red lips are always in style. But for sustainability, blue is the new color for “green” beauty.
With €10 million in new funding from investors Mirabeau Asset Management, the Chalhoub Group, and BPI, the eco-luxe French beauty brand La Bouche Rouge is aiming to redefine cosmetics. Specifically, it’s signaling a shift away from the “green” veneer often tied to sustainability, and proposing consumers “think blue.”
“There are three key words: rethink, refill, recycle,” La Bouche Rouge founder Nicolas Gerlier, said to WWD. “Because the goal of La Bouche Rouge is really to reinvent a new approach of beauty with a minimum of waste, but the maximum of pleasure. We are inventing blue beauty.”
Gerlier certainly knows beauty; he was with L’Oréal before launching La Bouche Rouge in 2017. From the beginning, the brand’s aim was to be entirely plastic-free—from microplastics in formulas to packing, as well as formulation and manufacturing processes.
The cosmetics brand is vegan, cruelty-free, and comes in recyclable, refillable packaging. Ingredients are natural and bio-based. La Bouche Rouge also donates a portion of proceeds to the Eau Vive Internationale association that builds wells in Togo, one of Africa’s poorest nations—with more than half of its population living below the poverty line.
“This is a holistic vision — and it’s really challenging to achieve,” he said. “It’s quite new, and not so easy to explain to the consumer,” he says of the “blue” concept.
“During the COVID-19 period, it was evident we need to engage the brand on its next step,” said Gerlier. The brand is now working to increase the frequency of its messaging, especially as pandemic restrictions are easing and events are back on the table for the brand. The new funding is key to expansion.
“We are also going to open new territories, like China and the Middle East, and develop our current business on the e-shop,” Gerlier said.
The latest funding round supports Gerlier’s vision; investors believe the company could see $100 million in sales before the end of the decade.
One of the key investors, The Challhoub Group, has been instrumental in introducing La Bouche Rouge to the Middle East, with placement in Riyadh and Dubai.
“The Chalhoub Group has been closely looking at clean beauty brands, so we could help accelerate and better develop our expertise in clean beauty,” said Michael Chalhoub, president strategy, growth, innovation and investment and joint ventures at the Chalhoub Group. “Nicolas is someone that we found fascinating — with a great story, great entrepreneurial spirit and a fantastic background, with a great formula he managed to develop.
“The synergies were found straightaway, [with] La Bouche Rouge being a brand in a field that we know very well, that is tackling some of the [same] issues from a very different angle — with the use of the right technologies for clean beauty and for social media marketing. We thought there’s a lot to learn from each other, so we decided to invest with some key partners into the project, help them accelerate their plans in Europe, China, the U.S. [and] Middle East,” he said.
“We’re going to open a few more locations around the region,” Challhoub said. “It’s vital that we not only follow Nicolas in his ambitions and expansion plans, but that we help accelerate his plans, especially in the Middle East, where we have quite an extensive network.”
The expansion moves to more locations across Europe as well as talks of a flagship location in China. Gerlier says La Bouche Rouge is also formulating clean skincare and fragrance—two incredibly popular categories.
Earlier this week, the award-winning actress Scarlett Johannson launched The Outset, a minimalist clean skincare brand. She plunged into a sea of clean skincare companies backed by celebrities including offerings from the Kardashians, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Miranda Kerr.
But despite the abundance of offerings, interest doesn’t seem to be waning. Gerlier’s former employer, L’Oréal, has pledged to make its offerings mostly sustainable by 2025. Chanel, one of its biggest skincare competitors, came out with its first sustainable line early last month.
“This is really the ambition: to change beauty from A to Z and show the client it’s possible to have something better for you and for the planet,” said Gerlier.
Gerlier isn’t the first to attempt to pivot sustainability away from its green moniker. Last October, the International non-profit organization Oceanic Global launched an initiative called the Blue Standard, aimed at putting ocean protection top of mind in climate conversations.
Like La Bouche Rouge, Oceanic Global is concerned about plastic accumulation in the world’s oceans. “The health of our ocean is at a tipping point as is that of our collective well-being,” Cassia Patel, Program Director for Oceanic Global, said in a statement.
“We developed Blue to inspire the people and communities that make up businesses and industries to take continued action for our blue planet,” Patel said, “and to maximize the positive impact we can all create in our immediate spheres and beyond.”