Charlotte Stricane fills an intriguing double role at Clariant: As Senior Applications Development Manager in the Active Ingredients unit for Personal Care, she defines new trend-based beauty concepts as well as the formulations and ingredients that best capture their spirit. In our interview, she tells us about her work, her favorite new ingredients – and why she sometimes hesitates to talk about them at parties.
Ms. Stricane, each year, you define a new trend concept under which Clariant offers special ingredients and inspirations to its customers in the cosmetic industry. This year it’s called »RetroFuture«. What is it about?
RetroFuture is about longing for the good old days but not wanting to compromise on all the good things we have now. Life can seem very complicated today, and we all like what we know from our childhood. But obviously there was less consideration for resources, less knowledge and less progress – especially in terms of sustainability and clever ways to optimize things. A good phrase for summarizing this new attitude is perhaps »nostalgia with a conscience«.
Now that you say it, it instantly feels familiar. But how does it relate to beauty products?
In cosmetics, it essentially means that people look for familiar ingredients and formats but want them with a more sustainable and advanced background. It can also mean they long for an effect they know but prefer it from new and improved ingredients. Or even that they’re attracted to a new ritual because it’s based on a familiar yet redesigned cosmetic format.
How do you go about identifying a big new general trend like this?
It’s not exactly a linear process, and one that is going on subconsciously all year. I browse through magazines, see ads, listen to the radio when I commute. Of course I read the trade press and trend studies from others, but all this stays subliminal until once a year I make a conscious effort to connect the dots. Then, I guess like most consumers would be, I’m suddenly hit by what’s been in front of me all along.
And this time you were hit by »RetroFuture«?
Well, not instantly by the name, really, we came up with that later. But yes: Apart from all the advertising, articles and everything else I absorbed, this year a big factor was music, where there are many genuinely new tunes that still have retro vibes. When it clicked, I was suddenly recognizing that same special combination of the old and the new everywhere.
Your job at Clariant is not only to sense and formulate such trends, but also to design the formulations and select the ingredients that best cater to them. How did you translate »RetroFuture« into these very specific things? And what kind of training does one need to fill this double role?
I have a master’s degree from ISIPCA in Versailles, which teaches chemistry combined with cosmetic science and marketing and thus actually perfectly prepared me for this role. Two of my favorite ingredients for the new concept are RootnessTM Energize and PrenyliumTM. The first is an oil extracted from the roots of Luffa, a cucumber species traditionally used for bath or kitchen sponges, and which we put into a trendy new face serum. The second is a root extract from a mulberry tree, which is quite uncommon because to get it, you would normally have to uproot the tree first. To avoid this, and to make the extraction of both ingredients more efficient and sustainable, we rely on Plant Milking® technology.
You milk plants? Like French farmers milk cows to make camembert?
Ha-ha, not quite – though, in fact, the »milking« is done by a French partner of ours, Plant Advanced Technologies. They have found a non-deadly way to get the best out of plants by actually not planting them. Using aeroponic cultivation, where the roots dangle in misty air and get their nutrients from baths, they stimulate both rare and traditional species to yield much more active ingredients and valuable compounds. These are regularly harvested by cutting the roots, and then allowing them to regrow like hair.
Sounds absolutely fascinating – and like a perfect fit for the RetroFuture concept.
The technology uses plants we know and does so in a highly advanced and sustainable way. Yes, I think it perfectly summarizes the new trend.
One last question: What do your friends say when you tell them about your work?
To be honest, I generally tend not go into too much detail, because I’ve found my enthusiasm can be a bit overwhelming. But seeing how well our new concept and what’s behind it is received, I should perhaps think about being less reserved ...