What was it like to be part of the team that launched Sephora, and how did you apply that experience to Credo?
When we started opening Sephora stores, we saw a tidal wave of indie brands. Our model at Sephora was to try to bring brands from department stores out from behind the glass. The bigger brands weren’t that excited about that idea and were very protective of their relationships with department stores, so we were scrambling to find brands. But that was the best thing that could happen to us. Peter Thomas Roth, Hard Candy, Urban Decay, and so many others that came to be huge brands came to us, so it ended up being a wonderful turn of events. With Credo it’s been parallel to that.
As a second generation of entrepreneurs, we are passionate about beauty, but informed about ingredients. A lot of those brands we started with at Sephora, if they knew what we know today, they probably would have created their brand very differently. It’s really inspiring. The brands Credo is working with are visionaries of their day. They are really focused on beauty but also on the efficacy of their brands. They are paying close attention to design, packaging, texture and scent. Our goal is to give them a platform like we did 20 years ago at Sephora but celebrate their authenticity and transparency too.
Why did you become interested in the clean beauty movement?
Shashi (Batra, founder of Credo, who passed away this year) and I have been working together since 1997. He was a brilliant guy. We worked at Sephora and Estee Lauder together. He called with this idea for Credo. I said ‘why don’t I start reading about this,’ since, coming from a business angle, I wanted to start scoping brands to see if we could even fill a store.
After I did some research, I was so shocked and I was a little nauseous that in my career so involved with product development, I found myself thinking back to so many R&D meetings, asking ‘Does the shade work?’ or ‘Is it compatible with packaging?’ Never once did any of us say, ‘What is any of this stuff? What impact does it have on human health?’ To have that lightbulb go off was life-changing for me. I was so inspired by what Shashi was doing that I said I have to be part of this.
How do you define clean beauty?
It’s a tricky one. It gets confusing to customers and then you have the other side of it, where you have brands that aren’t as honest about it. We prefer products to be as natural as possible. All of our brands are cruelty-free, committed to running organizations ethically, and being mindful of their values.
What is Credo’s mission?
Our mission has always been to help people know what they are putting on their body. There’s some entity out there looking out for people and vetting the products that get on the shelves, but it’s clear that doesn’t exist in personal care and beauty. Our mission is to not force someone to sacrifice style or performance of products, and provide a place to continue to drive this movement and bring more awareness.
How do you curate Credo’s products?
The volume of brands that contact us is insane. What’s exciting as merchants is we see really beautiful brands, but we want to be selective and offer the best of the best. There are a lot of great brands out there and we find ourselves saying we wish we had bigger stores.
We always go back to what we ourselves would use. We tend to take a long time and our screening process has evolved as we’ve learned more. We evaluate the product, what it does, and the packaging, and make sure it can withstand time and is effective, but that the company is transparent in their ingredients.
Our criteria has become more finite and we’re working with people who really understand ingredients. We know that a certain ingredient comes into contact with x, y, z because it only comes from three labs. It takes time and resources to do that, but that’s the pillar of who we are. Beyond the product, the makers and people behind it are very important. We love to have a relationship with them and they have a real holistic vision of how it’s created. They have to have beautiful yet recyclable packaging, and everything smells nice. It’s not an easy thing to do.
What changes have you seen in the green beauty world?
When I think back two to three years ago, it feels like 20 years ago because so much has changed. Fifteen years ago people worked really hard to create products with green ingredients, but sacrificed packaging or scent. However, they were visionary brands and forced people to make more of an individual choice, wanting substance over style.
We’re trying to make sure that today people aren’t putting beauty before health and believe there is a whole new generation. We launched our first store in San Francisco with an assortment of 60 brands and that has evolved to over 100. The brands really resonate with the customers in the communities we’re in, and that takes time. I got to camp out in that store for a year and listen to customers and I really felt that we put that time in to learn who the customers are and what they want. It was really enlightening.
What’s next for Credo?
We are growing our website, we recently opened stores in Williamsburg and Chicago, and we’re opening in Boston at the end of September. We continue to look for communities that feel like it’s right to have a Credo there, with conscientious demand. We feel that we’re in front of this movement and we’re excited to educat
e people on what we learned and be part of building the demand and space. We’ll continue to open stores at our measured pace.
It’s always been a brick and mortar concept because we really want women to experience the brands, pick them up and smell them, and talk to our staff. Our staff is still small enough that we can talk to each other about the things we want to do. In our old life at Sephora, it was very corporate with lots of meetings, and it took a million years to get things done, so I hope we can hang on to this for a long time. It’s a lot of fun to flip the switch and make it happen.
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