MEET OUR MAKERS | AETHER BEAUTY
As a retailer of conscious beauty, one of our core values is transparency. When selecting brands to offer in our curation, we look for the same. Greenwashing is real there are hundreds of new 'natural' labels coming onto the market, cleverly packaged and branded to piggy-back on the green beauty movement. Trying to navigate your way through as a consumer can be challenging! Aether Beauty first came onto our radar as a Vegan, Cruelty-free makeup brand, pioneering the way forward as the first of its kind zero-waste eye shadow palette. Aether palettes do contain some synthetic ingredients, however, there are several things to consider in the 100% natural vs synthetic debate, as you'll discover here in our interview with founder Tiila Abbitt. Aside from Aether's commitment to sustainability, zero-waste packaging, Cruelty-Free and Vegan formulations and their use of fair-trade and organics where possible, we also value their transparency when it comes to ingredients, including synthetics. We firmly believe that everyone comes to the clean beauty space with their own personal set of values. As always we aim to empower, educate and answer any questions you might have, so that you can shop your own values whether they be Vegan, Cruelty-Free, zero waste, 100% natural or mostly natural.
Let's start at the beginning. Why did you decide to launch a vegan, zero-waste beauty brand? Tell us about the journey!
My background is actually in fashion design. I moved to San Francisco 14 years ago to get my MFA in Fashion Design. I worked in the fashion realm for about 5 years before I transitioned to beauty. When I worked in fashion, I worked for a small design house in SF where all the production was made in house. However, while I was there the owner decided to close down the factory and transfer all production to China. I used to then travel to China once every 2 months for 2 years to very small factories spread all throughout the country. I saw a lot of unfortunate things that I wish I could un-see and it always stuck with me. When I started my beauty career at Sephora almost 8 years ago, I barely wore tinted moisturiser but I knew how to make a product - from ideation to in-store launch. I was thrown into developing makeup formulations just 2 months on the job and had to roll up my sleeves, dive in and learn from some of the best people in the industry, while adhering to incredibly tight timelines with many cross-functionals and “higher up’s” involved. I have always loved telling a story with product and building a brand. Storytelling is so incredibly important; all the attention to detail is needed to truly understand your customer's needs and wants. You connect with your client through storytelling and branding and that, in itself, is so incredibly powerful and so incredibly necessary in these days of beauty brands launching every other day.
With so many brands competing for the ‘green’ space now, what sets Aether Beauty apart?
It's truly sustainable beauty. Aether Beauty products are vegan and cruelty-free as a baseline. Then the ingredients are organic, ethically sourced and child-labour free. Plus the packaging is 100% zero waste and recyclable- the first zero waste eyeshadow palette in the beauty industry. Not only that but the formulas are incredible- they rival famous conventional brands, proving you don't have to give up efficacy.
We love that Aether loves Mother Earth. Can you tell us about the zero waste packaging?
It's the first zero waste eyeshadow palette in the beauty industry. When I was the head of R + D for Sustainability for all of Sephora (on top of my day to day product development role) I visited recycling facilities and learned what actually gets recycled and how they do it. Mirrors and magnets are completely un-recyclable, so I removed them and then make sure my palette uses FSC certified paper and printed with water-based soy inks that make the paper easily recyclable. The pans are recycled aluminium and you pop those out to recycle them separately.
When it comes to formulating, are there any ingredients that Aether Beauty won’t go near?
Each ingredient is vetted to ensure it's nontoxic but also sustainable in practices. We use organic and fair-trade ingredients wherever possible. And, we follow the European guidelines for ingredients. This means we don't use any of the 1,300 EU banned chemicals versus the only 11 banned chemicals in the United States. And we go even further, and have banned over 1400+ ingredients in our palettes.
There's a big debate around 100% natural vs synthetic...what can you tell us about the synthetics used in Aether palettes?
While there are thousands (perhaps millions) of beautiful, effective, transformative ingredients found in nature, natural does not = non-toxic. Nor does natural = vegan. There are countless naturally-derived substances that are incredibly toxic, which is why our first criteria for any ingredient is not just “is it natural”, but also “is it non-toxic?” and vegan of course. As a clean beauty brand, we honour this planet we call home. We use natural ingredients wherever possible because we know their transformative power. We do, however, use select synthetics if we can’t find a natural ingredient to meet ALL the following requirements:
Non-toxic: As you’ve seen above, not all natural ingredients are non-toxic. This is our #1 priority - it must be safe for use today and over time. If we can’t find a natural ingredient that is safe (and free of contamination), we will look to a safe synthetic version.
Effectiveness (color payoff, longevity, blend-ability, vibrancy): Our formulas are designed to perform. Generally, natural ingredients are incredibly effective and powerful, but if we can’t find a natural ingredient to create the effect we’re looking for, we look to safe and non-toxic synthetics.
Ethically & Sustainably Sourced: Another non-negotiable at Āether Beauty: we will not use any ingredient that is unethical or unsustainable in any stage of its sourcing or processing.
Vegan & Cruelty-free: If the choice were between a safe synthetic ingredient or an animal-based ingredient, we would choose vegan & cruelty-free always and forever. Don’t forget, animal products are still considered natural.
Vegan Beauty is on the rise and you're a practicing vegan yourself. Why was offering a Vegan Beauty product important to Aether?
As a vegan brand, we ban all animal-derived ingredients from our products. We know from experience that you do not need animal products to create super-pigmented, luxuriously indulgent cosmetics. In fact, let's be real - there is nothing glam or luxurious about animal by-products. Not a thing. To me there was no point in not being vegan, I just wanted to prove that you don't have to give up anything in order to provide animal-free products.
What lessons have you learned about life / yourself since launching Aether Beauty?
Being a single employee, 100% self-funded and running an entire beauty brand is very very very hard. Everyone asks how I do it. Not only that but I'm married with two small kids- 6 and 3 years old. This is hands down the hardest thing I have ever done in my life- including giving birth- it's like giving birth on a weekly basis.
What’s next for Aether Beauty?
I am about to launch single highlighters as well as cheek palettes and even another eyeshadow palette for holiday!
When not in boss-lady mode, how do you self nourish?
I love a good sound healing class. It fully relaxes me and lets me fully de-stress.