Addressing the critical issue of self-esteem

Edouard Mauvais-Jarvis’s role embraces communication as well as science. I ask how he and Dior plan to communicate what is simultaneously a profound scientific idea and a major commercial breakthrough. After all, the idea of stalling or even reversing the aging process has challenged and fascinated mankind for centuries. How best to relay the qualities of Capture Totale C.E.L.L. Energy at both retailer and consumer level?

“We cannot tell the whole story at one time to everybody,” he replies. “What is special with this product is that it really targets something that is going to make a difference visibly. Because something that will bring more vitality to the skin will also reflect in more vitality on the outside – which will be interpreted as a healthier, younger skin.

“It’s not only a matter of correcting wrinkles or bringing firmness,” says Mauvais-Jarvis. “We are focusing on the core issue, which is the immediate appreciation that someone will have about your skin, about how you look. This is, for me, the big difference. Then, from a retailer standpoint, there’s the importance of using more natural formulas, and that is reflected in the effort that we made on the packaging and the eco-design.

“We are now reaching more than 84 percent of natural ingredients in all our formulas, up to 91 percent in the serum. We have changed our packaging. We have moved from plastic to fully recyclable glass now to make them more recyclable. We have reduced by some 27 percent the size of all packaging.

“We have made a very efficient anti-aging serum, not because it’s more efficient on wrinkles and so on but because it’s really changing the appearance and making the skin look younger.

“We have also focused on the naturality and cleanliness of the formulas. We have removed the phenoxyethanol, the mineral oils and the silicones from formulas. It was a real challenge to reformulate everything on the lab side because they had to relearn everything that they knew. It’s like someone having studied the piano for 30 years and then someone changes the keyboard and mixes everything up. They then have to relearn how to make music with this new keyboard, and it’s a real challenge.

“So, it’s a new learning phase, which we need to do in an accelerated way because we don’t have 30 years to relearn everything. It’s a huge challenge for a cosmetics company in general, but for us in particular.”

Even by Dior’s proven standards of innovation, Capture Totale C.E.L.L. Energy breaks new ground, involving findings that are far more than purely commercial. “For the past six or seven years we’ve worked a lot on the neuroscientific parts of understanding the psychology of appearance,” says Mauvais-Jarvis. “And you come to realise that our face and our physical appearance is an extremely important thing because we are social animals. We need the relationship we build with others, and we feed on it.

“So, when you show yourself for the first time to someone, people make an assumption and judgment in a split second, and the appearance of your skin will play a large role in it. If you look sick, there’s going to be a spontaneous, natural, unconscious mechanism that will give a red light and say, ‘Don’t go talk to this person.’

“If you look angry or if you look sad, people tend to make a decision to avoid you, because we were programmed like this during evolution. We are looking for opportunities and dangers in the face of people in a split second just to know if we can interact. If you enter a crowd of people in a big cocktail, you will talk to some people and not to others. You don’t even know why, but you have all these signals that are orienting you toward people that look friendlier and are no danger.

“It’s fascinating. Our work is to change the appearance of the skin, to make it a better interface to show to others. In a way we are facilitators of these human interactions, which are fundamental for the balance of the human being from a psychological standpoint.

“So, I think we are not only a commercial business but that we have a wider role to play. Cosmetics are not as futile as some may think,” Mauvais-Jarvis insists. “They have existed for thousands of years for a reason, because changing the appearance can facilitate human interactions, and this is our role to make it happen.”

Self-esteem is another key factor when it comes to the appearance of the skin, he says. “The funny thing is that when you look at yourself in the mirror, your brain is processing the image the same way as if you’re looking at someone else, like a total stranger.”

“If you see the bad signals, you will have also a distancing approach with yourself, which is quite conflictual. This is how we work. I find this whole subject fascinating – this whole psychology of how we interact with each other, analysing the attitudes and emotions of each other on a daily basis without even knowing that we are doing it. And, yes, for me it gives a purpose to our work.

“This is what motivates me every day because I think that we are doing something that is not only making people beautiful for the sake of being beautiful, it also serves a higher purpose – to make their life better and happier. It’s crucial, and lots of people are under-evaluating the importance of these signals today.

“I have the advantage and privilege to be involved at both ends of the project. I’m working closely with the labs in the choice of the technologies and the way we are going to demonstrate it, and because I have a dream of how I want to explain it and when you have such an incredible story to tell is, for me, it’s extremely satisfying.”

I ask how the development and imminent release of Capture Totale C.E.L.L. Energy compares with other high points in Mauvais-Jarvis’s career. “I think it has been a very interesting launch,” he says. “It’s not so often that we have this kind of perfect storm. We’re right in this moment where we need to change everything in the cosmetics world in terms of formulation.

“We have created something that is completely amazing in terms of results”

“We arrived at a big discovery that led to a big idea. We have new technologies such as artificial intelligence, and in turn that led us to have something unique. It’s like the crossroads of all these trends, and all the knowledge that we have accumulated along the years on floral expertise and floral science.

“Everything has come together to make something unique. I have never worked on anything so interesting and where everything is so well embedded and articulated to make something that is completely amazing in terms of results.”

Capture Totale C.E.L.L. Energy is the fruition of a fascinating combination of science, technology, nature and man.

On the one hand it embraces the use of artificial intelligence, on the other the extraction of unique qualities from a flower as beautiful yet short-lived in flowering terms as the peony.

Dior’s new skincare product is an extraordinary and emphatically contemporary solution to , in every sense, an age-old concern.

Spotlight Series

January 2020

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