Right from the beginning, Olivia Chantecaille’s life seemed touched by magic. After all, being born to a warm, vivacious French beauty legend (in this case, that would be Sylvie Chantecaille) can really only be the pre-curser of more good things to come. Part of a close, happy family, she was raised in Manhattan but regularly spent time in Europe, naturellement – both her parents are French, so the call of home was strong, and her mother’s time at the helm of Estée Lauder’s much-missed, ground-breaking Prescriptives brand meant regular business trips to Italy, kids included. When, fresh out of college, Olivia co-founded Chantecaille Beaute alongside her mother, it was the culmination of a young life spent entirely immersed in beauty, and the blossoming of an incredible family business. To celebrate the brand’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Olivia shared with us lessons she is learning as she too grows older, from the ingredients she prioritises in her skincare and makeup, to the environmental causes that inspire her, and why the electricity of New York, which she loved so much when she was younger, no longer feeds her as much as peaceful time spent in her garden.

Baby Olivia with her mother Sylvie

“I was born into the beauty world. My mother and co-founder, Sylvie, is an amazing pioneer in both beauty and philanthropy, and has created innovative cosmetic companies which were always far ahead of their time.

My childhood was a magical mix of art, languages, gardening, animals, culture and cosmetics. Growing up in a creative French household with a very inventive and entrepreneurial mother, I had the space to explore my creative side. I was often immersed in drawing, painting, reading and making art.  I share a love of colours, textures, and aesthetics with her — these elements are almost like our secret language. Our family was regularly in Europe exploring museums and cultural sites, such as Le Musee Rodin and Le Chateau de Chambord. (This was well before options more tailored for kids existed, like Euro Disney or ‘Instagram experiences’!)

Olivia as a teen with mother Sylvie and father Olivier
Image: Olivia Chantecaille

My mother has always been driven by her passion, and has built several cosmetic companies designed around the modern woman.

When she was developing Prescriptives for Estée Lauder, I was fortuitously exposed to the world of cosmetics. I would visit her office after school, and spent several of my school holidays in the labs in Italy, where I would watch her develop products. It was a unique education in culture and innovation, as well as in female leadership, which was very rare at that time.

After school, I moved to Europe to study art and to model, which taught me a lot of valuable lessons not only about makeup, but about the importance of ingredients to the health and look of the skin. Once I had finished college, I started Chantecaille Beaute with my mother. You could say that I had been preparing my entire life for that moment!

Sylvie and Olivia in early Chantecaille promotional material

I had no hesitation about going into business with family. I knew, down deep, this would be successful. I was sure of it. It was an incredible journey I was meant to take.

I jumped at the chance to walk alongside my mother on the path towards making something nobody had ever seen before. 2023 is a milestone year for us as we will be celebrating our 25th anniversary and seeing how we have come so far, has been extremely rewarding.

I love my family and spending time with them. Working together simply means I get to see them more than just during holidays! With family there is an instant sense of trust and connection too, which is so helpful. It’s definitely a positive that we all know each other so well — it means we can cut through many layers of communication and get straight to the task at hand. Plus, we each have our own unique skills and work in our own departments, so we are collaborative rather than competitive. It is really a great thing to work together every day. It’s not for everyone, but for us, it is wonderful.

From left to right: Olivia’s husband Ren Grady, daughter Delphina Grady, Olivia, mother Sylvie Chantecaille, sister Alex Chantecaille, father Olivier Chantecaille, brother Philippe Chantecaille
Olivia with decoupage artist John Derian

When I think back on all the products I have developed with my mother, creating our Pure Rosewater is my most fond memory.

A year after we launched the brand, we took a road trip through the South of France to find a jasmine field in Grasse for our fragrances. There, we met a floral farmer, who showed us a field of the most incredible pink roses. We learned that this particular flower which bloomed there, the Rose de Mai, was the most special, powerful, and potent of all roses (and all flowers). These blooms soon became a major source of inspiration for us, as well as the literal source of some of our skincare ingredients. It has been a cult-classic core ingredient for the brand ever since, and provided the basis for what quickly became a Chantecaille standard: formulas based on botanicals.

I truly love every aspect of my role as Creative Director. If I had to pick the very best part of my job, though, it would be developing our conservation collections and working with our philanthropic partners.

We have so much fun and find it so inspiring to develop the products that help to protect wild species, and that keep wild spaces vital and thriving. It’s so important to protect these creatures and places to secure the future wellbeing of our planet. Once wild animals and spaces disappear, we won’t get them back.

Our conservation partners are incredibly committed, innovative and forward-thinking, and teach me so much about how we can all thrive in harmony on this planet. I am very interested in the dynamic cycle of connecting people to one another, and connecting people to causes, to new things, to new places, and to themselves in a really beautiful way. Seeing our brand become a platform and voice for those without one — the earth and its animals — has been so inspiring to me on a personal level.

As we celebrate Chantecaille’s 25th anniversary, I am so proud to share that we have created countless conservation-inspired products, donated over $3 million to environmental causes, planted over 120,000 trees, and had 34 amazing philanthropic partners. Together with our clientele we are making a difference.

Image: Olivia Chantecaille
Olivia (right) with daughter Delphina (left) and sister Alex (centre)

It’s important to us to carry our brand’s eco-commitment into our daily lives, as well. Small things matter and make a difference, which is something I really try to instil in my daughter, Delphina. I am convinced the next generation will save our world!

Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth, reduce your use of plastics, bring a reusable water bottle with you, and carry a tote for your groceries. Avoid using plastic — always. There are easy, simple things most of us can do. And it doesn’t hurt to plant a few trees — my new favorite ‘gift’ to give friends for their birthdays is a tree planted in their name. Our actions, whether big or small, have a ripple effect felt around the world, and no effort is in vain.

Olivia and Delphina

I have combination skin. Its needs change depending on the season, and being mature, it is always in need of purifying, balancing, and support.

My morning skincare routine begins with Rice and Geranium Foaming Cleanser, then a spritz of Pure Rosewater, followed by a sweep of the Purifying and Exfoliating Phytoactive Solution. Then I layer Bio Lifting Serum+, Blue Light Protection Hyaluronic Serum (to counteract all of my screen time), Bio Lifting Oil Free Fluid+, and finish with Radiance Elixir for a healthy glow.

Image: Olivia Chantecaille
Image: Olivia Chantecaille

I have recently become a big fan of lymphatic massage for the body.

We have implemented this technique in Chantecaille facials for years, but that was only treating the face and neck. A lymphatic massage is the perfect reset for your body, and great before a big event. It helps circulation, detoxification and swelling, makes me feel energised, and brings an even, healthy tone to my skin.

The French are known for their ‘no makeup makeup’ look which embraces simple, fresh beauty. This is integral to the skincare and makeup product Chantecaille creates and definitely to my own beauty ideal, as well.

Our Future Skin Cushion Skincare Foundation is my current must-have product, as it gives the most stunning, radiant, natural coverage with easy, on-the-go application. Its formula offers anti-pollution protection, and is boosted with peptides that decrease the look of fine lines and build collagen. Plus, it gives back to our longstanding partner, Sheldrick Wildlife Trust — each compact sold provides a bottle of milk to feed an orphaned baby elephant. It’s the ultimate Chantecaille product: a hybrid of skincare and makeup, with a conservation aspect, and a finish that is effortless and fresh.

My two must-have products to get out the door quickly are Le Camouflage Stylo concealer and Cheek Gelee in Happy. These products are not dry, heavy or matte, and blend beautifully with my skin.

Le Camouflage Stylo instantly covers up redness and dark circles, yet looks natural. The click pen is easy to apply when I’m in a hurry, and instantly gives me an illuminated, revitalized finish. Then I dab Cheek Gelee in Happy, a playful pink, onto the apples of my cheeks with my fingertips for a healthy flush of rose petal pink. I look and feel like myself, only more rested and refreshed.

Image: Olivia Chantecaille

My mother always taught me to be curious, explore, dive in, and have fun with beauty.

Her French upbringing means she has also instilled in me a natural approach to beauty. She has led by example: have a light hand, look for products that are look and feel natural on the skin, as well as being made with ingredients that are good for you. She taught me to celebrate the way I look, and to find products and ingredients that help to make me feel like my best self. She has always been health-conscious, and emphasised that certain ingredients make a huge difference in how you feel. For both of us, natural and botanical ingredients work best for our skin and our bodies as a whole.

The Chantecaille ladies in the Hamptons
From left to right: sister Alex, mother Sylvie, Olivia and daughter Delphina

I consider myself to be both French and American, and I think of my personal style as combining a French sense of aesthetics with a modern American touch.

What I wear is a reflection of who I am on that particular day, or even in that moment. I think of my wardrobe as a fun and powerful way to express myself! I like to wear quality pieces that make me feel happy and that I can wear for years, and pass to my daughter. I gravitate towards clothes that are well-made, elegant and timeless. I can most often be found in floral printed dresses and shortened blazers. My favorite designers are Erdem, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Stella McCartney, Gabriela Hearst, Valentino, Altuzarra, Brunello Cucinelli and Emilia Wickstead, to name a select few!

I was born and raised in New York City, and when I was younger I thrived on the energy there.

Now, I find I need to be more grounded in nature, so as well as spending time in the city I am also regularly in East Hampton, Greenwich (Connecticut) and St. Barts. I wish I could spend more time in France with my family, and also want to return to Kenya very soon, as I miss being in the wild with animals.

Wherever I am, I start every morning with a generous spritz of our Pure Rosewater spray. It helps me to feel centred and refreshed, regardless of how little sleep I might have had. Then I think of a few positive intentions to get into a good mindset for how I want my day to go, before everything takes off. Of course, I love cuddles and kisses with our puppy and kitten, which always brighten my morning!

Olivia and Delphina
Olivia as a child on holiday with her mother Sylvie

I don’t eat meat or drink alcohol, I drink a lot of water (especially hot water), and every day I have some of our magic, homemade ginger and lemon jam. It helps to fight off infections, colds and flus and keeps me healthy.

I also find nowadays that I want to be outside all the time — even if I’m working, I’ll take a conference call in the garden under the linden trees. Being outside in the garden or on the water is wonderful for both my body and my mind. In terms of movement, I like activities I can do with my family. I go paddle boarding in the bay, ride horses with Delphina, and I garden a lot.

I love yoga, but rather than do it in a studio I prefer to do it in my yard, where I can hear the birds chirping and leaves moving in the wind. Yoga and meditation are always good for unwinding. Even if I only have ten minutes to meditate, or to sit in the sun for five minutes with my eyes closed, that’s a nice re-set. Delphina loves to join me. She makes it even more fun – it becomes acro yoga! Suddenly she is crawling under my downward facing dog, flying in the air, or jumping over my child’s pose.  It always ends up being really interactive bonding time.

Olivia and Delphina

When it comes to ageing, I believe that the older you get, the more fun you have — partly because you care so much less about what other people think.

I don’t focus on a number when it comes to how I think of ageing; I focus on feeling good and what is going to help with that. Getting older is so liberating that it’s almost relaxing — the opposite of how many think it might be. Trying to be present and enjoy each day is a huge part of being able to focus on the good that comes with ageing: when I truly live in the moment, I’m not looking in the mirror as much or worrying about outward appearances.”

Story by Zoe Briggs. All imagery not otherwise credited provided by Chantecaille.

Comment (0)