Nina Garcia and Francisco Costa on Green Fashion and Beauty

While most people know our managing editor Nina Garcia as a fashion editor and Francisco Costa as a celebrated designer, few realize that their deepest connection is through a commitment to sustainability. Both work and collaborate with the non-profit organization for the environment International conservation, one of the leading leaders in protecting the planet. They both also use their platforms to carry on the green conversation in fashion and beauty.

This commitment is at the heart of ELLE’s beauty coverage. It is also the basis of Costa’s skin care and aroma brand, Costa Brazil, which sets a new standard for the ethical sourcing of ingredients, a key element for sustainable beauty. Now, with Costa, who was born in Brazil, as chief creative officer of AmirideELLE, the parent company of Costa Brazil, ELLE and Amyris have teamed up this Earth month to amplify changes in sustainable beauty. It is a partnership that represents a commitment to the innovation and inspiration needed to protect the planet.

Here, Garcia talks to Costa about their longstanding friendship, the inner workings of their two brands, and what they both see as the path to progress in beauty and fashion.

I know you just got back from Brazil, tell me!

As you know, we give rise to Breu [the signature ingredient in Costa Brazil products] from a couple of communities there. Breu is our first indigenous Brazilian ingredient and the genesis of Costa Brazil. It is a natural resin that grows organically on the bark of the Breu tree deep in the forest. The resin oxidizes and falls off, so if you don’t harvest Breu for a year or two or three, you have rocks that weigh around three pounds each.

Before founding the brand, I had spent time with the people of Yaminawá [in Brazil] for about 10 days and there was this scent that was really amazing. There were bonfires all over the area, but I didn’t know where the smell was coming from. Later, I realized they were throwing those stones into the fire.

Short resin

Costa Brazil

$ 145.00

How did it end up in beauty products?

In addition to the beautiful scent I tried, I took the Breu with me to a laboratory in northeastern Brazil and we did all the tests. The resin had incredible properties including being antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. So it’s a true potency of an ingredient. That was really the beginning of Costa Brazil.

What attracted you to the Amazon? I know I’ve heard you talk about this incredible strength and clarity.

On my first trip I was just very curious. We have now become very friendly with the community there [that collects Breu]. Through Conservation International, we have helped them protect their land and it is something we are very proud of. Now I’m actually the chair of the board of directors of the Americas with CI, so it’s exciting and I’m getting a lot more involved.

This is also what really strikes me about Amyris. Amyris is truly transforming the ingredients industry by using biotechnology for more sustainable alternatives that don’t take straight from the earth. By mimicking the ingredients in the lab you can actually create the cleanest, most sustainable and most beautiful ingredients and remain very responsible for supporting the local people, which we are very committed to.

So Anti-aging Face Oil

Costa Brazil

$ 125.00

I met you when you were at Calvin Klein many years ago and even then I could see you really immerse yourself in your roots and your interest in nature. With fashion you were dealing with fabric and now you are dealing with a beauty product that is also a tactile material that touches your skin. How was the transition from fashion to beauty?

It’s so much fun to bring it out because when I started a collection, I always started from the thread. I had a collection – no one was talking about sustainability at the time – where I went to a couple of knitwear manufacturers in Scotland and northern Italy, and ended up buying all their leftover stock. Whatever has been there for years. And I just wove everything, all the knitting yarns and the whole collection was completely sustainable in that sense, because I was reusing all that stuff that was left over.

Intimacy, as it comes out, dressing the body, is something that comes together in a very instinctive and very organic way because I believe that what we are doing here is food for the skin. I always wanted the woman to feel good and she to look good. Here, I imitate the process without thinking about it. When you put in an oil, you smell it, you feel it and it is there to make you feel good.

Some people think that opting for a green lifestyle is restrictive. I find it to be the other way around. He is very joyful, very positive, very forgiving. It is a unique experience when you are dealing with a very natural product or do something sustainable in your life.

Transparency is key [to this]. You know the difference. Feel the difference. We believe that beauty is truly the beauty of the planet. The spirit of beauty is indeed a safer planet at the end of the day because they go hand in hand. This morning I was talking to a friend, us [as a society] they are going through such a huge transition when it comes to how we communicate. Let’s start shortening. Our language is changing. The way we market things is changing. Look at the cryptocurrency. This is all so fascinating. Our responsibility here is really to be aware of making better choices.

Kaya Jungle Firming Body Oil

Costa Brazil

$ 54.00

The only constant we see is that there is a change. Is this part of what motivates you these days?

I love change and change, for me, is growth. If I hadn’t gone on this journey, I probably never would have fully understood what we offer as a company, as a company, because we are set for a sustainable future. Costa Brazil is truly a wellness brand. I think we have enormous possibilities here to create rituals where you can feel so much better. What drew me to the Amazon is that I couldn’t find anything like what we represented in the industry. And I can’t just go put my name on something any lab is offering me. So I was very curious, and that really pushed me.

Sail Candle

Costa Brazil

$ 165.00

It is so interesting, I see a lot of products in my position in ELLE, but you know the ones where there is real passion, you can identify them immediately. When I first saw Costa Brazil, I was blown away by the passion there, Francisco. I could see that there was something so unique about the product, the packaging, the way it felt in my hand, the way it feels on my skin, the way it looks on the shelf. It felt right.

Thank you. Our journey is truly to bring the best and most unique ingredients. It is also giving other companies the use of our ingredients and the opportunity to do the same and be better. I think this is also the magic. When I started looking for partners, the moment I identified this company I was shocked: “Oh my God, it’s almost like we’re speaking the same language here.” We were. This has given me a lot of confidence.

Speaking the language, you need to speak the same language.

As a designer, we are very instinctive and we Touch in the world, we hear things that maybe other people go through and don’t realize. I felt that things were changing and I always felt that Brazil was more my spirit. There is something so vast about it. There is a greatness there that could be explored and nothing more likely for me to carry that essence to the next thing. We are a luxury brand, but we want to be wider. Sometimes people misjudge the ability to make high-end beauty and design or high-end products at a good price.

You want inclusive, not exclusive.

I think that’s what we would do. You can’t treat the customer as if he doesn’t know. So we want to offer the best. It’s time for green chemistry. Think clean or green, those words are so misused, there is so much brainwashing out there. We are very excited to be on the verge of something new because we are offering the most sustainable ingredients and very effective ingredients. To quote someone here at the company: “We are here to change the direction of human consumption through science and sustainability.” I think this really sums up our mission. It is really cool. Very inspiring for me.

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