How thrilling would it be to develop and launch a completely new personal care brand! A skin care range for women, as well as men, and then also a complete hair care range. Applying transparency, accountability and sustainability to every aspect of the new business, right from the word go.
Well, that is exactly what Natasha did when she started Australia's new organic and vegan skin & hair care range, Le Lapin. We sat down for an in-depth conversation about her gorgeous new products and the philosophy that is the foundation of her brand.
Congratulations on launching a complete range of personal care products, what an exciting project to bring to fruition! Can you tell us a little more about how Le Lapin came about and how it fits in with your passion for nutrition, fitness and well-being of mind, body and spirit?
Thank you so much! It’s certainly been quite a journey.
Le Lapin was first conceived as little more than an idea for a natural shampoo, way back in 2014. At the time, I had found myself afflicted by persistent dandruff that only worsened each time I washed my hair with conventional shampoos. Wanting to transition away from shampoos that stripped my hair and scalp, I was unable to find a natural brand available in Australia and the cost of buying overseas was out of this world.
Wishing there was something on the Australian market but unable to find anything that filled the niche I needed, I instead began with a simple apple cider vinegar wash that slowly transformed into my Hare Hair Growth 2-in-1 Cleansing Shampoo & Conditioner, and I couldn’t be happier with my hair and scalp today.
Going from an ACV wash to a formulated natural shampoo took quite a long time and along the way I also began experimenting with formulating my own skincare. I picked up the concept of formulating fairly quickly and once I got the formulating bug, the first proper ideas for Le Lapin began to form. Coming from a family that has always prioritised a simplistic approach to health, I wanted my brand to reflect that. I wanted to offer products that were easy and simplified the way we treat our skin and hair. Instead of products with complicated names for detergents and petrochemicals, I wanted to get back to basics.
The way I see it, beauty and well-being are connected. For Le Lapin, well-being of mind, body and spirit comes in through returning to an uncomplicated, natural approach to self-care and reminding us to make mindful choices, which not only liberates us from harmful products and practices, but also treats our skin and hair with the nutrition they need, in much the same way as a healthy diet does for our bodies.
Do tell us about the intriguing name ‘Le Lapin’ which is French for rabbit ….
I adored rabbits as a kid and went by the nickname ‘Rabbitty’, so naming my brand after rabbits just seemed like the natural thing to do. Combining that love of rabbits with my love for language led me to the French ‘Le Lapin’, so the name is both a little bit cute and, with some help from the French language, a little bit sophisticated.
You have a sustainable approach to every facet of creating your products and you don’t cut corners. Can you tell us more about how you select the ingredients of your products, how you manage waste and what decisions you made regarding your product packaging?
Right from the very beginning, approaching sustainability and waste were a top priority for Le Lapin. The last thing I wanted was to start yet another brand contributing to those uglier aspects of the cosmetic industry. Part of my reason for formulating my own skincare was due to so many natural cosmetics brands packaging in plastic, as whilst their ingredients were right, their packaging was a deal breaker.
Selecting the ingredients for each of my products took a lot of time and effort researching not only what could be used to substitute a more conventional ingredient, but also how to get everything to work synergistically. Natural ingredients require more dedication to work with and can be temperamental, not to mention the much higher costs involved, but the results are absolutely worth it.
As a micro-business, Le Lapin thankfully generates very little waste. One of the core values behind Le Lapin is to reduce and reuse before recycling, so those concepts are implemented wherever possible. Everything else is recycled and what can’t go through municipal recycling goes to specialist recycling companies like TerraCycle.
For my packaging, my first thought was to use glass, as I was determined to avoid plastic, but I ultimately settled on aluminium for a couple of reasons. The first and most important reason for that decision was the durability of aluminium in comparison to glass. Especially with so many people shopping online these days, packaging considerations need to account for product being shipped around the country, and having worked in online retail, I know how easily glass breaks. Glass is also heavy, whereas aluminium is extremely lightweight. The other reason for choosing aluminium was its superior protection from light even compared to the now quite popular violet glass. By blocking light entirely, the shelf life of the product within is increased, meaning I am able to rely more easily on natural preservatives.
Another aspect I chose to go without was secondary packaging, such as outer boxes and wrapping, which are only there for aesthetic purposes. This meant sacrificing traditional shelf appeal in favour of sustainability, but Le Lapin was founded on the basis of being kind to the environment, so the design is intentionally practical and functional, and perhaps a bit utilitarian.
We love that you aim for full transparency from concept to consumption and that you take responsibility for the entire production process. Would you tell us a bit more about that?
The thing that frustrates me most in the beauty industry is seeing big name brands jumping on the natural bandwagon with claims of this or that natural ingredient or being naturally derived, when in fact, on looking over the ingredients, their formulation contains just as many chemicals as it always did, only now with a scant amount of some botanical added as a marketing tactic. This strategy is known as greenwashing and is far from authentic or transparent. It makes people think there are many more environmentally friendly or natural products on the market than there actually are.
It’s my belief that, instead of having long lists of ingredients a product is free from or doesn’t contain (those are, in most cases, simply swapped for an ingredient that’s just as bad but hasn’t yet been called out as such), brands need to tell us what is in their product. We need to be provided with proof that a product is natural. We need to know what each of every ingredient’s purpose is and why it’s being used. We need integrity.
Are transparency and accountability becoming more prevalent in the personal care industry, or still mostly lacking?
Although transparency and accountability are becoming more widespread in the beauty industry, they're still not mainstream. Smaller, purpose driven brands are leading the way and more and more people are making conscious decisions about what they buy, but it’s a big industry and there’s a lot more work to be done.
Recycled plastic packaging, or ‘ocean plastic’, is often touted as a solution to plastic pollution, but there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. Recycled plastic products only contain a small percentage of so-called ocean plastic, while the rest is made of virgin plastic. The subject of plastic recycling is a topic unto its own and isn’t necessarily a lack of transparency, but more a lack of keeping the consumer well informed. Plastic packaging is still primarily single-use, whether it has recycled content or not.
What have you done to ensure transparency and accountability of Le Lapin?
I believe in being honest in business (and in life, for that matter). If we need to hide something, it means we know it’s wrong and should therefore instead seek to remedy it.
Transparency and accountability are easy for Le Lapin, as there is nothing to hide. By simply being honest about each and every aspect, and, in fact, going that step further and actually seeking out new information as it becomes available, Le Lapin will be able to remain current and on point.
Developing and launching a new personal care brand is no mean feat. Would you say that is your biggest achievement so far? What was the most exciting moment in this process, and did you ever want to tear out your hair? (if so, do tell!)
For sure getting Le Lapin launched and onto the market has been my biggest achievement to date.
Starting up and running any business can be cause for tearing one’s hair out, but overall the process was actually quite enjoyable. That’s not to say there weren’t times of stress and I’ll admit there were aspects I underestimated, but coming from a background in business certainly made the process that bit easier.
I suppose the most exciting moment for many new businesses is securing that first wholesale account, but there were plenty of little moments that were exciting along the way, such as watching my first formula come together, becoming Vegan Australia certified and choosing to partner with Bush Heritage Australia.
What does the future hold for Le Lapin?
Many things, I trust!
There are some points of contention for me still in my packaging that I’d like to change. The current dispensers (pumps, droppers, etc.) inherently mean using plastic, even if it’s not single-use plastic, so I constantly have my eye out for any new innovations in that respect.
Anything that can do more for, and give more back to our planet, whether that’s through eliminating plastic entirely or through initiatives to pledge to the environment, will always be Le Lapin’s top priority.
And, of course, I would love to expand the range a little more, so keep an eye out for new products in the future!