Michelle Pfeiffer has expanded her fragrance line, Henry Rose, to offer body creams, candles, oil diffusers and hand sanitizer in her familiar scents.
Launched in 2019 by Pfeiffer alongside producer International Flavors & Fragrances, the brand is as transparent as it comes in the business of perfume making. The company discloses all ingredients used, providing products that are cruelty-free, hypoallergenic and free of known or suspected endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde. All goods are certified by the Environmental Working Group and Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, nonprofits working to protect human health and the environment.
The actress is also sustainably-minded when it comes to approaching sourcing and packaging. The brand’s seven scents are in NEO Infinite Glass vessels — completely recyclable and made from 90 percent recycled glass — and the caps use biodegradable plastic created from soybeans.
With the offerings, the candles — contained in recyclable and repurposable glass — are made using natural ingredients, coconut, soy and vegetable waxes, while their fragrances are created with a mix of synthetics and botanicals using IFRA Standards (a code of practice in the industry). The body creams, offered in the familiar scents “Queens & Monsters” and “Jake’s House,” include moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and vitamin E. Available direct-to-consumer at henryrose.com, the lotions and candles are $65, the oil diffusers are $28 and the hand sanitizer is $10. Each 50-ml. fragrance is priced at $120.
Over video on Zoom, Pfeiffer shared the history of Henry Rose, its expansion into new categories and touched on her latest role in the upcoming film “French Exit,” out on Feb. 12, a comedy based on the novel by Patrick deWitt that tells the story of an heiress from New York who moves to Paris with her son.
WWD: Why did you decide to enter the world of fragrance?
Michelle Pfeiffer: It started after the birth of my kids. I started paying attention to what was in the products that we were using and the food that we were eating, and I started reading labels. You know, that was 27 years ago, and they weren’t even really listing ingredients then or not that many products were. And I was stressed. As a new mom, all I ever wanted to do was to protect my kids. I had just enough information to get super alarmed, but not enough information to actually do anything about it, until the day I stumbled upon the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. I knew nothing about this organization before then. What I discovered there is they consistently rate things for hazard level, and they rate personal-care products for human hazard levels. Time and time again, the ingredients in fragrance would ping up really high for hazard level, so I stopped wearing fragrance over time. I started looking for natural alternatives, but I couldn’t find anything I really liked. So I just gave up and stopped wearing it for about 10 years. And I really started to miss it, because I love perfume.
It was purely selfish why I wanted to do this. It’s because I wanted to formulate a fragrance that I wanted to wear. That was really the start of it. And then I reached out to EWG to see if they would collaborate with me. They said “Well, we can’t really do a collaboration. That would be a conflict of interest, of course.” And that was when I learned it’s not that all fragrance is super toxic, it’s that we don’t know what’s in it, because of the lack of transparency. Yes, some of the ingredients aren’t going to be good, but the majority of them are. Because of the lack of transparency, they would give it really high hazard levels. That was the beginning of my education. And then also, my plan was to develop a 100 percent plant-based fragrance. Well, that’s not always the safest option for people, because for a lot of people, it gives them skin irritation, and they have really bad allergies. Basically, instead of the most natural, it was really what is the safest for the most people. That really is a combination of safe synthetics and safe naturals.
WWD: The brand uses the word “transparency” often when describing its products. Why that term in particular? And how do you balance the use of synthetic and natural ingredients as you create?
M.P.: When we launched, we just had a moratorium on and we never used the word “clean.” We never used the word “natural,” never because of the confusion in the space and because of the greenwashing — or [using] nontoxic, any of those buzzwords. There are no absolutes. Somewhere in the world, someone is going to maybe have a reaction to something. It’s a constantly evolving space and new data comes in and new information comes in. Because the world has sort of categorized us, just to try to communicate to the consumer what this product is, we are categorized in the clean space. But we’ve had in articles, they still write that we are an organic line. No, we are not organic. There’s nothing organic about our line. And we don’t use natural, because it’s a completely unregulated term. Clean is a completely unregulated term. We’ve really committed as a company to speak clearly and plainly.
I’m so grateful that we did and continue to work with EWG and Cradle to Cradle [Products Innovation Institute], because the ethos is that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality for safety. I can take care of the quality. I can work with the formulators. I don’t have to be a chemist to do that. All I have to do is test it on my own skin and see if it performs and would I want to use this. I’m not a scientist. I’m not a chemist. I’m not a perfumer. In terms of safety, I 100 percent rely on EWG and Cradle to Cradle and with that stamp of approval, a person doesn’t have to worry. You just have to look at that stamp of approval and you know that that is going to be the safest product it can be.
WWD: What has been your approach when it comes to sustainability?
M.P.: We’ve tried to, with materials that we use, be sustainable in some way, either from a renewable source, which is our caps [made of] soy…[which] breaks down over time. Our glass bottles from our 50 mls. are made from 90 percent recycled glass, which is a huge percentage. We weren’t able to get that glass for our roller balls, so [while] they are recyclable, they are not from recycled glass. We tried to in some way, when we are looking at our materials, to be as sustainable as we can.
WWD: How would you describe the Henry Rose consumer?
M.P.: They are very discerning and demanding. I think they are looking for premium products that perform and that are safe to use. I think [there are] more and more people who are really looking at ingredients, really demanding transparency. That audience is growing like crazy. That’s the thing, we are a hybrid. And that has been the challenge honestly about marketing this, because our consumer is also just people who love premium products and love fragrance, and you know, they honestly never even thought about what was in their products. That’s our consumer as well.
WWD: What made you decide to expand with body care, candles and diffuser oils?
M.P.: Our consumers have been asking since Day One, “When are you going to come out with candles?” When I started developing this and the whole subject of the allergens came into play, which was new to me, I didn’t even know that was an issue. Thirty percent of the population have some pretty severe allergy sensitivities. I was testing [a scent] on somebody, I said, “Give it to your husband,” because she said he’s allergic to everything. She said, “He can’t walk into a room with a candle burning,” and I thought, “Hmm candles.” The thing you realize is that fragrance is in everything and you don’t stop to consider the people it affects. There are people out there like me who just abstain from wearing perfume or any fragrance for whatever reason — you’re allergic or you’re just looking for safer products and you don’t know what’s in it — but there are also people who are limited with the body care that they can use or, if they walk into a hotel and there’s a candle burning in the lobby, fragrance being pumped into the elevator, [it has an impact] — you know, it’s omnipresent. It’s in everything. So, there’s a lot of opportunity for us to move into lots of categories.
WWD: How challenging is it to reimagine the same scents in new categories of products?
M.P.: The bigger challenge is actually formulating the fragrance itself. Each and every one of them. It’s super complicated. It’s sort of modifying that fragrance so that it’s compatible with your body cream base or your candle base. It takes some going back-and-forth for sure.
WWD: In film, you’ll next star in “French Exit.” What attracted you to that project and role?
M.P.: When I read the script for “French Exit,” I just thought, “This is one of the oddest things I’ve ever read and wonderful.” And I found the people sort of oddly delightful in their weirdness. And then halfway through it really, I knew that I really wanted to do it. Typically, when I have that sort of feeling, it’s the right choice for me. And I really loved and was excited to work with [director] Azazel Jacobs and [actor] Lucas Hedges. It was just a very fun and fulfilling project to work on.
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