LONDON — Nature, with its riches — and challenges — is an abiding fascination for David de Rothschild, who began his career as a music industry entrepreneur, and who later became a trained naturopath. He recently launched a Web site for his brand, The Lost Explorer, which is filled with lush photography and sells products packed with natural ingredients — balms, clothing, and spirits, such as organic mezcal.
“The Lost Explorer is really a combination of the last 15 years of working with brands, of designing and creating products for other people, being on adventures, telling stories, giving nature a voice. I mean that’s really been my mission — to give nature a voice,” said de Rothschild over boiled eggs and toast at Little House in London.
A member of the famous banking family, and a dogged adventurer and explorer, de Rothschild has skied across Antarctica and sailed the Pacific on a boat made from 12,500 plastic bottles. He is currently trying to get the World Charter for Nature retabled at the United Nations.
He is also collaborating on Jungle-ized, an interactive sonic and visual art installation in Times Square that marks Earth Month in April. Here, he talks about he talks about some of the products on the new site, why the whales need saving, and how real men wear diaper cream.
WWD: The Lost Explorer balms are not grooming-led, but treatment-focused. Can you talk about what inspired them?
David de Rothschild: I carry the Travelers Balm in my bag, and take it everywhere. I put it on my nose or my hands — it’s an immunity balm and it’s amazing, a natural cure-all in a way. It creates a barrier for your hands and it’s restorative, it’s got incredible ingredients — shea nut butter and olive fruit butter, marula seed oil, fruit extracts. We do a muscle balm, too, and there will be a collection of soaks for sore muscles.
When we went to the North Pole or the South Pole, when I was skiing across Antarctica, every evening you get in the tent and you pull out a tube of nappy [diaper] rash cream — basically Vaseline — and you put that on if your skin is chapped and dry. We would laugh about it — these tough explorers. “Pass me the nappy cream!”
WWD: Why was it important to develop these products with so much for men on the market today?
DdR: We feel that there’s a new luxury, and the new luxury isn’t about conspicuous consumption. It’s about less branding. It’s about stories and materials. We need another “craft” story like we need a hole in our heads, like “We just found this from polar bear’s teardrops,” or “This was made by a nun who’s been on a mountain and no one has ever contacted her,” you know. We just wanted to make really good products that work. And I think for men, especially, there’s an element of the geekiness where we love to know the technical bits.
Our merula seeds are collected by about 800 people who are living in villages from Kenya to Tanzania. We’ve got orange wax, which protects the skin and is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. There is foraha seed oil, used for treating wounds, facial neuralgia, skin ailments, and hair loss. It’s one of the main staples in Madagascar.
Nature has all the answers: She has billions of years of R&D [research and development]. She is our mentor, our partner. If you’re willing to listen to her she gives you all the answers, and they are right there in the products.
WWD: Can you also talk about some of the fabrics you’re working with for the clothing and accessories?
DdR: We worked with Schoeller Textiles in Switzerland on cork wool, an incredible fabric that is water-resistant, stain-resistant, breathable, and made from recycled cork. It’s an insulator and superlight, you know, a really beautiful material that you can wear instead of Gore-Tex, which is entirely synthetic. We’ve got cashmere, cotton cashmere, merino wool. We’re doing a Henley and a T-shirt, and there is a high-low conversation that we’re having the whole time. We’re also working with the textile finish technology, Ecorepel, on the berets. It’s the same technology that a duck uses to repel water, so sort of biomimicry of the oil that makes birds’ plumage waterproof.
WWD: What originally made you decide to leave a successful business in music merchandising, and dedicate yourself to campaigning for nature?
DdR: I can’t remember what band it was, but we were building their Web site and doing all their merchandise, and I was sitting there, and I just remember thinking that if we can build desirability around something that has no substance, why can’t we apply the same techniques to the environment? Why can’t we make biologists or explorers rock stars? And why can’t we make people who are doing things of real substance front and center of the conversations, rather than just the weird fringe of conversation?
WWD: What do you see are the most immediate crises facing the planet?
DdR: One thing that could have a massive impact on this planet today would be to stop killing the whales. Whale poop is the fertilizer of the ocean — and we’re talking tons of it. It fertilizes our oceans and that creates algae. Algae and phytoplankton release oxygen to be absorbed into our ocean. It’s been said that within 15 or 20 years we may not have any of this phytoplankton and that means no oxygen.
The funny thing is that we think we’re at the top of the food chain, but we’re not. And what’s interesting is: If you take any historical collapse, it’s the things at the top that have to go first. The big guys are already starting to go — the whales, the sharks, the tigers, the leopards, the pandas, the rhinos. You go through the list and you’re like, “Right, OK: where are we as humans?”