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Arts + Lifestyle

From The Desk Of… Tata Harper

For Tata Harper, Earth Day is every day. Her eponymous skincare brand is hand formulated on a family farm in Vermont and the products are the epitome of where luxury meets sustainability.

Skincare guru, Harper is on a mission to dispel the misconception that natural skincare isn’t effective and travels the globe to learn about new technologies from renowned chemists, botanists, and aromatherapists, in order to continue to advance the next generation of natural beauty.

We chatted with Harper about her daily routine (beauty and otherwise), her inspirations, challenges, and key learnings, as well as the upcoming launch of a new collection called Superkind – products for reactive skin.

How do you start your days?

5AM: I like to wake up early and get a head start on the day. I am making an effort to meditate for about 15 minutes before I fully plug-in. I’ve found that practicing breathing exercises has really helped me feel more centred and focused throughout the day.

5:30AM: While the kids are still sleeping, I always try to get outside and walk the dogs. It’s so peaceful on the farm in the morning and it’s before everyone arrives, so it’s the only time where it’s truly quiet. I’ll say hi to the animals and sometimes pick fresh fruits and veggies from the garden. I see a personal trainer virtually and focus on core strengthening exercises. For me, it’s really the most effective stress reducer.

6:30AM: I will hop in the shower right after my workout to refresh my skin and body before I do my skincare routine.

7:30AM: By the time I wake up the kids, I’m dressed and ready to go for the day. I make them breakfast, organise their activities, and spend some time with them outside.

8:30AM: My meetings typically start at 8:30AM and I am in them back-to-back most of the day. I’ve been living on the farm this summer and I’ve loved being able to work outside on my porch and getting fresh air throughout the day. The porch wraps around the house and overlooks the fields with the cows and gardens. When I have breaks in-between calls, I love to check-in on what’s cooking in our batch room or I’ll try some of the new products our chemists are formulating in the lab.

What’s your go-to uniform?

I have always loved fashion and the quarantine has not changed that. I did not embrace the leisurewear trend and comfortableness is not part of who I am. I actually enjoy getting dressed for work and express my mood through fashion. I have few go to brands that have become part of my “uniform” – Stella McCartney, Gabriela Hearst, Bode, and Khaite.

Identify something in your workspace that’s special to you…

I feel so lucky to be surrounded by nature and get an extra energy boost from the environment surrounding me. I am a very visual person and I’m lucky our farm is booming with wildlife and nature. There is endless opportunity for inspiration right at my doorstep.

What are your workplace essentials?

I am extremely organised and love to have a clutter-free desk. My essentials are pretty much the Tata Harper Aromatherapy (I am obsessed with our new Love Potion formula) to promote my emotional and spiritual wellbeing. I also always keep with me a bottle of our Hydrating Floral Essence to instantly recharge my dry skin – it’s like a glass of water for the skin. Something that has become essential in my workplace is the portable treadmill. I keep it under my desk and walk on it all day long, even during meetings, if I don’t have to write anything down. I also keep a big carafe of butterfly pea tea.

What time of day are you at your most creative?

3PM: In the afternoons, I spend an hour or so with our photographer shooting on the farm. I am a creative person, so I find this time to be super calming in between meetings and calls. We try to source a lot of our props on the farm and we use our natural backdrop for the photos – it’s authentic and organic and embodies our brand ethos.

What’s your go-to lunch order?

By 1PM, I am always starving for lunch! I try to have lunch with my kids whenever they aren’t in school, doing their activities, or in camp. My typical lunch is a bed of greens with a piece of fish or plant-based protein. I like to fill my salad with veggies and seeds for the extra vitamins and nutrients because they keep me full for longer.

What is the most rewarding part of the job?

It has been such a rewarding experience to make products that are better for the people and the planet. I feel so lucky to travel around the world and teach people about our mission so they can live healthier lives.

And the most challenging?

The misconception that naturals aren’t effective. When we first started, formulating high-tech, ingredient-packed products with exclusively natural ingredients was a challenge.

Then, once we launched our first products, the challenge we faced was overcoming this old misconception that naturals weren’t effective. Now, as we continue to grow and are more focused on international expansion, we’re facing new challenges that come with scaling a business. It has also been challenging to design luxury packaging that is sustainable. We’ve had to create our own moulds, rethink conventional packaging practices, and spend years researching. It has come a long way, but it is still a hurdle.

What did you study in school/ university?

I studied industrial engineering.

Where are you from originally?

Barranquilla, Colombia.

What was your first job?

I ran a fashion company during my last three years of high school.

What sparked your interest in creating this business?

I was living in Miami when my stepfather was diagnosed with cancer and I would travel back to Colombia frequently to help my mother care for him. Through helping him change his lifestyle I started to examine everything I was putting in and on my body. I couldn’t find any natural products that gave me the results and the luxury experience I was looking for, so I set out to create my own.

Do you have a mentor or inspirational figure that has guided or influenced you?

I grew up in a beauty-centric household surrounded by women who loved their self-care. Much of my inspiration and vision for our business stems from how I grew up and the experiences I had in Colombia. I have always been motivated by the women around me and I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that we have without our strong female team.

What were some hurdles you had to overcome in the early days of the business?

We’re a relatively young business, in fact, last fall was our tenth anniversary, and we’ve faced challenges at every stage. When we first started, formulating high-tech, ingredient-packed products with exclusively natural ingredients was a challenge. Then, once we launched our first products, the challenge we faced was overcoming this old misconception that naturals weren’t effective. Now, as we continue to grow and are more focused on international expansion, we’re facing new challenges that come with scaling a vertically integrated business.

What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned?

From the inception of the company, I have been unwilling to compromise or take shortcuts. If I had chosen to take the easy route or was willing to take ‘no’ for an answer, Tata Harper Skincare would not be what it is today. I am always striving for the best, most innovative solution to the problem, and I won’t settle for a lesser answer. I have also learned to always think about doing something that helps people live better lives, and about my work as a contribution to make the world a better place; to always seek answers and be curious and care about bettering the lives of others with what I make.

The best advice you’ve ever received…

My mom taught me beauty is not a chore, it’s about self-care. Even as a busy mom and juggling a million things, it’s important to always try to have some time for myself. It helps me to reconnect and slow down, so I am ready for whatever the day brings. While it might be hard to carve out some time, I always try to do at least one thing a day that I love – whether it’s a meditation, short walk, or even just unplugging from technology for a few minutes.

What are some of your favourite products or what would you recommend someone try if they are unfamiliar with the brand?

I think the best place to start is with the products you use daily, whichever they are. Make the commitment to yourself that you want to do better for yourself and make smart decisions, and everything else will fall into place. You don’t have to do everything at once; take your time finding the best things for you. It all really starts by making the personal commitment to yourself that you want to improve your quality of life and want to live better and buy products that encourage that. Getting into natural products, you should take baby steps and consider swapping out one product at a time until your entire regimen is cleaned up.

If you’re totally new to the brand, I recommend people try are cleansers and masks and one of our fan favourites is the Glow Getter routine.

What are you working on right now?

I am very excited about the launch of Superkind, a new collection that I’ve been working with my team for more than two years. This is going to be a game changer for reactive skin. What we do is already difficult,  but the engineering of Superkind was so much harder! With Superkind we had to add even more formulation requirements to how we work. We had to now meet all our green beauty standards, plus the line needed to be completely hypoallergenic. We wanted to be super comprehensive to minimise the chances of people being in touch with any potential stressors. So, all together, we excluded more than 80 of the most common skin triggers, like: soy, wheat, nuts, fragrances, and many more.

What’s next for the company?

We’re always looking for the newest, most innovative green technology out there, and the most powerful ingredients available. With the launch of Superkind we discovered 36 new unique high-performance ingredients from 13 countries including Chile, Peru, Mexico, India, Burkina Faso, and Japan. Our formulations for this collection feature a lot of new green technology to provide anti-aging benefits, barrier reinforcement, allergen microfilters, etc. It’s been meticulously curated for reactive skin.

Also, sustainability has always been a top priority for me. Sustainability is a work in progress. I feel the future of sustainability for us is to end single-use products and I am proud to say that we have launched our first refillable product, the Water-Lock Moisturiser. Right now, we’re working on developing product refills for our entire product line to minimise consumer waste and extend the lifespan of our packaging. Even though we’ve always been eco-friendly, there’s always opportunity to do more and we are constantly working towards revolutionising our efforts.

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