This is an episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast, which features candid conversations about how today’s trends are shaping the future of the beauty and wellness industries. More from the series →
Before the term “clean beauty” was coined, brands were making notable strides in the space. One of those was Pacficia Beauty, a 100% vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand founded in 1996 by Brook Harvey-Taylor and her then-partner-now-husband Billy Taylor. The brand, which is currently based in Portland, Oregon, is partly a love letter to Harvey-Taylor’s childhood, she said. She grew up on a ranch in Montana where she was first introduced to the world of clean, cruelty-free beauty.
“[Pacifica] is a beauty company based on the strong beliefs that animals, humans and the planet should be treated with compassion and that fearlessness is our greatest natural resource,” Harvey-Taylor said on the Glossy Beauty Podcast. “We use this brand to make a difference in the world, and we work tirelessly to do that. I’m proud that this has been my trajectory in the beauty industry and my contribution. I’ve always had a very clear position on accessibility, fairness and justice.”
Through the brand’s progressive stances on sustainability, environmentally-friendly packaging and what Harvey-Taylor describes as “compassionism,” Pacifica Beauty has been able to resonate with a diverse group of consumers, which has led to its longevity in the beauty industry. Now, Pacficia Beauty is looking to the future after a recent investment from private equity firm Brentwood Associates in 2022 and a newly focused business plan, which includes more innovative products and a prioritization of safe, accessible beauty.
On this week’s episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast, Harvey-Taylor talks about how Pacifica has been able to stay true to its core values while evolving and growing in the ever-changing beauty industry.
The excerpts below have been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Approaching sustainability with intention
“For us, sustainability isn’t about marketing. It’s about making true, measurable changes, benchmarking where we are today and making goals for the future. We use the word ‘compassionism’ at Pacifica a lot because, for us, it defines compassion and action. Our core value is compassion for humans, animals and the planet — always has been — and we see everything we do through this lens. The biggest issue we face right now as humans is climate change. Climate change affects women disproportionately to men. According to the U.N., gender inequality coupled with the climate crisis is one of the great challenges of our time, and I’m not alone in that. It threatens the livelihoods, health, safety and security of women and girls around the world. … As an industry whose largest consumer is women, this should always be top of mind for brands. We need to reframe the conversation and talk about this in terms of accountability. Being a brand isn’t sustainable. There’s not one magical thing we can do to change this, but we can take measurable accountability along chains of actions, from our supply chains to supporting the communities we serve. It’s imperative that we collaborate as brands. … We have a lot more power when we combine our efforts and we’re not just in competition, but we’re really in the mindset of, ‘How do we move things forward collectively? And how do we make meaningful changes, rather than criticize one another?’ … The reality is the more we decide to hold hands and move forward together to combat the climate crisis — and there are a lot of ways to do that — the better the entire planet is going to be and our brands are going to be better for it. … For us, sustainability is really about partnering with other brands in our industry or our suppliers or thinking about how we move packaging forward.”
The next phase of clean beauty
“[Clean beauty] is going in a lot of directions. One of the exciting things about this category is that retailers like Ulta Beauty, with their conscious beauty movement — where I’m honored to sit on the Advisory Council — are really taking a stand on issues like packaging and social engagement. They’re moving the category forward and not just talking about ingredients. Brands will start to focus on other things besides ingredients as part of their positioning. For us, we’ve never just been about ingredients. We’ve always seen ourselves as a protest to redefine not just beauty norms but also how we do beauty, how we live beauty and how we serve our consumers. When we started Pacifica, we set out to change the fundamental way we think about beauty. Beauty shouldn’t be defined by what white hetero, patriarchal masculinity defines as beautiful — it should be defined by unstructured freedom, by joy and by celebration. And it should be transformative, but it should also serve the consumer. This is a big point of difference for us and a lot of brands. [Clean beauty] should serve the consumer with good, quality ingredients, and it should serve the planet and animals at the same time. That’s part of our compassion positioning, as well.”
Choosing the right partners to help grow your brand
“If I can give any advice on working with a private equity firm, [it’d be to] find a private equity firm that aligns with your values and that is in alignment with where you want to go as a brand. Those are really important things because I’m always surprised to hear when fellow founders or executives talk to me about the fact that they’re not aligned with their private equity group. It’s so important to get clear on that before you even sign up together. It’s not always about evaluation and it’s not always about how much money you’re going to get — because, at the end of the day, making sure that when the chips are down you can get through the hard times together is key. That’s one of the things that I’m excited about with [our new minority investor] Brentwood Associates. They were aligned, and we have the same goals, and we know what we have to work on together. Where they’ve really leaned in with us, and where we needed help, was in operational excellence. I don’t know if people know that we had our own factory up until the beginning of 2020. We had to change to a different business model as a brand, and that was very difficult. Brentwood was there to help us get through the transition. They brought in a really amazing partner to help us go through a 3PL [third-party logistics] transition. … Having that partner who can see around the corner and who’s been there before and who’s helped other brands is what I was looking for, and it’s what we got. It’s been an amazing partnership so far.”