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Q&A: Aesop's Suzanne Santos on the New Rockwell Store, Sustainability, and More

The chief customer officer has been responsible for keeping Aesop's signature retail experience consistent for more than 30 years.
IMAGE COURTESY
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Every Aesop store has interesting design details unique to each location, but what stays the same in every outpost is the retail experience—starting with that signature Aesop scent that wafts through when you enter that leads to in-depth conversations about skincare concerns with the in-store consultants.

Suzanne Santos, the brand's chief customer officer, is the person responsible for keeping that experience consistent for more than 30 years. Santos has been there since the beginning of the Australian skincare brand, and has been involved throughout the company's evolution. She oversees the brand's introduction to new places, and closely works with consultants to maintain standards.

We caught up with Santos to talk about all things Aesop, from the brand's slow skincare philosophy to its approach to sustainability and unique retail experience.

Esquire Philippines: In line with Aesop's slow skincare philosophy—can you give us more insight on its commitment to unhurried innovation? How does this set the brand apart amid the rapidly changing beauty industry?

Suzanne Santos: Aesop's approach to skincare has long been at odds with category norms. Within the wider beauty industry, I have often seen a focus on quick-fix solutions and aesthetic benefits, meanwhile, our philosophy focuses on the health of the skin. We place much emphasis on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, in addition to those of a well-considered facial regimen that includes careful cleansing, toning, and appropriate hydration. Our skin protects us, and in turn, we must protect and nurture it, to keep it in optimal condition.

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While we have always encouraged our customers to use each product with a sense of purpose, caring for and protecting the skin need not be complicated nor fussy. There is so much pleasure to be found in those moments of self-care—we are prompted to be reflective, increasing our attunement to the needs of our bodies and skin, and bring patience, purpose, and dedication to our routine.

What was the process in creating the Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Intense Serum and how can customers benefit from adding this to their regimen?

Our first serum from the Parsley Seed range, launched in 2007, was world renowned for its sophisticated texture, anti-oxidant benefits, and ability to be rapidly absorbed into the skin.

The launch of Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Intense Serum in 2021 presented an opportunity to re-evaluate the benefits offered by the original formula and determine whether advances could be made. With increased awareness of the influence of our environment and how this may impact skin health, we identified an opportunity to build in additional layers of efficacy to support and complement the product's anti-oxidant benefits.

It is a fortifying daily-use hydrating serum suited to most skin types. Imparting a lightweight and breathable anti-oxidant film on the skin—imperceptibly guarding against airborne particulates—Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Intense Serum is ideal for city dwellers and those seeking an alternative to cream or oil-based moisturizers.

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How does Aesop's ethos of sustainability guide its product development and packaging processes?

As a company founded on steadfast ethics, our purpose has always been to tread as lightly as we can, with an unwavering commitment to excellence and sustainability across ideas and formulas. We actively seek to understand social, economic, and environmental risks and impacts in our processes and take steps to minimize them. This is not without challenge, but we are continuously improving our practices with integrity and transparency.

All of our formulations are vegan, and our Ethical Sourcing Programme aims to ensure that our suppliers use environmentally responsible processes, have safe working conditions, and treat workers with dignity.

Glass has always been the preferred material for Aesop jars and bottles as it can easily be recycled—and we do use glass packaging made from recycled content wherever possible. Our plastic bottles, meanwhile, are made using a minimum of 97 percent recycled material. In partnering with our suppliers, we have helped create value for material that would otherwise go to landfill, which in turn helps to create circular systems.

Aesop Rockwell
Photo by COURTESY.
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Aesop recently launched a store in Rockwell. Aside from its locally-inspired design, how are the formulations tailored to Filipinos and their skin needs?

We look to optimize and support the skin's health—regardless of a customer's age, gender, or geographical location—emphasizing the benefits of a healthy lifestyle as well as effective care regimens. The idea is to launch fewer but better products, to focus on creating timeless formulations that serve a genuine purpose rather than create an artificial need—or, worse, prey on customers' insecurities.

We know that our Filipino customers are sophisticated thinkers—they understand our culture, our approach to skincare, and of the significance of every touch. These concepts have always harmonized with our customers in the Philippines, and our customers here have already demonstrated an extraordinary loyalty to our skincare.

In terms of specific products, what I would advise to anyone living in a climate like the Philippines is recognize the contrasts that your skin faces on a daily basis, and find products that help to support the skin in such environments. By this I mean the air-conditioned spaces indoors, and, by contrast, the warmth and humidity outdoors. I would highly recommend our 'In Two Minds' collection—we developed this small but effective skincare range a few years ago, specifically for people living in this humid kind of environment. These three products—cleanser, toner, and hydrator—provide exceptional support to the skin in such conditions.

How would you describe Aesop's in-store and retail experience?

Delivering exceptional service to our customers has been at the heart of Aesop since our inception 35 years ago. The experience within any of our stores is never simply transactional: it is also educational, prescriptive, and sensorial.

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We host our customers in calm, warm, comforting spaces that look, feel and smell good—each store is a restorative haven of visual harmony where they can sit and have some tea if they wish, and explore formulations with us. We have a meaningful conversation to understand their concerns, skin type, environment, and preferred textures, then demonstrate each product at the sink so customers may experience how it feels on their skin. This has become the ritualistic hallmark of the Aesop consultation.

We host customers much as we would a guest in our own homes. We anticipate long-term relationships with them, in which we continue to meet their needs as their skin changes over time. It is our heartfelt belief that the experience of being a customer can and should be so much more than an emotionless exchange.

Suzanne Santos
Photo by COURTESY.

On that note, is there anything that we should look forward to in the future?

Aesop plans to release a number of innovative new products over the next twelve months. We look forward to sharing details as each is launched.

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We will continue to expand our in-house Research and Development team to formulate high-quality products in response to our customers' needs, while continuing our research into the latest, highest-performing ingredients and packaging materials—all with a keen eye on incorporating circular principles into our product cycles.

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Paolo Chua
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Paolo Chua is the Associate Style Editor at Esquire Philippines, where he writes about fashion and grooming. Before joining Esquire Philippines, he was a writer at Town & Country Philippines.
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