Posted on: May 02, 2018 News

Vogue | More to feel good about: Fully compostable post-consumer cardboard—mixed with chalk, a natural antimicrobial—makes up Seed’s water-resistant packaging.

(This article first appeared in Vogue on April 30, 2018)
By Laura Regensdorf

Four floors above the sluggish crawl of Manhattan traffic, a bucolic scene is playing out across a sunlit conference room. Vintage gardening books and trowels fill a weathered bookshelf; burlap yardage topped with potted herbs and jars of tiny black seeds disguises a corporate table. The uniform isn’t so much suit and tie as it is plaid shirt, work boots, and two-day scruff. It’s enough to make a visitor in kitten-heel tuxedo shoes wonder if she’s overdressed.

“When you see me on my farm, this is me!” says Shane Wolf, a global general manager in L’Oréal’s hair-care division, explaining that his agrarian getup is not for show. Raised in rural Kansas, Wolf now shares a 10-acre plot near Doylestown, Pennsylvania, with his partner and a menagerie of “homeless, forlorn animals: horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, you name it.” The fact that he oversees a multimillion-dollar portfolio including Redken and Pureology is a testament to his ability to toggle between commerce and country life. It’s also what helped the 46-year-old persuade the Paris-based beauty titan to invest in a sustainability-focused line that brings Wolf’s farm-born ethos to the big leagues.

This month, L’Oréal launches its first internally incubated niche brand: Seed Phytonutrients. At the heart of this 16-piece range for hair, face, and body are two cold-pressed organic oils—sunflower and camelina—chosen for their storehouses of antioxidants and resilience in the field. In a nod to the know-your-farmer movement, Seed has teamed up with a network of family-run businesses, such as Barefoot Botanicals, whose herbalist founder, Linda Shanahan, harvests vitamin E–rich sunflower seeds not far from Wolf ’s eight-person office in Doylestown. Direct sourcing means not only quality control—key when it comes to extracting oils—but also meaningful support: With L’Oréal’s backing, Seed fronts the payment for each harvest, freeing up day-to-day operations.

This mom-and-pop model is redefining the relationship between small-batch makers and the mammoth beauty industry. “If I can trust the people behind the products, then I can feel good about the products,” Shanahan says. More to feel good about: Fully compostable post-consumer cardboard—mixed with chalk, a natural antimicrobial—makes up Seed’s water-resistant packaging. (The bottles are fitted with recyclable plastic liners and airless pumps to stabilize the food-grade preservatives.) Should minimalist-design snobs raise eyebrows, Wolf has a quick rejoinder: “The aesthetic pitch is ‘If you care,’ ” he says, underscoring sustainability as the next hurdle for green cosmetics.

But can a beauty line spark a renewed connection to nature, at the household level and the global one? Wolf and his team hope so. “I didn’t want to just launch a brand,” he says. “I wanted to launch a movement.”

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