Ellis Brooklyn a beauty line inspired by Drew Barrymore. (Photo: Jurate Veceraite for Ellis Brooklyn)
It’s possible that beauty editors test more products than chemists on a regular basis, so they’re good at plucking out the effective, quality products from the BS. Bee Shapiro, the New York Times beauty columnist and contributor to outlets like Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour, InStyle, and Yahoo Beauty, spends much of her time as a beauty guinea pig, slathering on creams, oils, and serums and reviewing the very best. But one day on the job, while interviewing Drew Barrymore about her beauty line, Flower, Shapiro decided to flip the tables and go from product tester to product creator.
“[Barrymore] said acting isn’t something you can pass on to your kids, whereas a company is something your daughter could grow up in,” Shapiro tells Yahoo Beauty. “It’s the same way with writing. You could be the most lauded writer in the world, but you wouldn’t be able to pass on what you’ve done to your children. They could only inherit money from your work, but never have the opportunity to be involved.”
Newly pregnant with her daughter Ellis, Shapiro began paying more attention to the products she was using and discovered a void in the beauty industry: Luxury body products with safe, natural ingredients. “I loved the Diptyque, Tom Ford, and Jo Malone scents, but the body care formulations were far from natural,” says Shapiro. “Meanwhile, all the naturals lines out there smelled the same — the same ol’ rose, neroli, or lavender oils. I thought I could marry the two. Why couldn’t we have the best of both worlds?”
Concerned for her own health and the baby girl growing inside her, Shapiro enlisted the talents of Jerome Epinette, a perfumer who has worked on Byredo scents, and a formulator well-versed in natural products in upstate New York who also started her own business while pregnant. The result: Two fragranced body milks, which are non-greasy and soak in immediately for a velvety finish. Both are 98 percent natural, paraben-free, and phthalates-free — the latter of which Shapiro says is the hardest nut to crack in the luxury fragrance market. The packaging is recycled and made of lead-free glass. Shapiro says working with sustainable companies seriously invested in their products is a top priority.
Coming up with a brand name was a no-brainer: Ellis Brooklyn, named after her daughter. But naming the dual skin care products was tougher. “I wanted to make the project personal — there are so many products out there as it is — so all the scents and their names are inspired by literature, poetry or simply writing devices that I use everyday.” Shapiro described Verb as “a scent to spur one into action.” This translates to a stimulating blend of mandarin, bergamot, and basil rooted with soothing notes of musk. Pseudonym is, of course, a mysterious fragrance, which opens with crisp notes of Capri fig and develops into a mixture of jasmine, pepper, and sandalwood that the founder calls seductive. The scent was inspired by the D.H. Lawrence poem “Figs.”
“This was a need I saw in the market—something that wasn’t on the shelves,” says Shapiro. But now it is. Ellis Brooklyn is currently available in-store and online at Shen Beauty in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn with the body milks selling for $55 each. The line is coming to San Francisco-based Ayla Beauty mid-month and will be launching on Net-a-Porter.com this Fall. Shapiro says two new scents and a new category are on tap for the fall/winter season. If you’re a fan of luxurious beauty products, natural products, smelling delectable, or perhaps just seeking inspiration for your own big idea, we suggest picking up a bottle.