As her eponymous natural skincare line celebrates its tenth anniversary, we step inside the world of Tata Harper
Enter any high-end beauty hall and the vibrant green glass flacons and gold detailing of Tata Harper is instantly recognisable. Reminiscent of the 1,200-acre organic farm from which they originate, the award-winning products represent a natural beauty movement pioneered by their namesake founder. A CEO, mother, farmer and clean beauty crusader, 44-year-old Tata Harper has revolutionised what luxury and clean skincare means. On the surface they are sensorially beautiful products, at their heart they are high-quality and effective formulations, with a foundation that doesn’t compromise the health of planet Earth.
Growing up in Barranquilla in the north of Colombia, Harper was surrounded by an abundance of Latin culture. “I grew up immersed in a household of women that loved beauty – we’re a total of 35 cousins, and 20 of those are women – so there was a dedication to self-care,” she reminisces. These women took time for beauty every day. Her mother and grandmother would host spa parties for family and friends and on the weekends the budding entrepreneur would help them prepare treatments that had been passed down for generations – from DIY face- and hair masks to body scrubs. They worked with local ingredients, whether plucked from the earth surrounding them or produce such as avocados, lemons and hone y bought fresh from the store. Becoming a beauty entrepreneur wasn’t always on Harper’s radar. Having studied industrial engineering at school, it wasn’t until her stepfather was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 that she switched paths. “Through helping him change his lifestyle I started to examine everything I was putting into and onto my body,” she explains. This started with food and soon led to skincare. “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.”
Harper moved to a farm in Vermont with Henry, her former husband who still remains Co-CEO of Tata Harper, in 2007. Its acres of rolling green fields and flourishing meadows offered the perfect base for her to launch her brand. Not just launch, but grow some of the formulations’ key ingredients, such as arnica, calendula flower and elderberry, alongside the various outhouses accommodating production. Over a decade later and the farm is now home to Harper’s three children, Hunter, 12, Grace, 10, and Mia, eight, and a host of rescue dogs, cats, horses, cows, chickens and ducks Harper has always represented her customer. “When I created the line, I knew what I was looking for when it came to performance, experience and safety, and I knew what other women would want too,” she says. It was a huge benefit, especially at the beginning of the brand’s inception when clean beauty wasn’t held in the high regard it is today. “Once we launched our first products, the challenge we faced was overcoming this old misconception that naturals weren’t effective,” remembers Harper. Consumers weren’t as clued up on the controversial ingredients like parabens and synthetic fragrances, present in so many of the world’s most sought-after skincare products.
According to the NPD Group, a market research company based in North America, the clean beauty sector grew by 42 per cent from 2017 to 2018. Its projected global sales are set to be $22 billion by 2024. What’s important to note is that the industry still doesn’t have a universal definition or list of ‘unclean’ ingredients. Companies joining the trend are also guilty of greenwashing their products with words such as ‘eco’, ‘natural’ and ‘green’ taking advantage of the movement. But at Tata Harper, every single formula is entirely natural and non-toxic. “No one should have to sacrifice their health for their beauty,” she notes. This means every ingredient comes from nature. “Some people still feel that all-natural products don’t work! That’s not the case, they can even be more effective than synthetics since they are biocompatible with your skin,” she asserts. “In many cases, synthetic ingredients are cheaper, more predictable versions of natural ingredients and are created in labs to simplify the manufacturing process.”
Sourcing only the highest quality ingredients and working with the most innovative natural technology available, Harper and her team ensure their formulations are as effective as possible. Take the brand’s iconic Elixir Vitae 2.0; packed with 72 active ingredients, this multi-targeted formulation features neurotransmitter peptides that offer an injectable effect, which helps energise cells and trigger the skin to act younger. “We’re green beauty, beyond clean and more than natural,” she says, adding, “What we do doesn’t fit into one category because we do it all on our farm under one roof, from formulating, to packaging, to shipping.” This isn’t easy. “When we first started, formulating high-tech, ingredient-packed products with exclusively natural ingredients was a challenge,” Harper says. Working with her in-house team on every step of the process, Harper oversees everything from conceptualisation to formulation to packaging. This is where her academic foundation comes into play. “My engineering background gives me an easy understanding of the language of science, so I understand formulations and ingredients,” she says. It has also helped in achieving eco-friendly packaging without losing its air of luxury. The glass bottles, jars and bio-plastic tubes arrive in sustainable bamboo-fibre boxes that have been embossed with soy ink. All are recyclable. Harper’s key to luxury skincare? Freshness. “So many brands outsource their formulation, or various aspects of their processes and products are months old by the time the customer actually gets it,” she says. Tata Harper ensures its formulations are fresh by being vertically integrated and doing everything themselves. “We only make exactly the amount of product that we need so that it stays as potent and as fresh as possible,” says Harper.
Education is also paramount. “We create products that are better for people and the planet,” says Harper. With much of the business moving from retail to the heaving space online due to the pandemic, this has become more important than ever. “We are working to make the experience as seamless and informative as possible on our own website so our customers don’t lose the personal connection or the mission behind our brand,” she says. This mission is simple: To help their clients live happier and healthier lives. “I believe that health should always come first and I try to use non-toxic and [man-made] chemical-free products whenever I can,” she explains. Skincare is just one piece of this puzzle. “It’s important to take a holistic approach to wellness with exercise, a consistent sleep schedule, and a healthy diet. I am always trying to find new ways to live a healthier and more sustainable life and I am constantly learning from my customers, my team, or friends,” she adds.
Where will Tata Harper be in another 10 years? “We will continue our mission to improve the lives of others, educating the public on toxic chemicals, and working towards our goal of being 100 per cent sustainable,” she explains. Already well on its way to achieving this goal, the brand has just launched its first refillable product, the Water-Lock Moisturizer. “We’ve been working on refills behind the scenes for a while now,” beams Harper. Quick in its footsteps will be the brand’s bestsellers and eventually the entire product range. “I hope that this is something that other beauty brands begin to adopt, because it is so crucial in reducing the industry’s environmental footprint,” concludes Tata Harper. It’s a sentiment we all share. Shop Tata Harper at tataharperskincare.com
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- Words by Alexandra Venison