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  • Writer's picturePatrick Cabasset

Elodie Carpentier campaigns for plant-based colourings with Le Rouge Français,

She describes herself as “a mother and an entrepreneur”, an initial challenge that

masks a whole host of others that lie beneath the surface for Elodie Carpentier, co-

founder of vegan bio-cosmetics firm Le Rouge Français. This green tech company

could really serve as an example in the creation of new and responsible companies,

where fashion and beauty share the same objectives.

Elodie Carpentier creates vegan cosmetics for Le Rouge Français

As an engineer in Biotechnology (Polytech Marseille 2009) and with a Master’s

degree in Business and Management (Kedge Business School 2009), Elodie

Carpentier certainly likes to take on two challenges at once, and she seems to have

more fight in her now than ever, as she awaits the arrival of her second child.

Between interviews, collaborations, runway show sponsorships (her brand really

shone at the recent Rahul Mishka Haute Couture show) and speaking engagements

at universities (recently to INSEEC Master’s students) she never stops,

her positive, supportive and militant discourse demonstrating that a company can

indeed progress within the luxury sector while maintaining strong environmental


As a pioneer in plant-based colouring, the cosmetics industry is ahead of fashion in

this respect, but Le Rouge Français does share the objective of young fashion

designers when it comes to exceeding the standards of the organic sector while

embracing the codes of desirability that the luxury sphere demands. This philosophy

has also recently won over archetypal perfect Parisian Inès de la Fressange, who

has fallen under the spell of Le Rouge Français’s “products with health-promoting

colour properties”.

Over 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry and the arrival of her first daughter

have led Elodie Carpentier to focus on products that require no compromise in terms

of her own health or that of her child. She and husband Salem Ghezaili created Le

Rouge Français, the first make-up company specialising in plant-based pigmentation,

in 2019.

When biotechnology has poetic results. Video, Le Rouge Français.

Planet ESMOD: What was the trigger for you creating Le Rouge Français?

Elodie Carpentier: I was fascinated by plant-based colour! It’s an alternative to

current cosmetics which are 99% based on unsustainable and controversial

petrochemical pigments, and the remaining 1% comes from unsustainable and

unethical mineral extraction. Bioethics being the only alternative, that’s where I turned

my attentions.

P. E.: What are the brand’s core products?

E. C.: I started by looking at what could be achieved with colour from dye plants,

which have both colouring properties and health benefits. I did some research,

performed some tests and took some trips to Sri Lanka, among other places, to get to

know them better, and this gave me the opportunity to learn about the ancestral

cultures linked to these plants and the populations who live off them. Back in France,

I discovered madder, which is linked to a historical know-how that has been lost due

to industrialisation. But in the 18th century, we were the leading exporter of madder,

a red dye used even by Cleopatra.

P. E.: Isn’t it difficult to obtain natural plant-based dyes these days, though? In

fashion, for example, it’s not possible to industrialise natural indigo at a

reasonable cost.

E. C.: Yes, unlike fashion, you only need a very small percentage in a cosmetic

product to get the colour. The main ingredients are waxes, oils and butters, but

nothing is set in stone, and it should be feasible in fashion too; we just need to adapt

the processes, which is why we’ve invested upstream in colour extraction. We

intervene from the field to the finished product, we don’t just patent formulas. I have

my own in-house laboratory, a CIFRE (Industrial Convention on Training through

Research) thesis and several research projects on the go, because you have to find

the right process in order to get the results. Furthermore, fields of plants sequester

carbon, so they are good for the planet, too.

Fashion and cosmetics are never far away in this respect, sharing the same goals for a better planet!

P. E.: All this has a cost, so how do you pass this on in your prices?

E. C.: This is why we are positioned in the premium luxury price range. We don’t do

‘fast beauty’, which is harmful to the environment. It’s a choice. The quality of our

biobased ingredients respects the ancestral cultures they come from, as well as the

flora and fauna involved. It’s a virtuous model where the final price is inevitably not

suitable for mass distribution. For now, at least.

P. E.: How did ESMOD help you? And do you have any other plans afoot with

the school?

E. C.: At first, we collaborated on the image side of things, like the styling of the

models for our photo shoots. I also showcased some young ESMOD designers with

an interest in eco-friendliness at the Vogue X Sofitel Festival where Le Rouge

Français was exhibiting. In the future, we could well see the emergence of a specific

‘plant-based colour’ branch of the fashion world, while also making students aware of

these alternatives to chemical dyes using plants, mushrooms, etc. In short,

everything that biotechnologies can bring to fashion.

P. E.: Are your products also vegan?

E. C.: Yes, I’ve been named Entrepreneur of the Year by PETA (People for the

Ethical Treatment of Animals) because all our products are 100% vegan— they have

no animal products or by-products.

P. E.: How can fashion and cosmetics work together to ensure a better future

for both industries?

E. C.: Innovations applied in cosmetics can also be applied in the fashion industry.

First of all, plant-based colour can be applied to various materials, including

aeronautics, cars, eyewear and of course textiles. There’s a clear synergy here that

promotes a more sustainable fashion. And who’s to say there won’t, in the future, be

an exclusive collaboration between Le Rouge Français and a creative brand that

would focus entirely on plant-based colour, although the value chain would

admittedly have to be broadened in order to achieve this. Don't be afraid to integrate

the entire chain, from the field right through to distribution. It won’t be easy, but it can

be done.

At Le Rouge Français, even the packaging is biobased

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