Sylvie Chantecaille is a modern Renaissance woman. The art-collector-turned-cosmetics pioneer is known for balancing the latest science and technology with natural, holistic ingredients in her award-winning luxury cosmetics, skincare, and fragrance brand, Chantecaille, which has continued to set new standards for modern luxury in its 20 years.
The accidental beauty mogul grew up in a family of art collectors in Paris and spent her life preparing to follow suit, until destiny finally arrived once she moved to New York in the ’70s. Chantecaille began working with fellow ex-pat and friend Diane Von Furstenberg on a chic cosmetics line that caught the attention of the iconic Estée Lauder. Lauder quickly recognized Chantecaille’s talent and interest in the latest technology to improve upon cosmetics and helped the budding beauty maven launch her first line under the Estée Lauder name, which became one of the brand’s best-selling offerings.
Inspired by her passion for the natural, holistic side of cosmetics, Chantecaille ventured out on her own in 1997, beginning with a fragrance collection—and the rest is history. Today, her award-winning brand and formulas have pioneered the realm of sustainable luxury beauty and contributed to a wide variety of philanthropic efforts close to the founder’s heart, particularly in support of wildlife and the environment. And her latest launch, the Butterfly Collection, out this week, is inspired by the very creatures who bring her so much joy by finding their way into her garden, especially in these isolating times.
“Spending time with my garden and in our yard all the time, surrounded by nature, I reflected quite a lot on the earth,” says Chantecaille. “Butterflies are quite important, now more than ever considering their drastic decline. Pollinators are crucial to the life cycle—one of every three bites of food on our plates is because of pollinators—and we can’t afford to lose them. With the recent fires and pressure on the food system during the pandemic, this risk has been heightened.”
Chantecaille’s Butterfly Collection not only features beautiful images of Cephus Blue Ringlet butterflies, among others, on the labeling, but it also helps to create and preserve a healthy environment for pollinators. The brand has purchased 40 acres of a pollinator habitat through Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and the Lip Chic shades are inspired by and named for flowers that pollinators love.
“Over the years, our yard has slowly become smaller as my gardens have grown and I find new spots for flowers and plants to thrive,” she says. “But I know I am doing something right because butterflies visit us. Seven years ago, I planted a pollinator’s garden with plants that butterflies and bees are known to love. They are very busy now. I think my garden is listed on their travel map as ‘must-stop at the Chantecaille casa.’ “
Gardening is another of Chantecaille’s many passions, something instilled in her at a young age by her mother. It’s now a shared bond with her daughter, and she recently helped her plant 1,000 daffodils at her new home, considering it one of the most joyful moments in recent times.
“I love colors, flowers, being outside in the fresh air, and I love the earth,” Chantecaille says. “It makes me happy, it relaxes me, and makes me feel grounded to the earth and my soul. When I work too much—which is often—and get too much into my head. I have to go into the garden and put my hands in the dirt. It helps!”
While gardening proved much different in New York than in France and Chantecaille had to re-educate herself on what plants would work in the soil each season—even change the way she planted—the beauty mogul has been cultivating her Hamptons gardens more than 20 years, which she says continue to expand as she actively adds to and changes her gardens.
“I work on it constantly—all the time—because it changes all the time,” she says. “I have become very bold with my choices, and I have learned to always plant far more of something than you’d think, just massive groups of the same types of flowers. Not everything survives, which you have to realize is part of life. So when I am planting delphiniums, I go big. I plant tons.”
Some of Chantecaille’s other favorite plants to cultivate include floxes, irises, tulips, and lilies. She has a special affinity for Abyssinian lily right now. She loves to plant those right behind her terrace for their gorgeous aromas and delicate white flowers that last through the summer and into the fall. And when it comes to her must-have gardening tools, she is obsessed with the gloves from Prince Charles’s Highgrove Gardens shop, and like any beauty maven, swears by a good hat and plenty of SPF.
“An unexpected joy I found during this last year was watching my garden change—and the entire earth changed, too,” Chantecaille says. “At home, I had never been in one place so long, so I was really able to see everything grow and change. It was so inspiring. And the earth bounced back beautifully, air and water were suddenly cleaner. The time we spent at home has had a positive effect on our earth. This has been incredibly inspiring to me.”
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