How do you create a successful skincare brand that marries two different skincare cultures and philosophies? Charlotte Cho, EIC of The Klog, went straight to Katalin Berenyi, the cofounder of Erborian, to hear about her inspiration behind the successful Korean-French fusion brand before Korean cosmetics became mainstream in the West.
CC: What was the inspiration behind starting Erborian with Hojung?
KB: I travel a lot and personally I fell in love with Korea the first time during my travels. However I understood the incredible richness of this country only a bit later, when I had the chance to work with Korea as International Marketing executive for a big cosmetics group. From Hojung’s side it was of course the love of her country and the wish to share. We both felt that there is a beautiful treasure we need to speak about, as much in terms of magical Korean medicinal ingredients, as well as formula innovation, which is very strong in Korea.
CC: How would you personally describe the brand philosophy?
KB: Erborian is a fusion brand between France and Korea. We are inspired by the best of France and Korea to bring to life our unique modern and high-tech products, while keeping the best traditions in beauty: all our products are based on Korean medicinal science in terms of ingredients, making wonders on fresh complexion, we use the latest Korean technologies to elaborate our high tech formulas and we bring in the French luxury and safety to obtain truly high-performing cosmetics.
CC: What French elements are found in Erborian products? What Korean elements?
KB: Since the beginnings of the brand our headquarter is based in Paris to work on a truly international cosmetics line. Our strategic decisions in terms of business, product assortment and design/merchandising are made in Paris. In Seoul, we focus on the formulation, to work with the best proven actives and high-tech technologies available in Korea. Having said that, many elements in Erborian are interrelated, for example I love using Korean colors and Korean type of packagings and I can also add some French ingredients if this is best for the product.
CC: I love the fragrance of the Solid Cleansing Oil. Tell me more about the fragrance that is found in this product.
KB: Absolutely! France is the country of fragrance and it seemed to me very important that we offer this cultural heritage within Erborian. For this reason we work with the best fragrance companies in the South of France and we elaborate very sophisticated and personalized fragrances to maximize the appreciation of our products.
CC: While you are based in France, how often do you go to Korea? Where do you visit and what usually inspires you when you go to Korea.
KB: I love going to Korea, Hojung has sometimes even joked about how Korean I am, when I am not in France! I try to go several times a year and I always take some time to experience new aspects of the country. I love digging into the habits, the rituals, women’s life, the professional, natural or personal side of the incredibly rich Korean culture. I also spend a lot of times in the stores and of course with our laboratory in Seoul. I am often inspired by the streets, what I see, what I hear and what I feel on my skin, and the experience is different each time in Korea, the change is so quick!
CC: Your BB Creme Au Ginseng is the best selling BB Cream in France. What is unique about this BB cream?
KB: When we decided to launch the BB Crème in France, our objective was to develop a more modern, a bit “Frenchie” BB Crème, with a lot of transparence, luminosity and natural finish. French women are very strong to reproduce this “je-ne-sais-quoi” effect: their makeup seems natural, while they are very sophisticated. Women find this same effect with our BB and CC Crèmes, the complexion looks beautiful, in a secret, imperceptible way, as French women can do makeup. Our BB Crème is voted “Best BB Cream” since years and our CC Crème is an absolute bestseller in our main distribution channels.
CC: What’s the difference between French skincare and Korean skincare philosophies?
KB: From my point of view Korean skincare is one of the most sophisticated in the world, with a high level of hierarchy and order to obtain the best result. Layering is a way of life and there is always a specific way of working through skincare which commands a high level of expertise. In France we love the “easy” skincare, which is never “simple”, but actually quite sophisticated, in a simplified way. We love using multitasking products, we like quick results and non-visible, still sophisticated result. Coco Chanel has said once, “Notice the woman, not the dress,” and this is the same for skincare and makeup in France!
CC: I love matcha! What was the inspiration behind the Perfect Morning BB Mask? It does get a little messy during use because it’s a powder. Do you have any personal tips on how to use it?
KB: I love matcha too, especially since I have discovered the incredible antioxidant and cleansing properties of the freshly grinded green tea powder. This was one of the most difficult product to formulate and indeed we had to keep the powder form, if we wanted to keep this unique effectiveness. I love using it on weekends with our Herbal Energy Mist, but a good quality water is great too: I spray some water on my hands, pour the Matcha powder in it, rub them together for a few seconds to obtain a paste-like texture and apply it on my skin for 30 seconds or more. I have a combination skin and our Matcha Powder makes wonders on my pores and give me an incredibly pure, luminous skin tone and finish.
CC: I’m enjoying the Seve de Bamboo Eye Matte. Why did you decide to make “matte” version of your skincare?
KB: I love discussing with women and I always feel privileged when women trust me with their skin concerns. With all these years of experience I have realized that a huge proportion of women have combination skin or oily skin. There are two main concerns for oily and combination skin type. The first is that they want to be hydrated but hate heavy textures that clog their pores. They want to retain that moisture but without the shine. Usually they are prone to shininess for several hours afterwards. I am very proud of our Bamboo line and especially the matifying products, which offer moisture but a matte finish.
CC: Why do you personally think Korean beauty is so popular? Some people think it is a trend. What are your thoughts?
KB: Korean beauty is of course a very important trend. I remember well that South Korea was an incredibly closed country when I first discovered its beauty treasures. These past years the country is opening up very quickly and not only Korean beauty is well-known now but the great success of Korean pop is a strong communication vehicle for this special culture. For me Korea proposes a new way of modernity in many cultural aspects; music, beauty but also fashion and food. Of course at Erborian we love this modern side of Korea and we draw many inspirations from it, curating only the best for the skin and also melting it with proven and luxurious French beauty aspects.