Today, we continue on with our Working Girls series! Here’s an awesome interview with Mathilde Thomas, who tells us just how she created Caudalie, one of my favorite lines of beauty products. I just love her determination and work-ethic and how she pretty much invented a lifestyle to fit her passion.

Hello Mathilde ! We met in New York because I’m such a big fan of Caudalie… And we both live in New York! How are you finding life here? Do you like it? Has it changed how you work?

My husband and I have always had a soft spot for New York. It’s such an exciting and active city. There’s always something interesting going on, something new to explore, a lot being created, such a mix of cultures and such an incredible energy. I’m always finding new brands, new distributors and new clients, and the city itself is such a source of inspiration for me.

I’m impressed by all these New Yorkers who do so so much and at the same time still arrive all made-up and in shape. It inspires me a lot to create new products and new lines. I guess that’s what’s changed how I work. I’m constantly putting new breath into my French teams to develop new products.

Ok, let’s do a little flashback… How did Caudalie get started? (And where ever did you find the money to start it?)

Caudalie started in 1993 when my husband Bertrand and I met Professor Vercauteren amidst my parents’ grape vines near Bordeaux. During the visit, Professor Vercauteran told us that the grape seeds contain incredibly strong anti-oxidant and anti-aging properties. Right after that, we decided to found Caudalie. It was the fruit of a really beautiful meeting.

We started with 2 creams that we made in small quantities.

My husband sold them to pharmacies one by one, and I made animations to sell them to clients. Today, not much has changed. I continue to sell my products in shops in the US each week. If you become a fan of Caudalie USA on Facebook, you’ll see just where I’ll be and when!

What’s the philosophy of the brand?

I created Caudalie because I believe in effective, natural, and refined beauty products. And I personally attend to each detail every day.

My products are natural, paraben-free, very effective and glamourous.

What’s beauty to you? What do you think of Cosmetic surgery? 

It’s a healthy beauty: good skin, treated with good products, effective and natural, light makeup, hair with shine, a firm and toned silhouette, and a noticeable joie de vivre.

Beauty also has something to do with being beautiful on the inside, generous, kind and balanced.

Cosmetic surgery scares me. That said, cosmetic medicine has made more progress in the past 10 years than in the previous 1000. It possible to slow down the aging process with good moisturizers, of course, or you could use resorbable injectables for a good six months. And so if some people need that to feel healthy, then why not?

I know that you are responsible for most of your products. Do the ideas just come from your own personal need? How do you identify women’s needs in terms of beauty products. Do you follow trends? 

I’m responsible for all my products. I work with an amazing team. I always start with a discovery by Professor Vercauteren whom we’ve done the fundamental research with for the past 15 years. Whether it be a firming molecule like Resveratrol, anti-wrinkle like Viniferine, anti-oxidant like Polyphenols or hydrating like grape water.

And then we develop a beautiful natural formula around our incredibly effective molecule. I identify the needs of women by being with my clients where the products are sold, and I’ve done so for the past 16 years. I know them well…

I don’t follow trends, and I don’t do any market research. You have to create the trend, not follow it.

Had you ever been a boss before? Is it hard to be the head of something?

I started Caudalie very young, at 23.

I hope to be a source of inspiration for my teams. I show by example and am very embedded into every level of the company.

I love working with my teams who all make me very happy, of course as I recruited them all personally (it’s pretty much all women).

You work hard and don’t hesitate to change subjects here, but today you’re in the USA, but you hinted that maybe one day you might end up in China for a few years… Would that be too difficult to get done with three kids?

I like to feel like a sort of citizen of the world, even if my heart is in Bordeaux. My children seem to be just as excited as me about the idea of moving and learning about a new country, a new culture, and China… Why not?! But not just yet because we just moved here!

Do you ever have truly discouraging moments?

Of course, just like everyone else. Life is no bed of roses. That’s why it’s so wonderful to work with my husband. We keep each other’s morale high when times are tough.

What does a day at the office look like for you?

– The day starts at 7 am when my alarm goes off.

– 8:15 : Bertrand and I arrive at the office on our bikes.

– 9:00 : I call Professor Vercauteren to know how things are going with research.

– 10:00 : A lot of meetings, one after the other, mostly with the team at the lab as well as development.

– 12:30 : Lunch with a journalist…

– 2:45 : I go to the Caudalie spa at the Plaza. I work with some new patients and meet the clients.

– 4:00 : I go back to the office and am so excited because we just got samples of our new products.

– 6:00 : I meet up with my husband at Sephora who has the attention of the entire store!

– 8:15 : Back to the house, on our bikes.

It’s a work of passion to develop your own brand.  Are there other brands that inspire you?

I’m a fan of the business philosophy of Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, a brand of mountaineering clothing. He wrote a book called “Let My People Go Surfing” that inspired me. And he gives 1% of all his sales to associations that help the environment, and I’ll soon follow suit.

What advice would you give to a young woman hoping to start her own brand?

You have to have a good idea from the start (the molecules I use are proven to be incredibly effective), work hard, not to lose sight of the path, network with entrepreneurs who have already succeeded, and don’t rely on anyone but yourself, and do good work.

Who do you surround yourself with? 

Putting together a good team is the most important. I’m always looking for passionate, intelligent, hard workers who all have a real place in the brand that we construct together.

And finally, a question from one of our readers, Gustav…

Bonjour Mathilde, any Men’s around the corner? I secretly use some Caudalie from my girlfriend (shssssss).

I love that you already have some Caudalie favorites! We have several products in the line that men seem to gravitate toward and we are certainly keeping it in mind for the future. We won’t be launching a men’s specific line in 2012, but stay tuned! In the meantime some of my husband Bertrand’s favorite products are the Pulpe Vitaminee Serum, Insant Foaming Cleanser and Grape Water.