Sylvie Chantecaille in Kenya at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's elephant orphanage
How Our Beauty Gives Back
As a family and as a company, Chantecaille is passionate about wild places and wild animals and is committed to giving a voice to the planet’s most urgent environmental needs.
Sylvie Chantecaille has always loved nature. Raised in France, she grew up in her mother’s rose gardens and surrounded by animals. Years after moving to New York in her twenties, she kept a large garden at her family’s country home on Long Island. One summer, she noticed a sudden drop in the number of monarch butterflies visiting her yard during the season. “Being the cosmetic scientist that I am, I had to know why,” Sylvie recalls.
Her research led her to conclude that a combination of toxic pesticides and shrinking habitat were to blame, thwarting the monarchs’ annual migration from Mexico to Canada. Her next move? Creating a gorgeous set of butterfly eyeshadows, Les Papillons, to benefit the Monarch Butterfly Fund and their work protecting the monarchs’ winter sanctuary in Mexico. “First people have to fall in love with the product, then they learn about the cause after,” Sylvie says. “This project opened my eyes to the exciting possibility that I could use my day job for a cause I was passionate about.”
"We want to be an agent of change, giving a voice to those who don’t have one—the animals and the earth."
Every season since, Chantecaille has aligned a collection with a cause that needs a platform, supporting charitable organizations working to conserve endangered species on land and in the sea. “We want to be an agent of change, giving a voice to those who don’t have one—the animals and the earth,” Sylvie says, explaining how her passion for conservation, now shared by her entire family—has been woven into the brand’s mission. To date, Chantecaille has launched 34 Philanthropy Collections—three of them permanent—and donated more than $3 million on behalf of coral reefs, gorillas, wolves, lions, elephants and more. “Our family and our company love these animals so deeply, and the threat of extinction has reached a critical point,” says Sylvie's daughter Olivia, Chantecaille’s Creative Director. “Losing our precious animals would create a disastrous ripple effect on our planet and its ecosystems, and we want to do our small part to help protect them.”
Olivia and her daughter, Delphina, at SWT; Luminescent Eye Shades
OUT OF AFRICA, A PASSION PROJECT
Roughly a decade ago, Sylvie’s travels brought her to Kenya, where she met Dame Daphne Sheldrick, founder of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, known for their work rescuing orphaned baby elephants. “I immediately fell in love with Africa,” Sylvie recalls—and into a close friendship with the late Dame Daphne, whose daughter Angela now runs the Trust. Sylvie’s passion for the cause has inspired her to launch several product collections supporting Sheldrick’s work rescuing elephants and preserving their natural habitat, from The Elephant Palette in 2012 to the Africa’s Vanishing Species collection of Luminescent Eye Shades.
Sylvie’s love of African landscapes and wildlife also led her to Max Graham, founder of Space for Giants, whose work preserving elephants’ ancient migration corridors has been supported by Chantecaille’s Lip Veil collection since 2018. “Animals need to move freely, and space is vital for elephants, a keystone species, to remain healthy and thriving—and to minimize human-wildlife conflict,” Sylvie explains. “The biggest problem we are facing is the disappearance of wild spaces, and I love how big Max Graham thinks. We are so happy to create these collections to benefit the gorgeous lands and animals of Africa.”
WILD SPACES AND PLACES
Understanding that saving landscapes is the most effective way to save wildlife inspired the family to visit Rwanda, where Sylvie, Alex and Philippe trekked to see the gorillas in Volcanoes National Park—resulting in 2018’s Save the Forest palette for the Rainforest Alliance. More recently, proceeds from the dazzling Lip Cristal lipstick have funded more than 120,000 tree saplings planted in Kenya to offset the effects of climate change, a project that was sparked by Alex and Philippe’s trip to the glaciers of the Arctic Circle. And with vast swaths of the Amazon decimated by fire, Sylvie and Olivia chose the hummingbird, “a pollinator that creates life and the perfect example of a healthy, thriving Amazonian forest,” as the symbol for a collection of limited-edition Lip Chic lipsticks in 2020 . In partnership with the Amazon Conservation Team, the collection supported a group of indigenous female elders called ASOMI in their effort to buy 75 acres of prime bird habitat in the Colombian Amazon. “This means the land and the forest on it will be forever preserved and protected by its rightful indigenous guardians,” Sylvie says.
Sylvie swimming with a whale shark in Mexico; the Vibrant Oceans collection
INTO THE DEEP
Sylvie has loved the ocean since she was a child and is even a certified SCUBA diver. Her interest in ocean conservation inspired Chantecaille’s second product collaboration, Le Corail, and has been a thread through many of her conservation efforts. The permanent Philanthropy Cheek Shade collection—which continues to support her beloved monarch butterflies via the Monarch Butterfly Fund—includes a coral shade funding Marine Conservation Institute’s work preserving sea coral, and Widecast, which protects Caribbean Sea Turtles. In the summer of 2019 WildAid invited Sylvie and other environmental activists to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, where they had the amazing opportunity to swim alongside whale sharks, the “gentle giants of the deep,” who are overfished for their meat and fins. The resulting Vibrant Oceans collection supported WildAid’s efforts to stop the illegal wildlife trade.
The impact of each philanthropy collection inspires the family to keep going. “Through our work we’ve seen orphaned elephants adopted, medical textbooks in Asia rewritten to remove the inclusion of tiger parts for use in treatments, restaurants remove shark fin soup from their menus—positive change for all these animals that need protection,” Olivia says. “We also hear from customers that they’re committing themselves to the causes. It makes us very proud.”
How does they decide which cause to support next? “I always pay close attention to the world, to the environment and the animals we share it with by constantly reading, researching, and listening,” Sylvie says. “It has become a rewarding challenge each season to discover new issues and challenges facing the world’s animal species and ecosystems that Chantecaille can support. We all can find ways to be part of the solution. This is ours.”
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