Discover LA FERVANCE & Luxury Clean Beauty Entrepreneur Melissa Obeid
As a 38-year-old with fairly good/easy skin, I have never invested much time or money in skincare. I stayed out of the sun, for the most part. And my skincare routine pretty much consisted of cleansing and moisturizing regularly with pharmacy grade products. Sometimes ones with ‘more’ natural ingredients, or so the label said, and sometimes just whatever looked and smelled pretty. Only recently did I start to notice the effects of aging. I began to think, hmmm, I better start paying attention to my skin more. But what to use? Then LA FERVANCE appeared in my email inbox. And my eyes opened to a whole new world.
The smell, the texture, the glow, the multi-functionality. The knowledge that everything I am rubbing into my skin is natural and actively working to improve my skin. Let’s just say I am in love. And not just with the brand’s debut product, Eclat Extraordinaire, but also with the founder, Melissa Obeid.
Read on to discover the beautiful world of the Australian-French LA FERVANCE. In this article, you will also discover the inspiring story of the brand’s founder Melissa Obeid. An empowering woman who followed her passion to revolutionize the codes of luxury and clean beauty.
Exclusive Lh Interview with Melissa Obeid, Founder of LA FERVANCE
Love Happens: Before founding LA FERVANCE you followed your first passion, fashion. What sparked your love of fashion?
Melissa Obeid: I am a child of the ’70 & ’80s. I grew up with white bell-bottoms, cork platforms, shoulder pads, flouro everything, teased hair—the works, and I loved it all!
My mum always dressed elegantly, choosing quality designer pieces over what we now call ‘fast fashion’. As a young girl and teen, we often shopped together. These elements definitely influenced my interest in fashion.
Later in the early ’90s, my best friend and I were travelling around Europe. And whilst flicking through an ex-pat magazine at a cafe, she saw an ad for a month-long seminar at the Paris Fashion Institute. She encouraged me to apply—even though we were booked to return to Australia the following week! I thought ‘pourquoi pas’ and they accepted me.
The PFI Directrice Mrs. Joan White took me under her wing and the seminar which runs to this day, exposed me to an abundance of ‘behind the scenes’ and privileged opportunities—so I stayed on and cut my teeth at a fashion label Press Office, as a stylist and assistant with Sonia Rykiel, Paloma Picasso, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and wardrobe manager. It was the most amazing experience for a young Aussie in Paris and changed the course of my life! Now, being in Paris once again and rekindling many of those beautiful connections, including that with my mentor Joan White!, is very special.
Lh: How did your passion for fashion transition to skincare?
Melissa Obeid: Upon returning to Melbourne in ’96 I continued my fashion path, co-launching a menswear label, managing major parades, styling, etc. But Paris fashion was always going to be a hard act to follow. So I moved into advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi, Event management. And then on to senior management at the National Gallery of Victoria under the Directorship of Dr. Gerard Vaughan. While there we staged major French exhibitions including a Napoleon & Josephine blockbuster during which I discovered their fascination for ‘Terre Napoleon’ (Australia). A fascination which inspired an expedition in 1800 returning in 1803 with over 200,000 species of flora and fauna—many of which flourish to this day. With my Franco-Australian connections, this planted a seed in my imagination.
I also married and had my babies whilst at the gallery. Unable to find authentically natural skincare products for infants, I moved on from the NGV after 14 incredible years to develop natural skincare for bubs.
Having always worked in the world of high-end brands and being in my early 40’s I was also seeking certified, high-performance, prestige beauty, from transparent 100% natural origins and reputable manufacturing sources. This was not to be found—so I decided to create my own.
Lh: Tell us about the moment you decided to start LA FERVANCE and what came next?
Melissa Obeid: Having connected with Australia’s leading cosmetic scientists, we commenced working on the concept for this collection. The desired efficacies, packaging, and the like. The project was quite progressed when my husband Jamie and I decided to spend time in France to further research the luxury skincare space, obtain greater inspiration. And of course to spend time in my ‘happy place’. I also wanted our children to have a linguistic and cultural experience. And grant my daughter her wish of celebrating her birthday on the Eiffel Tower.
The inspiration struck within our first month in Paris—where Napoleon’s legacy is so prevalent and impressive. It came to me so clearly. Our skincare brand would include active ingredients sourced from France and Australia. Ingredients in their highest effective concentrations for visible results. And in glass packaging—as ocean preservation is important to us and given the brands’ 1800 expedition inspiration.
This fusion felt truly authentic and made a great deal of sense to me personally. Given our desired ‘luxury’ positioning and newfound understanding of just how difficult it is to produce skincare in France (it is the most regulated and controlled country for cosmetic production in the world) the decision to remain and develop LA FERVANCE in France was clear…and we’re still here four and a half years later!!!
Lh: Did you know from the start exactly what sort of products you wanted to create? Or did it blossom over time?
Melissa Obeid: A bit of both actually. As with every element of LA FERVANCE, product development took on an energy of its own. Transforming over time and with a defined purpose. No element of LA FERVANCE has been directed or defined by product development. Nor marketing departments in response to market trends. When I first had the idea for the brand, the current buzzwords were not as prevalent as they are now. It’s a purely authentic story that has translated into a brand. Hence the coherence in strategy and every decision taken since its inception.
The initial concept was innovative and original but would have been impractical at that stage in our brand journey. This evolved into a second original idea. One which will gradually make its way into the collection. And from which the concept for the ‘TransformActive’ multi-ritual beauty balm was born.
The TransformActive textures are so indulgent, encouraging regular use. And their design is for different, equally successful rituals. Creating a multi-ritual component that simplifies the daily skincare routine, while amplifying visible results.
Whilst working on the launch collection, it became increasingly clear that the Eclat Extraordinaire gold-infused beauty balm would always remain our ‘iconic’ product. As it was designed to be a strong stand-alone, on which the other products would build. Not only from our collection but those in our client’s beauty cabinet. The decision to launch with the Eclat Extraordinaire on its own was apparent. I designed the packaging with the feel of a luxury jewelry box, hand-crafted in Provence using the finest Italian papers. Hence the shelf presence is striking and holds its own beautifully when displayed alongside other brands.
Lh: Why did you decide to name your company LA FERVANCE?
Melissa Obeid: Oh, to find the right brand name…. As with every aspect of our story, this too has its ‘raison d’etre’. ‘Fervance’ is the old French word for ‘ferveur’ or ‘fervor’ in English. It perfectly encapsulates the energy invested into and directing this project. LA FERVANCE was also the name of the bastide we were living in Provence for two years whilst conceptualising our brand. So the name was right under our noses the whole time!
Lh: Your husband Jamie and even your kids are helping to bring LA FERVANCE to life. How is it working with your husband? And your kids?
Melissa Obeid: The most Extraordinary experience. Not only have we worked together on LA FERVANCE whilst living in Provence for two years and Paris for just over two years, being Aussie ex-pats in a foreign country we have spent more time together during this period than we otherwise would have—whilst experiencing major local and world events. Our children speak French fluently. They have been privy to every element of the brand development, laboratory visits, trade shows, choosing colour palettes, fragrances, font styles, Instagram—everything! Invaluable entrepreneurial experiences, despite the challenges presented from not being within the security bubble of our comfortable beachside life in Melbourne—to create a beauty start-up on the other side of the world!
Working 24/7 with hubby has its moments, as any co-working couple will tell you (if being honest!) but Jamie and I work exceptionally well together and complement one another’s working styles perfectly. Jamie is happiest when he sees me shine and this occurs when I’m truly inspired, creative, and in France! And I thrive from his solid, grounded approach to life and business.
Lh: In your brand headline you use the term ‘Fusionistique Skincare ™’—what does this mean?
Melissa Obeid: Being a global traveller and entrepreneur, I wanted a simplified routine with amplified results. And I wished to avoid a skincare regime consisting of many unnecessary products. Rather, highly concentrated products with multi-functional uses and textures so amazingly divine that consumers would want to use them all the time. Complemented by bespoke 100% natural perfumes created for us in Grasse to evoke the senses and feelings of wellness. We call this approach Fusionistique Skincare ™ as it fuses ingredient, packaging, culture, usage, and elements into a new philosophy in skincare.
It’s a word I coined when we were brainstorming product names. It’s the ‘FUSION’ of cultures, people, history, beauty rituals, ingredients, sustainability, luxury, textures, efficacy, and a vision to the future ‘futuristiQUE’—which we’re living a lot sooner than I imagined! It speaks to the conscious consumer who understands that despite what some beauty brands may dictate—we don’t need a 7 stage morning and evening ritual, which whilst benefiting their bottom line, has a significant environmental impact and carbon footprint—that LESS of a higher quality is indeed MORE! We have all lived this during 2020 and are now—and will continue to—prioritise quality over quantity.
Lh: Tell us about your 360 approach, and why this is so important to you?
Melissa Obeid: This 360 approach is the foundation of the LA FERVANCE new philosophy of skincare.
This entails looking at every element of the brand and product offering, ensuring these align with our personal and professional values and adhere to the brand ethos, highest possible standards, touchpoints, and intended outcomes.
Commencing with the original formulations created by France’s most esteemed cosmetic scientists, traceable ingredients sourced from the most qualitative sources, outstanding 4 fold independent testing, production in France’s state of the art facilities, 100% recyclable French-made glass jars and presentation boxes—over significantly cheaper imports, hand made and hand-filled in France, our custom made fragrances and all within the framework of the highest global certifications for natural cosmetics… everything is of the highest possible quality.
Lh: What is your definition of clean beauty?
Melissa Obeid: With no regulations around the term ‘clean beauty’, I see many brands that are not clean using it haphazardly. And I witness the confusion this creates for well-meaning consumers who wish to avoid contentious chemicals but become overwhelmed with the myriad of unsubstantiated claims. It’s important for consumers to look beyond the marketing hype and turn the packaging over to read the ingredients and to seek recognised certifications.
For me, the LA FERVANCE definition of Clean Beauty is perfectly clear. We offer fewer, more active, original formulations, using traceable French Australian ingredients from 100% natural origins, in French made 100% recyclable packaging, globally certified, and 100% Made in France.
To avoid being another self-professed clean beauty brand, the only viable choice was to create LA FERVANCE in France. Within the strictest, most compliant framework possible hence our decision—from day 1—to develop our brand within an Ecocert COSMOS Natural framework.
We have also been awarded COSMEBIO certification along with the Butterfly Mark from Positive Luxury. I consider these as vital in simplifying the decision making process and a guarantee that we are who we claim to be.
Lh: Your launch product Eclat Extraordinaire is truly amazing. Tell us about the decision to make this your launch product and what it means to your brand?
Melissa Obeid: As the launch collection took shape, so too did our rollout strategy. We intuitively knew that for LA FERVANCE, presenting a single-minded proposition—one strong multi-ritual product that encapsulates everything LA FERVANCE represents, was the way to go and would provide the cut-through we envisaged. Then, once established, we would introduce the complementary products.
Let’s just call it intuitive brand building 🙂
Lh: Eclat has a beautiful scent! Why was a bespoke perfume important? Do you plan to continue this touch with all your products?
Melissa Obeid: The bespoke fragrances started at the beginning of the French product development back in 2016. This is very important to me as I want using LA FERVANCE to be a complete and unique sensorial experience with the fragrance of each product designed to evoke different emotions.
They are all from 100% natural origins AND also formulated to COSMOS Natural guidelines, which enables the perfumer 6 times less the pallet of ingredients to work with—which in itself is highly complex. Working with the esteemed Robertet perfumer, one of the oldest in Grasse, France, was an absolute pleasure. They perfectly captured my brief for each fragrance.
The ‘Expedition 1800’ fragrance combines the natural sensuality of a mix of modern wood notes such as star anise and sandalwood and the depth of warm honey and patchouli projects a feeling of passion and determination.
Lh: Breaking into the beauty world is not an easy task, tell us about your experience thus far and where you see yourself in 5 years?
Melissa Obeid: I didn’t take this into consideration, not when commencing the process in Melbourne, nor at any stage since. I don’t think we would have succeeded in coming this far otherwise. The gratification from seeing the vision come to life far outweighs the obstacles we’ve encountered along the way—and there have been many! Perhaps naively or deliberately, I chose not to anticipate these. My blind faith was so strong. I always knew the authenticity and integrity of what we were creating would resonate with those partners, retailers, and consumers it was intended to. And this is precisely what has occurred. When it’s ‘meant to be’ the distributor ‘courtship’ has taken a couple of weeks—seamless, easy, and a pleasure to be part of.
There are enough indie brands, global brands, celebrity-backed and endorsed brands to suit all beauty consumer preferences. Those who need to find LA FERVANCE will.
In the next 5 years, we will have established a global staff network to oversee the brand’s development in key markets. With the rapid developments in virtual meetings, I see myself engaging with new audiences in more dynamic and animated ways.
Lh: What three pieces of advice would you give to a young entrepreneur interested in entering the world of beauty?
Be authentic—this will ensure a coherence of messaging and strategy which discerning customers will recognise.
Be clear on your ‘why’—or you may lose heart and be defeated by the process. Passion is imperative!
Keep the Faith—keep going, keep praying and NEVER GIVE UP!
Lh: What’s next for LA FERVANCE?
Melissa Obeid: First, we are so excited about our recent partnership with NOSE Paris, ‘the’ destination for exclusive, high-end perfume and beauty brands! Coming up, we have some exciting retail and 5-star spa announcements, followed by our second product release in the first half of 2021.
I am excited about more people discovering the World of LA FERVANCE and cementing our presence globally through strategic online and physical partnerships.
We will roll out the entirety of the ‘launch’ collection and have greater involvement in the association with Save the Children association. Giving back will continue to be a growing part of our company ethos.
By Anna Beck Bimba
All Photos of LA FERVANCE Products by @jolenedenesphotography