Gaux Girl - Tara Foley2018-12-02
Long before "clean beauty" became a buzzword, our newest Gaux Girl was extolling the benefits of a natural approach to skincare (and self care). It was 2009 to be exact, when she launched a blog advocating for better regulation in the beauty industry. The blog blossomed into an idea for a destination for all-natural (and meticulously researched) skincare and beauty products - And that idea became Follain. Follain's first store opened in 2013, and has since expanded to include an e-commerce business and locations in Maryland, New York, Dallas and Seattle. Of particular interest to gaux girls at Margaux HQ, Follain's newest location opened just a few blocks away from our Bleecker flagship, making it our new go-to for the latest and greatest products.
We're inspired by Tara's advocacy for cleaner, better beauty - And her knack for shaping memorable, high-touch customer experiences both in-store and online. Earlier this fall, she gave us a tour of Follain's bright Beacon Hill shop in Boston: A boutique whose charm is only matched by the historic neighborhood that surrounds it.
Read on to hear about how this gaux-getter translated her passion into action, her must-haves from the Follain shelves, and the ways in which motherhood has influenced her approach to beauty and business.
What was the specific lightbulb moment when you realized you needed to pay closer attention to the beauty products you were using?
I was at a point in my life when I was so focused on fitness and nutrition, racing triathlons and preparing super healthy meals. This was a big lifestyle change for me so I was spending a lot of time online researching, and in this research started to read about beauty ingredients - how, not only did they not align with all the rest of the healthy choices I was making, but they could even be super toxic. I had no idea about the lack of regulation of the beauty industry in the US, and how you could basically put anything in products that would be applied to your skin! This outraged me so much that I began writing a blog on it, because there were very few resources available on clean beauty at the time (2009). The blog turned into my passion, and ultimately set me on the path to launching Follain in 2013.
You spent time at apprenticeships learning the ins and outs of how a skincare product winds up in a bottle – How vital was that experience in building Follain?
It was super vital! These experiences - working on a lavender farm in France to study terroir and with a private label manufacturer to study formulation - were an essential part of my fast-track education on the beauty industry. As someone running a disruptive beauty business, I think it is an advantage that I didn’t “grow up” inside the beauty industry. I was able to more clearly see the issues in the conventional industry that we needed to disrupt, and these apprenticeship experiences gave me a understanding of how to tackle making meaningful change within beauty.
Follain celebrated its fifth anniversary recently. What have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?
You must adapt. The most important things we’ve had to adapt to are:
Changes in awareness - Clean beauty is now a movement in the mainstream consumer consciousness, and while we were the first retailer specifically dedicated to clean beauty we have real competitors now, all of whom push us to be stronger and take an even more vocal stance around our core values
Changes in shopping behavior - We’ve realized we can’t just be brick & mortar or just online. We need to be wherever the customer wants to find us, especially in such an education and experience rich business where customers are continuing to ask for more!
Changes in team needs - As the awareness, customer behavior, and even business model changes, you need a team that’s smart (smarter than you!) and can not only grow with you, but also share the same aspirations, goals, and dreams.
It’s interesting to make the connection between your initial desire to become an advocacy lawyer and the way you are currently helping people understand the clean beauty world. What are the most common threads?
Respect. Growing up I wanted to get into advocacy because I saw all this injustice, thought it was coming from a place of disrespect, and wanted to do all I could to help groups who were being unfairly targeted. When I realized what big beauty was doing; basically targeting women and telling us that there are SO MANY issues with the way we look...then serving up toxic products to “remedy” these issues, I got just as angry and passionate as ever. I thought that was disrespectful, and that not only did women deserve to know the real health impact of their products, but that true respect would be helping them realize that they didn’t need to sacrifice their health for product performance and experience. And there began the research and and journey to Follain.
As the founder of a beauty brand, is testing new product an inherent part of your job? How do you balance that with using your favorite products? (And what are they?)
I am always testing new products for the portfolio which can be hard on my skin. A big part of the value that Follain offers customers is that we do the research for you, and only carry the 1 or 2 best products in a category for each specific skin type and concern. We want to ensure that shoppers can come to us knowing they will find only the safest and most effective products on the market - and that means I have to test lots of things that ultimately don’t make the cut. I’ve tested over 5,500 options and counting!
I’ve tried and love everything we carry, but there are some products that work so well for my specific skin needs that I always have them on hand: hydrating accelerator, blue cocoon, bioregenerate rosehip oil, the clean slate, redefining body balm. This list could go on and on...but that’s a solid start.
Do you have a style uniform? What sort of pieces do you reach for the most often?
As you might expect, everything about my style uniform has changed while I’m pregnant, but generally my uniform is all black/dark colors (to make as easy as possible to get ready FAST) and comfortable shoes. I like to walk as much as possible throughout the work day (stairs and beyond) to clear my head during the day, so my uniform has to support that.
How has your routine – beauty and work - changed since becoming a mother?
Interestingly, I am now much more focused. I have to squeeze more work, beauty and pretty much everything into shorter time frames or otherwise during early or late hours. This helps me zero in on what matters most.
I used to get a lot more beauty treatments - facials and more - but now I’ve brought a lot of that home, via regular masking and maintenance of my skin.
Its important to me to spend time with my son (and soon daughter) morning and night. So with work, I’m a no-excuses, must-be-home-before-bedtime kind of Mom (unless traveling). Given that bedtime is so early (7:30pm!) this means I have to move faster and accomplish more during the day.
What does being a “girl on the go” mean to you?
Never stopping too long to get too comfortable. Constantly collecting new experiences and learnings everywhere, and from everyone you meet. These traits are something I’ve noticed not just in my own life but also in the women I look up to and admire most!