Beauty and the brains: Interview with Sara Wallander, H&M Beauty concept designer on socially responsible makeup

Pretty with a purpose

Beauty and the brains: Interview with Sara Wallander, H&M Beauty concept designer on socially responsible makeup
The road to eco beauty may be fraught with challenges but H&M Beauty concept designer Sara Wallander proves the Swedish label is changing the scene, one product at a time

We're sure makeup junkies have already marked their calendars for this Friday — or Friyay might be more appropriate — because that's when H&M Beauty is set to take over our shores. And in the lead up to one of the most anticipated beauty launches this season, we've scored an exclusive interview with the woman behind the massive makeup emporium who's made it her mission to create a comprehensive beauty range that's as gorgeous as it is green.

H&M Beauty Sara Wallander interview on eco makeup

Accompanied by a dedicated team, Sara Wallander, the concept designer of H&M Beauty, has been heading this huge project since its inception a few years back. In fact, Europe has been enjoying the fruits of her team's labour for some time now, but local beauty lovers will be pleased to know that Singapore will be the first Southeast Asian country to carry the Swedish import's celebrated cosmetics range. So what does it take produce makeup and skincare products that satisfy H&M's ethical upstanding for ecological responsibility? Wallander gives us a peek into running a sustainable beauty brand, all while enabling a serious yearning to pick up an entirely new makeup collection (and just in time for Ultra, too).

How did the idea of branching out into beauty for H&M first begun?
We believe that beauty is a component of fashion and an important part of personal style. More and more, makeup and beauty is being used as a way to express individual style and we want to offer a beauty department and products in our stores where customers and beauty enthusiasts can come and experiment. The idea is to create fashion for the face.

In just three years, H&M Beauty has launched a Conscious and Premium Bodycare range on top of makeup. What was the process behind developing such a massive beauty line in such a short span of time?
It has been a pleasure teaming up with the excellent and highly skilled in-house beauty team that has a lot of experience within fashion and beauty. We have been working on this for quite some time and I have been part of the team, working with the concept for four years.

From the start, the major focus has always been on the quality of the ingredients and the range of colours. We have worked closely within the team on everything from developing the colour range for our nail polish to creating the design of the packaging. We wanted to create a concept that is comprehensive, something that evolves and updates, so that there can be endless possibilities within the range. And we are very happy with the final result and the quality.

H&M Beauty Sara Wallander interview on eco makeup

What was the biggest challenge in creating products that had to be high performing yet affordable?
We always aim to develop all of our H&M products according to our business concept of fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way. It's important that the products perform well and make our customers' lives easier so we want to offer products that are value for money, of good quality and are long-lasting. We hope that our loyal followers will love it as much as we do.

Sustainability is a responsibility H&M takes very seriously. How did you incorporate this into the line? Were there ingredients in some products you had to replace or find alternatives for?
We already offer conscious choices with our fashion collections so for us it was natural to have the same offering within our beauty range. We always strive to develop our products to high and responsible standards in both materials and production. And with our subsidiary line, the Conscious Beauty collection, we have taken this philosophy even further. The Conscious Beauty range is about introducing more sustainable choices in our beauty concept and to make sustainable beauty available to more people. We've worked hard on making all the different parts come together, and we are very proud to be able to offer our customers this range.

We have very strict rules when it comes to our suppliers and very strict quality control of the products. From sourcing and development of packaging, to ingredient check of materials based on our chemical restrictions, to the quality control in production and of the end product. All H&M Conscious beauty products have been produced according to Ecocert, and all of our suppliers are certified by Ecocert.

H&M Beauty Sara Wallander interview on eco makeup

We also believe that no animals should be used for the testing of any of our cosmetics and we do not accept animal testing on any products, either during production or on finished items.

Talk us through the design of the packaging. Why did you settle on a minimalist concept and are the materials eco-friendly?
We wanted the packaging to be simple, beautiful and eye-catching and to reflect the quality as well as the fashion level of the products. For the Conscious Beauty range, the contemporary packaging is made of reprocessed materials and is easy to recycle. We have also avoided certain prints and foil that could complicate recycling, and kept the packaging clean without mixing materials.

H&M Beauty also carries an extensive variety of makeup brushes. What kind of fibres do you use? Are they vegan and/or cruelty-free?
We stress that H&M does not accept animal testing on any cosmetic products, either during production or on finished products. At the moment we have both synthetic brushes and natural brushes made of animal hair, but from 2017 we will no longer use animal hair.

H&M Beauty Sara Wallander interview on eco makeup

What kind of woman do you envision the H&M Beauty consumer to be?
We hope that all our customers and beauty lovers will appreciate our makeup and skincare products. We truly believe our beauty assortment offers something for all and that everyone will be able find their favourite products to express their personal style.

In a desert island scenario, name the five products you would choose from across all three ranges.
Cream Lipstick in the colour Hot Chocolate, nail colour in the shade Trenchcoat, the Brow Pro Kit in Chocolate, and H&M Conscious Dry Shampoo and the Relaxing All Over Oil.

H&M Beauty will be launching on 9 September, exclusively at the Orchard Building store.

Text: Angelyn Kwek

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