Aussie skincare brand Aesop found immediate success since it was first launched almost three decades ago. Its flagship products such as the Parsley Seed serum have built a strong cult following.

The brand’s unique philosophy and approach go beyond just the products but rather interior and packaging designs as well as philanthropy work. Vivian Chen chats with Aesop’s top executive Suzanne Santos on building a niche skincare brand.

Can you tell us what’s the vision for Aesop?

I have been working with the founders for 20 some years now, from the very beginning. Our vision [is not] to reach some remarkable goals or targets that are based on commercial success. At the core, we establish the ability to make products that will not be trapped in clichés.

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What is it like working with Aesop?

It’s fascinating to be a part of that. Every day, it actually brings us to a place of purpose where the idea of expression, consideration and values are just day-to-day measurements of how you can conduct your workload. Time [flies], and now it's been 28 years.

How have you seen niche skincare brands evolve?

I'm just part of that change, but certainly, there are changes in a big way, and we have never [forgotten] that we are a cosmetics company. It’s the idea of constantly believing that quality is about decisions that you make. It's not because it's a word called luxury and then people mill around it because it has a brand name. It's actually about the decisions that you make. We can make decisions comfortably and naturally in favour of the customers and the staff.

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How do you make difficult decisions?

I think in our company the difficult decisions [depend on] where we want to go against the logic of what you do in normal circumstances – what a normal company would do with perceived opportunities that come up. In terms of building a company, what it takes is to be. [The decisions we have made] were absolutely the right decisions to make because, over the years, we have evolved. We adapt and create and shape things. Our foundation is remarkably strong and it's from that that everything grows with great enthusiasm.

What are you travel must-haves?

There are many factors that [affect] your skin, your mind and your body, so I really travel with vitamins. For me, cleansing is the key. I use exfoliators, a night serum and oil on my face that’s not just pleasurable but you can actually benefit from. A refreshing moisturiser can make a massive difference.

How important is research and development for Aesop?

It is interesting to note that when you look at the amount of buying and spending on the development of pharmacology in the last 30 years, a lot of science comes from dermatology and the application of creams to treat conditions of the skin. And there is certainly a spill-off that has entered the cosmetics area and there is a great benefit in that technology. Research and development are not just about creating new [things], it’s also about working with ingredients that can be added. It is to look at the whole chain reaction and system. [It’s working towards] something that ends up on someone's skin that’s precious.