I may not be the most consistent with my posting schedule but I’ve always kept it honest. Lately, I have felt a little burned out. Where I used to be so enthusiastic and optimistic about high-end green beauty brands, I’m now worn by seeing repetitions of the same stories, packaging, and ideas. Brands are all jumping onto one wagon, overloading (and eventually toppling) it. To be clear, this has nothing to do with “who came first” – companies such as Aurelia, Indie Lee and Agent Nateur came much later in the game than pioneers like In Fiore and Tata Harper yet they are original and bring something new to the conversation. So I’m a very big proponent of options and love supporting unique, innovative, NEW ideas and concepts.
What I don’t like are the brands that piggyback off others ideas and concepts such as the endless brand founders who happen to speak in May Lindstrom-lingo, or how the packaging is all basically iterations of the same concept. This is a post I shared on Instagram that I would like to share on here as well:
“Today I’m sharing this photo posted by @spiritbeauty, one of the pioneers of the #greenbeauty movement who’s website Spirit Beauty Lounge was once the most beautiful web shop that had THE green beauty brands. For many, she was the one who discovered lines like Tata Harper, May Lindstrom and Yuli. What set her apart was her vision of luxurious green beauty that were every bit as high-end as the brands seen in high-end department stores and niche concept stores (which all three aforementioned lines now happen to be in). She had an eye for going above to find authentic visionaries who would have a future and advocated for them. This photo is a snapshot of the brands she championed. Unfortunately this community rewards copycats, and despite everyone saying they want the luxury experience, the truth is that everyone wants luxury on a budget which I can’t blame them for but what happens is that retailers without this eye for luxury end up stocking those same brands, then branch out and get more brands becoming bigger in the process and then throw more discounts to move customers – and in the words of Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amorouso, the copy-cats came to the table and stole our lunch. Spirit Beauty Lounge as far as I know, is no more. Whether it is an extended hiatus or a permanent shut down remains to be seen, but her voice – the part that made green beauty all the more special and luxurious has been silent for a while. In it’s place, are retailers and new green beauty brands espousing the same origin stories, the same why we’re special, the same iterations on formulas and packaging. “Our line doesn’t use essential oils”, “Our line’s specialty is essential oils that are TESTED and that is why they’re special”,”Our line uses entire whole plants”, “Our line uses no colloidal silver”, “Our line focuses on colloidal silver, gold, etc!” and the countless iterations on founders who single white female May Lindstrom and Etsy-esque lines that resemble Herbivore Botanicals. Some also imitate their formulas, have the same naming convention and sizes and then undercut them on pricing. But here’s the thing, they all universally claim originality, a need to create that sprung from a void, yet ironically taking from the very brands that they’re manipulatively erasing from the narrative.
Our community rewards it by continuing to fall for it, thinking a new iteration with a random new ingredient or another impassioned talking head who started playing with oils in 2014 is going to be better than the next – FOMO. This is why you do not see me introducing new lines that often. I won’t accept a free sample from another copycat brand to share with you guys if I don’t think they’ve legitimately going something new to add to the conversation. Spirit may be gone for now, but I ask each of you to learn the lesson from that – reward originality, vision and authenticity not “me-too” brands who piggy-back off the work of others.”
I know in our “community” there is still a decorum from “going there” – people will talk about a problem but not actually tell you exactly who the offenders are and it doesn’t do any good. I believe in using my writing to express my honest voice so I will shed some examples in hopes that it both educates and discourages offending brands from continuing this unethical practice. I won’t even share the subtle slights of which there are nearly countless examples but here are three very recent and unarguable cases:
Lil Fox Miami Eucalipto dupes Kahina Giving Beauty Moroccan Beldi Soap with Eucalyptus
A fellow blogger friend of mine DM’d me when she saw LilFox introduce a new product that was *very similar* to one that Kahina has had on the market for a while already. In fact it is the same thing – this product uses the same two ingredients:
Saponified Olive Oil
Is this illegal? No. A two ingredient product is not illegal, but I think you will agree this is not a good look especially as the titles both reference Morocco, which is an essential part of Kahina’s brand DNA. Regardless of whether this matters to you, it’s evident that the LilFox product is not original.
Romilly Wilde passes off In Fiore photos as their own
Romilly Wilde is a UK line that based on conversations with another friend of mine in the know has serious financing and PR muscle. The founder is also the one behind Plum Baby, a very successful line of baby food. All this is to say, they should know better than to:
1. Take another brand’s photo
2. Act like it’s their own work
In the photo above Romilly Wilde took a photo from In Fiore’s Instagram stream all the way back form 2014 and acted like they were “busy creating” these “new balms and oils.” Lies on so many levels.
The above proves it isn’t a fluke. Romilly Wilde takes a photo from In Fiore’s instagram stream and acts like they’re making batches for one of their products. Can we say dishonest advertising? That photo isn’t even their product!
Upon being called out, Romilly Wilde wrote a very half-hearted (in my opinion) apology that didn’t even tag In Fiore’s instagram that was essentially “In Fiore, we think you’re great. sorry for the whoopsies! We’ll be careful!” – that entire post/apology is now gone from their Instagram.
Recherche Beaute plagiarize YÜLI Skincare
Recherche Beaute is a line that just came out (their first digital presence was beginning of 2017). The founder is a “USC law school graduate.” Remember these two facts because the entire Recherche Beaute website is littered with plagiarized content from YÜLI.
Literal word for word.
Again, word for word from the question to the two paragraph answer. What’s absurd about this one is that Recherche Beaute is also claiming the same exact background, team, and development/testing process as YÜLI? It must be the case since they’re literally ripped them word for word, which makes their claim dubious and equally makes me doubt their authenticity of actual testing/development. Your description of the testing/development process isn’t even your own! Seriously if a brand can’t even come up with how they develop/test their products, what is the likelihood that they’re actually using those chemists and doing market testing? It seems they’re trying to create an illusion for something they don’t actually have based off of another brand’s content that impressed them.
This isn’t word for word, more like Recherche Beaute copied and revised YÜLI’s content, leaving it mostly intact. Again when you copy another brand’s statement on their production methods, and take it as your own – it makes me doubt you’re doing any of the things you claim.
I mean… come on… at least change the order?
The reason I am giving the dates is because the YÜLI website can be traced and archive engines verify this content was on their site in 2012, meaning it’s inarguable that the original intellectual property belongs to YÜLI. What is also inarguable is the fact that Recherche Beaute plagiarized YÜLI’s content, taking someone else’s work as their own. Given that the founder is a USC Law School graduate, it’s really inexcusable for them to feign ignorance at their offense. You can’t say you graduated from that program and not understand plagiarizing and intellectual property violations. They knew the unethical move they were committing and decided to go ahead and rip off another brand’s work.
Shortly after posting this, I discovered on Instagram that other bloggers had discovered Recherche Beaute also plagiarized from African Botanics as well. Such a strange coincidence considering my most recent post on Instagram after the one I shared above was about the originality and vision of African Botanics.
The middle screen is an interview that Peter Nguyen, the founder of Recherche Beaute did with Jenni Kayne. The highlights in yellow are the plagiarized parts, and the screens on the left and right are the original content from African Botanics website.
This shows that it is not an isolated incident and that Peter Nguyen has made a habit of “Melania Trumping” other brands.
Since this post went live, I have been hearing from other bloggers and instagrammers about how Recherche Beaute has been deleting comments asking about their plagiarism and basically pretending this didn’t happen. They’re also Direct Messaging people telling them there was a “misunderstanding” which there is not (also how am I supposed to trust a company that DM’s people different stories – cause us bloggers compare notes- in private and hide from it publicly) and have tried to place blame on everyone from the “jealous competitor” narrative (as though they were coerced into plagiarizing by the brands they stole from? who are all more established than they are?) to setting the blame on a hypothetical employee as a scapegoat – basically not taking any responsibility and choosing to continue the dishonest and unethical behavior. Below are screen grabs from when they DM’d me last night, completely unedited:
So the thing about lying and crafting an inauthentic story is that holes exist that do not hold up to questioning as is evident in this case. Also, buddy if you had a content creator and writer, then it just establishes that inauthentic nature of your message and makes it even more alarming and despicable that your brand would be plagiarizing other brands work. Recherche Beaute is literally writing on their Instagram that their content is “co-composed” and “co-crafted” sooooo in other words, the founder couldn’t even write his own content or use his own voice….and “The interview is 100% authentic minus the segments that were disrespectfully taken without his knowledge. ” – So you’re claiming to be 100% authentic with exception to the heaps of plagiarized material? You know this is bullshit right?!
I think I speak for most of us when I say, no one expects perfection in this industry but we do expect honesty and respect in terms of not being lied to and deceived. It seems that Peter/Recherche Beaute thinks we’re dumb and can’t figure this out. Even with an opportunity to right their wrongs, this non-apology and inability to actually own and take responsibility for plagiarizing and stealing content is very telling of the unethical nature of the brand.
As my other blogger friends have said, it’s indefensible and egregious. I am making it public because this behavoir needs to be called out, offenders need to take accountability and be exposed for their dubious practices, unethical behavior and face the consequences. If you see something, say something. Not addressing these issues is doing no one any favors so I am speaking loudly.