Behind internationally acclaimed cosmetics company, Ere Perez sits Ere herself – an unexpectedly down-to-earth, eco-conscious entrepreneur with Mexican roots and an admiration for Australian ingredients. Hannah Gay recounts her motivating conversation with Ere as the pair chat past, present and future.
From Mexico to Australia
“My husband… we’ve been married 23 years now. He’s from Mexico as well, but he traveled the world and loved Sydney… the Bondi life. He came back to Mexico, we started going out… he was a friend of my cousin (laughs). So, short story, I came back with him. When I arrived [in Australia] he was doing his thing and I was trying to do mine. My English was very limited, but I loved it straight away… it was just incredible; the natural living that Australia already had, even more than 20 years ago! It was beautiful.”
Paving Her Way
“I finished my degree – a Bachelor in Nutrition – and have a background in natural therapies. It’s always been something that I love, especially food and science. My dad was a scientist. He worked with chemistry, with solar energy. And my mum’s side, they’re all about, y’know, natural healers in town. And so when I arrived here I just saw so many opportunities. I got married, I looked for a job. It wasn’t like I was trying to have a beauty brand at all. I wanted to create a natural solution for people to help their health, and my Grandpa was like ‘oh, I don’t think you can really make money doing that. I don’t think it is right. You’ll have to do different things…’
[My dad] believed that natural medicine has to be from the area you’re from. Let’s say, you’re Chinese you do Chinese herbs, you’re Mexican you do Mexican herbs. It’s a bit of a different way of seeing life. It was hard in Australia with the TGA and all this approval… but I could start with one product – a mascara! The same product, 20 years ago, was the one mascara. It was a clear formula, it wasn’t vegan. It has beeswax, still today, the whole brand is vegan, but that mascara is not; original formula since that day! From one product, we adapted 100 in more than 40 countries in 20 years.”
Becoming Ere Perez
“This journey we had as a brand… it was always about [merging] our [Mexican] heritage with the beautiful Australia. I remember the Olympics in 2000 when Australia was kind of a window into the world and everyone could see how it was, and it was amazing! It was so clean and green and blue. I kind of put the two things together, and thought that’s how the brand was… we ended up with a brand that could mix the two cultures. It’s colourful, it’s fun, it’s quite fearless in many ways, because we were trying to do things that were out of the box in the beginning. It’s also always been about practicality. I really just mixed what I knew of my own culture with the simplicity that Australians love so much. Everybody here really embraces being outside, so the products really needed to last in the outdoor climate, but also to be simple and good for your skin.
Skin in Australia is something you really have to look after. It’s a hard climate – very cold or very hot, very humid, the sun is quite strong. Slowly, we ended up with a beautiful makeup line, and probably 5-6 years ago we decided to look after the skin as well, which is something I needed myself. Starting my 40’s [made for a real change] in the skin hormonally and I thought, why should I not cater to both? And here is where I really focused in on Australia, because I discovered that Australian ingredients are so beautiful and pure, and in abundance!
As a brand, [products have] to be made with integrity. I like to choose things that are in your kitchen, that are not in danger, not ingredients that get on-trend and everybody wants because then it becomes a problem for the environment. Everything I use is very simple: chamomile on the eyes, olive oil on the lips, carrots, beetroots, almonds… our oat milk foundation is more than ten years-old,and now it’s on trend… oat milk! We squeezed all the almonds, I guess (laughs).
All of these products are my babies. I’m not the same mum of this mascara when I made it 20 years ago. Soon, I’m launching a new product which is a product made of wood. And it makes me a new mum! I’m different. I want different things. I can’t have another mascara with another wand… it’s not good for the environment. I’m trying to find a solution for that.”
“Now we’re finding new solutions… and that’s what happens – the world wants soya milk and all of a sudden the soya is completely modified and it’s not good anymore. Every product has a unique ingredient, like coconut or tomato… just basic stuff that are everywhere and easy to use. We’re quite affordable. We’ve been [retailing product for] under $40 for a while. With sustainability behind it, [our product] changes quite often: our packaging, our boxes, we’ve been through what I call an ‘eco-lution’. It’s about being more circular. I’ve got all the accreditations: vegan, carbon neutral and carbon positive, and FDA accreditations, but we need to do more; everyone needs to give more.
There is so much beauty that is with good intentions, but packaging [changes] are very limited as well. I’ve nearly gone 90 percent no plastic, and it will be done by 2023. I’m doing a lot of things that nobody has done before. But it’s scary sometimes, because I could do something that maybe the consumer might not like, and I’m risking it. Maybe nobody’s going to buy that?
For so many years I’ve seen brands come in and out, a lot of which get inspired by ours! Maybe we’re not a billionaire brand, but we are everywhere. And we have given a lot, and that’s probably why we’re not multi-billionaires. The brand is about giving, and inspiring others to change. It’s hard to make changes in big corporations where they have big production all over the world. But the consumer is asking for change, and I think the consumer today is very smart, very wise. There’s so much information, and I don’t think you can just have a brand to ‘have it’. You can’t just make another eyeliner… another lipstick… people don’t really need anything. You’ve been at home all these years and [people are thinking] ‘I can’t fit it in the house’! We use less of our time to make an impact for real. We want to fill it by buying things, which is good as that’s what our brand is about, but we need to teach people to just go and do more outside because it’s the only thing that gives you joy when you wake up.
I think the new generation, the centennials, just buy the basic stuff that works. They don’t buy a brand; they buy a story. It’s hard to do that with big corporations, but they can do it if they change because it makes an impact on the earth. This is our decade, in the next 10 years, we have to change. I can’t just have more lipsticks. I need to remove some so I can have more sustainable ones. I can’t just keep adding things to the range. It’s like when you get a new dress and you say, ‘I can’t bring another pair of socks into this house, if one pair doesn’t leave the house!’ (laughs). I think the brand is beautiful as it is. Obviously, there’s a lot more products coming, but I can’t have more products without deleting some… I just need to be more responsible; it’s something maybe many brands think of. But I think it’s nice to put the words out there because we are trailblazers. Now is the time for action… right now. Less is more. That should be the ethics of today, beauty has shifted. COVID just fastened the pace. It’s not overnight, but something we can do now, that’s the most important thing. Make packaging decisions, use ingredients with dignity. Just sit down for a coffee. Don’t find solutions on how to carry the coffee, just sit down and have it! (laughs)”
“I can’t have more products without deleting some… I just need to be more responsible; it’s something maybe many brands think of.”
On Giving Back
“Now I think I want to focus the brand on giving more, I think it’s about social impact… it’s what I want to do. I think we tick all the boxes now of a brand because through the years, we’ve been doing a lot for everything: for firefighters, for pandas, the plastic society, cleaning the ocean… there’s been so much that we’ve been a part of. I want that to be something that we always do now. I want people to celebrate being healthy in a way, and I think after this pandemic, the pause will have made us learn to love life more and live one moment at a time. We need to give to charities; we need to clean. We all as brands, people creating products, we need to do one thing, and put another one out.”
“The message from me is: this is beauty with heart, with a conscious. I’ve never been motivated by money; I never dream of a Chanel bag. It’s not really who I am. I wanna be a badass woman, I wanna be a bit different, and I wanna surprise you. So this is where, this brand, I do a lot of thinking, I don’t do much work, but I do a lot of thinking. I like to do things that make an impact…
…And I want this interview to make an impact.”
This article originally ran in the March-April 2022 issue of Professional Beauty.
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