Some of the most revolutionary changes come from truths that are hard to hear. Ideas that challenge a norm, or possibly invalidate it all together, make people uncomfortable and sometimes defensive. The beauty industry plays by the same script. Hundreds of ideas come and go. Some leave a mark. Most go unnoticed in the over-saturation of noise; but the few that cut through leave an echo. When Rose-Marie Swift approached the beauty industry ten years ago with the idea sustainable beauty, clean beauty, it was no surprise that she was met with deafening silence.
Swift got her start in the beauty industry as many do—a makeup artist; but, ever the unconventional artist, she started as a makeup artist for strippers in burlesque shows purely to pay for her hobby as a singer in a punk rock band. Swift’s talent alone made her a highly sought after artist in a more fringe portion of society, but when one thing led to another and stars aligned, Swift found herself doing the makeup of a famous Swedish supermodel for the cover photo of Vancouver Magazine. From then on, calls weren’t just coming in from alternative groups within Vancouver’s society, but also from editorial giants in New York, London and Paris.
Swift took on the world of makeup, traveling and conquering Toronto, Europe, Miami and finally New York in 1990. She found herself at the top agency at the time, Streeters, working big jobs with some of the most prominent names in the industry when she realized she had been goofing off this entire time. The girl doing makeup for strippers in the back room of a club and the woman painting the faces of top models in the industry on thousand dollar photoshoots had one big thing in common: they were both just winging it. “I didn’t know what product I was using. I was just using any product that was my whim of the moment.”
After this somewhat unsettling realization, Swift began to pay close attention to every single product she was using. At the time, she was was working for Victoria Secret, specifically doing makeup for the runway shows.
“When I started putting the makeup on their bodies and the makeup on their faces, I realized that I didn’t like what I was seeing through the camera. The skin just didn’t look as good as it did with just oil on it.”
After Swift found that no products truly served her in the way she wanted, she began down her road to becoming a self-proclaimed “mad scientist.” After a bit of fooling around, RMS Beauty and the principles behind the brand were born.
RMS Beauty is a completely organic beauty brand. All products are made with food-grade ingredients that are “not only non-toxic, but actually heal and nourish the skin.” The products were some of the first advertised as being free of harmful chemicals, synthetic preservatives, synthetic vitamins and genetically modified ingredients (GMO). Now, each of those descriptors fall into a checklist that many brands feel like they have to fulfill simply to satisfy the consumer.
With the rise of a new environmentally-conscious generation over the last three years, consumers have been pushing for brands to release products that fall into a “sustainable” and “green” category. Products that are vegan, cruelty free and minimal waste have gained popularity and many mainstream brands are just now catching on to the fact that the desires for these types of product aren’t just a phase. Foretelling this shift over a decade ago, Swift has watched first hand as an ideology that she pushed for (only to be shut down and ignored) has become one of the most prominent game-changers for the industry’s present and future.
When questioned about the future of the beauty industry, Swift didn’t have a single doubt that sustainable beauty was going to become the new norm. In order for that to happen on a mass market level, there are massive leaps to be made, both within the actual cosmetics industry as well as all the other industries that support it. Using sustainable or organic ingredients in products is one thing, but there’s much more that goes into an actual product. The ingredients have to be sourced sustainably, as well as packaged, processed and transported. Once the ingredients are a product, the primary and secondary packaging matters, as well as all the steps that go into the manufacturing. Sustainability is about more than clean and green ingredients. It takes into account measures that we as a society never think about because they happen quietly, behind the proverbial curtain.
Swift acknowledged that RMS Beauty isn’t perfect when it comes to sustainability, but what truly counts is that they are trying. They are constantly working to improve their environmental footprint, and will hopefully be able to bring the rest of the industry into a more sustainable way of life, leading by example.