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Spotlight On:

Respire

What's the Story?

When lifelong runner Justine Hutteau was diagnosed with a benign tumor in her armpit, she set out in search of a natural deodorant to replace the classic chemical-filled deodorants she’d been using. After an unsuccessful search, she knew she had to create her own product, and Respire was born.

How are they different?

For Respire, community input is key. New products launch each month, and before the launch of each new product, Respire consumers get to test the products and give feedback. What started as a brand with just deodorant, is on track to becoming the leading natural hygiene brand in France.

What inspires us?

All of their packaging is recyclable and recycled, and they are continuously seeking the best alternatives. The deodorant containers are made from 100% regrind (scraps) and can be refilled up to 3 times with the eco-refill. And Respire’s shampoo bars, soap bars and face cleanser bars significantly help reduce the use of plastic bottles.

Q&A

Justine Hutteau

Co-Founder, Respire

Many of the leading hygiene products, including deodorant, shampoo and face wash, are full of chemicals that harm us and the planet. When Respire co-founder Justine Hutteau’s use of chemical-filled deodorant caused a benign tumor in her armpit, she knew something had to be done. With the help of a pharmaceutical doctor, she developed a range of all-natural, eco-friendly personal care products. They now have toothpaste, shampoo, face wash and sunscreen, all created with human and planetary health in mind. All of Respire’s packaging is recyclable and recycled, and they are continuously seeking the best alternatives. The deodorant containers are made from 100% regrind (scraps) and can be refilled up to 3 times with the eco-refill, and their shampoo bars, soap bars and face cleanser bars significantly help reduce the use of plastic bottles. They estimate that the solid shampoo, for example, allows you to save 14 bottles of classic shampoo every year.

How did you get started?

As an avid runner for a few years, I have run marathons and ultratrail. In 2017, something stopped me in my crazy passion for running—I was diagnosed with a benign tumor under my right armpit and doctors made me aware of all the damaging effects that various ingredients used in classic deodorants could have on my body. Therefore, I tried to look for a healthy deodorant that would be effective and take care of my body. Without conclusive results, I decided to create one!

This is where the whole Respire adventure began, born out of a simple truth: our body is magic; it’s our single most powerful asset in life, so we better take care of it.

We have developed, from scratch with a pharmaceutical doctor, a range of natural personal care products, clean for the body, easy to use and sustainable for our planet. All our products are made in France, are natural, vegan, cruelty-free, and we use clean formulas with non-controversial ingredients.

You were quoted in a Financial Times article saying “we aim to launch a new product each month.” Tell us more about your high growth business model.

The first product that alarmed me is the deodorant, but there are lots of other products needing cleaner formulas. That’s why after launching the natural deodorant, I started working on other products such as natural and mineral sun cream, solid shampoo bar, natural toothpaste, etc. We are a small team with experts in each domain. Our “product team” is dedicated to developing new products. Our launching roadmap is planned 18 months in advance and we work with expert laboratories in France who help us to find the best clean formulas.

What is the view towards sustainability in France?

Consumers have more expectations and want to buy healthy products. They are looking for product compositions that are more transparent, organic, cruelty-free/vegan and with an environmental impact as neutral as possible. Therefore, brands must adapt: clean formulas, reduce water consumption, switch to organic, develop eco-responsible packaging—without ignoring efficiency or sensorial elements.

Where do you see Respire in 5 years?

We hope that people will realize the potential of their body and the importance of taking care of it. Our mission is to make Respire one of the reference brands for natural hygiene and beauty care in France and Europe as well. We want to offer our community a real alternative to hygiene care that meets the expectations of conscious consumers.

In what ways are you lessening plastic use in your products?

At Respire, all our packaging is recyclable and recycled. We’re always looking for the best alternatives in terms of environmental friendliness and practicality. For example:
-We use recycled and recyclable plastic for the toothpaste, as well as a lightweight plastic cap (21% less plastic than a standard cap).

-Our deodorant packaging is from 100% regrind, i.e. made from scraps not used by our manufacturer.

-It is possible to refill the deodorant (50 ml format) up to 3 times with the eco-refill.

-Our deodorant eco-refill is made of 100% recycled PE-HD (type of plastic).

At the same time, we have developed a solid range to reduce the use of plastic considerably. This range is composed of a solid shampoo with almond milk, a surgras soap with wild pear and our novelty, a face cleanser in the form of a solid bar. All packaged in 100% recyclable paper or cardboard that meets the “Imprim’Vert” and “PEFC” standards. The solid shampoo, for example, allows you to save 14 bottles of classic shampoo every year.

What was your experience breaking into the deodorant and sunscreen space?

In November 2018, we launched an online crowdfunding campaign to introduce Respire and allow customers to pre-order our first product, the natural deodorant, in order to finance the first production. It was a huge success with more than 21 000 products sold in one month. Our launch video unexpectedly created a real buzz on social media with more than 3 millions views on Linkedin, Instagram and Facebook. Since the beginning, our community is the key, with more than 300,000 “organic” and very engaged followers.

Today, almost 2 years later, we’ve sold more than 1,200,000 products and recruited 23 people. Also, Respire products are now in more than 1,000 shops including the French retailer Monoprix and all Sephora stores in Europe.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic shifted people’s stance on the importance of self care?

Consumers were already sensitive to natural hygiene care long before COVID19. However, the crisis may have reinforced the return of naturalness and healthy product use. With Respire, we provide basic necessities such as solid shampoo, solid soap, toothpaste and deodorant. Nowadays, people buy online. We were able to meet all the consumers’ expectations through our e-shop during the quarantine.

Many consumers stick to what they know when it comes to personal care products. What’s your strategy for getting people to make the switch to natural products?

One of Respire’s key values is proximity. First of all, we co-make our products according to consumers’ expectations through surveys. They test our products before each launch and we get their feedback. We also make sure to involve our community to convert them to natural hygiene care via our different communication channels: Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tik Tok, e-shop, newsletter. And we set up several actions: physical and digital events (Respire tour everywhere in France, Respire club, Q&A, live Instagram with our product development managers and dermatologist, nutritionist, etc.).

Our mission is to prove that using natural hygiene products could be as sensorial as the products they use to have.

What inspired you to create the blog component of your brand?

Our blog is for consumers who are looking for information and want to understand more about our products (formulas, design, manufacturing). Transparency is part of the core values at Respire, so it was important for us to share behind the scenes through our blog.

What challenges, if any, did you face in coming up with your formulas and sourcing sustainable and natural ingredients?

The most complicated part of the product development process, with our specifications, is to successfully create a natural formula (more than 95% natural ingredients) that is really pleasant to use with local ingredients, made in France and with an incredible natural fragrance. We love challenge and want to create the best natural products!

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Spotlight On:

Mandy Barker

What's the Story?

English photographer Mandy Barker collects plastics from beaches around the world (even joining scientists on expeditions) and creates beautiful images, hoping to help raise awareness and inspire action towards fighting plastic pollution.

How are they different?

Because most of the collected plastic cannot be recycled, Barker keeps it rather than seeing it end up in landfills. She has wooden chests of catalogued small items, a full greenhouse, shed and friend’s garage to store everything!

What inspires us?

On a recent expedition to Henderson Island, where she photographed inside a cave, Barker used a camera made from marine plastic debris. Her talent and commitment to the overall mission to combat waste is an inspiration to all—creators and consumers alike.

Q&A

Mandy Barker

Artist

SOUP: Refused, Photograph © Mandy Barker

Growing up on the east coast of England, photographer Mandy Barker loved to stroll the local beaches and collect driftwood and shells. These days, she strolls beaches around the world collecting plastic. She hauls micro-plastics and large pieces back to her studio where she produces striking photographs, drawing viewers in to the reality of what they’re looking at—an abundance of harmful waste. Collaborating with scientists (even joining them on expeditions), Barker hopes to raise awareness about plastic pollution in our oceans and to inspire others. She is a recipient of the 2018 National Geographic Society Grant for Research and Exploration and her work has appeared in various international publications including The Guardian, Time Magazine, Vogue, and National Geographic. Her gorgeous first book Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals was named on the Ten Best Photography Books of 2017 by Smithsonian. Last year, Barker collaborated with Stanford University to create a virtual reality experience called Ripple: the unintended life of plastics in the sea in which viewers interact with the ocean’s plastics via a 360° headset.

What led you to photography and then specifically focusing on marine plastic debris?

Personal experience. I grew up on the East coast of England, and during my childhood I enjoyed being by the sea and collecting natural objects such as driftwood and shells. Increasingly over the years these natural objects have been taken over by man-made waste, especially plastic. I began to notice household appliances such as fridge freezers, computers and TV casings, child’s car seats and more washed up on the beach, and began to wonder how they got there. I felt this was an environmental concern that others should know about, and this is what stimulated my work—to spread awareness of this experience to a wider audience.

SHELF-LIFE: Barcode – 50P 300015, Photograph © Mandy Barker

What do you wish to convey with your photographs?

I aim to engage the viewer through aesthetically pleasing images, drawing them in, and then shocking them with the captions and information of what they are actually looking at. I hope this engagement will increase awareness about the issue of plastic pollution through the type of objects that are found in the world’s oceans, from protected global environments to the stomachs of marine creatures, and ultimately ourselves. My main aim is to encourage people to take responsibility for their own plastic use on a daily basis, to stimulate debate, and to change legislation regarding the production and manufacturing of unnecessary plastic, and in doing so, help to inspire change.

LUNASEA: Grid Of Objects, Photograph © Mandy Barker

Youve been on several expeditions, once joining Greenpeace, to collect plastic debris. Can you tell us about them?

I have taken part in several expeditions that have crossed world oceans, working alongside scientists to see their work first-hand and to create work that can go on to support and enhance their research—almost giving science a visual voice. In 2012, I sailed with a team of 12 across the North Pacific Ocean through the tsunami debris field for a month on a yacht, which resulted in the series SHOAL. Last year, I took part in an expedition to Henderson Island, which is a remote uninhabited island isolated in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. This UNESCO world Heritage site is more than 5,000km from the nearest major landmass and has been named as the most plastic polluted beach on the planet. During the expedition I photographed most of the 6 tons of plastic on the islands shores and have created different projects to try and engage different audiences with more than 45 recognized brands from over 25 different countries, and with objects including a skating boot, syringes, inkjet cartridges, a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy, and a toilet seat.

PENALTY – The World, Photograph © Mandy Barker

Do you personally collect all of the plastic debris used in your work?

I recover most of the plastic myself, but people do help and I am often getting plastic items posted to me from all over the world with people asking me to include them in my images. However, I created the series PENALTY, specifically to get other people involved in the collection. Via a social media call out, I asked the public from all over the world to send me footballs (soccer balls) washed up on their local beaches and to post them to me to photograph. In the end I received 769 balls and created 4 images that showed the different collections from the world, Europe, United Kingdom, and a collection from a single person. The project received a really good response from all areas. It was broadcast live on CNN News Connect the World along with dialogue and images showing the concerns of marine pollution and single-use plastic. The project itself connected the public with the issue from some of the places the footballs were found. For example, one of the balls travelled across the North Pacific from Japan after the tsunami and was found on the West Coast of the United States. The project also inspired environmental education in schools with pupils recovering plastic waste and balls lost on waste ground to create their own images inspired by the PENALTY series.

Hong Kong Soup:1826 – Transform, Photograph © Mandy Barker

Do you shoot all your photographs in a studio? How do you create the illusion that all the items are floating?

Most of my work is shot in a studio, but on expeditions, it is not possible to bring back the plastic, and it may be required for scientific research so I often have to photograph on location. During the expedition across the North Pacific, I photographed all plastic recovered on board the yacht, which was very difficult due to rough conditions. On Henderson Island I photographed most of the plastic in a cave on East Beach.

I place varying sizes of the plastic—from micro-plastic particles to larger foreground objects—on a black background. Combined with an exposure of a few seconds, and with light from one direction source, this creates a feeling of infinity and the effect of suspension. For the Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals series I used a broken 35mm film camera, and for one of my recent expeditions to Henderson Island I used a camera made from the actual marine plastic debris itself. Each project is a conscious decision to reflect a different aspect about the issue of plastic debris and my work is evolving all the time, trying to engage in new and different ways.

SHELF-LIFE: Barcode – 490250 5085680, Photograph © Mandy Barker

What was the 3D project you collaborated on with Stanford University?

I collaborated with Stanford University to launch a virtual reality experience of my work, Ripple: the unintended life of plastics in the sea. I worked with Stanford’s Communication Programme in Journalism with several of my images to represent how ubiquitous plastic has now become part of our world, creating an experience freely available to everyone across all platforms, from a 360º headset to a mobile phone.

Do you have any favorite organizations or people spearheading the fight against marine plastic debris?

There are significant individuals and organizations around the world that are doing fantastic work in the fight against plastic pollution in terms of getting petitions signed, campaigning and getting acts passed. It is hard to select but as for individuals, the amazing work of Ella and Caitlin McEwan, aged 8 and 10, in the UK who started a petition to ban plastic toys being given away with Burger King and McDonald’s Happy Meals, shows just how powerful and engaged the younger generation can be. Being successful in changing toys that have been given away for the past 40 years, is an incredible achievement from school children, and goes to show we all have the power to make change for the better.

LUNASEA Object No.46 – Horse, Photograph © Mandy Barker

What would you like to see governments around the world do to tackle plastic pollution?

I would like to see government legislation that requires manufacturers to take responsibility for collecting and recycling their materials or products after use; to have the return deposit scheme implemented so that the consumer will be encouraged to take their plastic bottle or other container back to where they bought it so that it doesn’t end up in the environment; to have single-use packaging replaced with an ethical alternative; and to stop the shipment of plastic waste to developing countries that don’t have the ability to manage it.

LUNASEA Grid of Moons (fishing buoys recovered from Henderson Island), Photograph © Mandy Barker

What gives you hope?

That the above will happen. People like Ella and Caitlin McEwan. And the comments book I leave in my exhibitions. If photography has the power to move people emotionally, encourage people to act or at the very least, make them take notice, then this must surely be a vital element to lead to change. If I didn’t believe my work did any of these things then I wouldn’t be motivated to continue.

SOUP: Bird’s Nest, Photograph © Mandy Barker

What are you currently working on?

My next project is the result of a residency I did last year on Lord Howe Island in Australia, concerning sea birds called shearwaters that live on the island. When the chicks come out of their burrow, they are sadly being fed plastic by their parents that mistake it for food when they forage out at sea. This is the first time I have worked alongside scientists where marine plastic is directly affecting a species. It’s an emotional experience and I hope to get that across in the work.

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Susan Rockefeller