The global success of Tata Harper’s luxurious organic skincare products has made her the poster girl for the beauty industry’s farm-to-face movement. Hannah Betts charts the meteoric rise of the “Queen of Green”.
“My Self-care Sundays are about taking time to decompress before the week ahead,” says skincare guru Tata Harper, beaming serenely. “It doesn’t have to be a whole day – for me it never is because I’m usually running around with my kids all weekend. But it’s about taking even just a few minutes to care for yourself. Personally, I like to do at-home spa facials. My kids love to do them with me, so it’s another way I get to spend time with them and teach them about wellness.”
If one isn’t careful, 44-year-old Harper’s life can sound storybook perfect: working away at her beautiful brand, with her beautiful children, on her beautiful 1,200-acre Vermont farm, with its blackberries and lavender elds. So far, so Waltons Mountain. However, the woman dubbed the “Queen of Green”, whose “life-changing” products (the quote is Vogue’s) represent the apotheosis of skincare’s farm-to-face movement, is no less an imposing entrepreneur. For this is natural beauty sans hemp and hair shirt, coming of age as an ultra-luxe, ultra-scientific experience with supernaturally gleaming results.
Harper’s formulae are famed for being at once genuinely natural and fabulously high-tech, while doing what they say on the tin. As she notes, “My principal beauty philosophy is that skincare needs to be effective, because people buy products to see results. That has driven our approach to formulation, engineering, and innovation. By buying one of our creams, you’re basically getting the same number of ingredients that you would usually need 10 or 12 other products to receive. We don’t believe in hero ingredients and simple formulas; we believe in multi-targeted, multi-benefit concoctions. We’re a brand for beauty maximalists who believe that more ingredients equal more results.”
Harper concedes that creating products of this exacting quality presented an uphill battle. “Making such a revolutionary line while refusing to use synthetic chemicals was really hard. I was faced with a lot of negativity. There are also challenges from the formulation perspective, because we don’t start with pre-made bases and we don’t use fillers. Every single ingredient has a purpose and every formula starts completely from scratch, so it can take up to three years to perfect a new product.”
Before entering the world of beauty, Harper studied industrial engineering and was working in real estate development with her New Yorker husband and co-CEO Henry. Her Damascene moment came when her stepfather was diagnosed with cancer, and she started to examine everything she was putting in and on her body. None of the natural unguents she sampled came up to scratch, so she set out on a mission to create her own.
The Tata Harper brand first went on sale in 2010, in the wake of five years’ research. Within the next five years it had expanded from 12 to 38 wares. Today it boasts whole ranges and pops up in all the right places, including: Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Sephora, Printemps, Le Bon Marché, Selfridges, Harrods, SpaceNK, Net-a-porter and goop – with Gwyneth Paltrow, one of many radiant acolytes, stating:
“Pretty much everything I use is Tata Harper.”
If the products feel headily pleasure-inducing, it’s because indulgence is written into Harper’s – and her brand’s – DNA. For our Vermont farm girl is originally from Barranquilla, Colombia. “My mother and grandmother would have spa parties with their friends and they all took the time for beauty. This meant a lot of DIY face masks and treatments using ingredients like avocado, honey and lemon – things growing around us locally, or fresh from the store. I grew up learning about beauty as a ritual, something you experience on a daily basis. I think that Colombian and Latin women like myself have a different appreciation for beauty; it’s viewed as a way of taking care of yourself, whereas in other cultures it’s sometimes considered a chore.”
Now Harper is bringing her brand of self-care to The Lanesborough Club & Spa, in her first UK collaboration. There will be three exclusive treatments: the Grounding Yogic Facial; the Sculpt & Define Facial; and the Cellular Repair Facial. Her products will also be available in the spa shop, meaning club members need never run low on her cult Elixir Vitae Serum – which some have compared to a daily dose of injectables – or endlessly award-winning Resurfacing Mask.
Harper loves to travel – having lived in Canada, Paris, Mexico, Miami and New York – and naturally, she does it in style. “Even though I don’t usually wear make-up, there are times when I look a little fatigued, so I always have an Alima Pure Cream Concealer with me. I also carry two of our products: Very Naughty, because I can’t live without blush, and our aromatherapy Irritability Treatment, because you never know when you’ll need a second to calm your mind. Another travel essential is my Denis Colomb hoodie – I take it on every flight.” Next stop may be Thailand:
“Koh Phi Phi looks otherworldly, as does the Khao Yai National Park.”
Beauty, of course, is as much about what we put into our bodies as what we put onto them. Our heroine is not big on diet restrictions, but has recently started cutting down on red meat and chicken. “What I really relish eating is a lot of vegetables, fish, and seafood. I love trying these things wherever I am in the world. In Colombia, I always eat local fish with coconut rice and a big avocado salad.”
Fresh, natural, beautiful, and feel-good – these are qualities on which Harper has built an empire. As one diehard enthusiast observes: “Tata Harper’s potions smell and feel incredible, won’t destroy my body, or the planet, and make me look about six. What’s not to like?” We second that emotion.