August 28 2014

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A Luxurious Homecoming



The French word retrouvé signifies a reunion, a reconnection with something or someone you love. For Jami Morse Heidegger—third-generation Kiehl’s heiress, beauty visionary, and lifelong Francophile—the name has layers of personal meaning. “Once we sold Kiehl’s [to L'Oréal in 2000], I thought I was really out of the business,” she said at a small luncheon in Paris recently. “But making beauty products is who I am, it’s what I love, and what I’ve done my whole life.”

During the decade she spent composing high-concentration beauty creams for herself, Heidegger passed some samples along to friends. “I saw that she was having fun with it, and more and more friends kept asking her for it. So I finally said, ‘Just do this,’” added her husband, Klaus.

Today, Heidegger’s hobby, Retrouvé—an upscale “essential skincare line” of four products for women and men—launches today at Nose, the niche fragrance and skincare boutique in Paris. (For those who reside outside of the City of Light, ships internationally.) spoke with Heidegger about her return to beauty and what Retrouvé is really about.

How did Retrouvé come about?

It was honestly a very personal project. When we sold Kiehl’s, my children were young, I wanted to take care of my family, and I thought I was done. But I also knew what I wanted for myself—what ingredients and which concentrations would be the most effective for my own skin. So I worked with my chemist on formulas without any price constraints because it was just for me. We had total freedom. I never stopped following what was happening in beauty, so I would try a little of this or that. There were many incarnations.

What finally convinced you to return to the beauty business?

Klaus knew what I was doing, of course, and then friends started asking me what I was using these days, so I would give them an extra bottle, and word just got out. It’s pretty much the same thing that happened when I started making baby products at Kiehl’s. I just wanted to use fragrance-free products for my baby, and then her pediatrician asked me for some for other patients, and it just took off from there.

Retrouvé is also for my children. My elder daughter was so attached to Kiehl’s—she would come and hand out samples at Christmas. When we sold the company it was devastating for her. I began to think that maybe I could do something small, keep it fun. My daughter is in grad school now, but if ever she wants to circle back to it, she can. In that sense it’s sort of a legacy.

What are the special ingredients in this skincare program?

There’s no one magical ingredient. It’s more about combinations and how we create the entire formula. Retrouvé is very cutting-edge. But every year or two there are incredible advances in cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. A couple years from now we might have to adapt the formulations because it’s such a fast-evolving world.

What sets Retrouvé apart?

For lack of a better word, it is “gookier”! That’s not necessarily a great marketing term, but I like a heavier texture. My skin tends to be dry, so I knew that I needed something with greater hold, and I’m never in a rush to apply makeup. One of the taglines I wrote at Kiehl’s was “Throw away your makeup, please!” Makeup is wonderful, of course. But we shouldn’t rely on it to cover up problems. You don’t buy high fashion just to dress up an exterior. The idea is to look as good as possible nude, and then wear nice clothes. What cosmetics need to do is help the skin be the best it can be. So I take an extra ten minutes to let the cream soak in. I mean, is it really the end of the world if you look gooky for ten minutes? I’m not afraid of doing something funny or silly if it makes sense to me—I’ve been going my own way my whole life!

Like what other silly things?

I live in L.A., and I know people who would rather get a facelift than use sun protection—even today. But back before sunscreen caught on, I was the one out there wearing my favorite ugly floppy anti-UV hat, my face slathered in zinc oxide. People always thought I was a little out there. Now everyone is finally onto floppy hats.

Retrouvé is a little like that: It requires a few extra minutes, but those extra minutes will make more of a difference in the long run in terms of protecting and preserving the skin. It’s just one of many ways to take care of yourself.

The line is high-end. If a customer were to choose only one product, what would it be?

The Nutrient Face Serum is the foundation of the line and our philosophy—it also happens to be the product that is most universal. The Intensive Replenishing Facial Moisturizer is the one I focused on for myself, for its anti-aging effects. That’s the gookier one; it’s the most unique.

What does luxury mean to you?

Worrying is the bane of my existence: I worry about the ozone layer, about the water supply, about food scarcity, about my children, about radiation from electrical wires. Luxury for me is not having to worry.

Retrouvé may not be for everyone, but it’s not supposed to be. I figure that if people like it, great. If not, we’ll just divvy up the products amongst ourselves!

Nutrient Face Serum €391, Intensive Replenishing Facial Moisturizer €440, Revitalizing Eye Concentrate €410, Dynamic Nourishing Face Cream €385;

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