Interview with Jean-Alexander Havard
Nataly Osmann

We talk to the international president of the Origins brand Jean-Alexander Harvard about traveling around the world, the difference between organic and natural cosmetics and the new generation that decides everything!

Nataly: How do you like Moscow summer?

Jean-Alexander Havard: The weather in New York is just the same. We had a very beautiful week as if it was summer and then we had a period with rain and cold and wind.

Nataly: I know! Every time we come to New York the weather changes in a jiffy! The heat turns into heavy shower, as if you're in the tropics.

Jean-Alexander: You know, I love your stories. To be honest, I didn’t know you before, so when I discovered your project, I thought that it was very touching and beautiful – the story that you created – and I found it really artistic, it was more than just a beautiful picture. There was something very special about it, it was really, really nice.

Nataly: Yeah, we always try to share beautiful stories. It all started randomly. Our relationship just started back then. Murad had his own production company, so he was shooting commercials, feature films, music videos, and after his shooting in Barcelona…

Murad: We took the first #FollowMeTo shot. We were doing that for fun for a year and a half before it became popular, so we just posted photos and only friends liked them on social media. One day we woke up and realize that foreign media wrote about us and we were famous.

Jean-Alexander: That’s great. Well, this is the modern time. Beautiful thing that happened almost overnight.

Nataly: For us it was very important to share the beautiful places, the history of countries, the culture, because that experience is truly amazing.

Jean-Alexander: I see. I think now people love learning, discovering new things, exploring, and, of course, they’re interested in other people who are doing that. There are some people, who, unfortunately, don’t have the chance to travel. So they can get the feeling of it, the pleasure through Instagram, Facebook.

Murad: I think nowadays the whole mentality is shifting, now people want to hear stories. We consider someone as a rich, wealthy person, not based on his car, home, but for the stories he can share with people, for emotions he can give.

Jean-Alexander: That’s exactly what I love about the new generation - their conception of wellness is more about what they feel. It's all about how intelligent they are, not about the money they have.

Nataly: You are working in the sphere of organic products for a long time and now it’s getting more and more popular. I guess, back then, when you started your work, it wasn't that easy...

Jean-Alexander: You know, it’s always difficult to start something new. It takes a lot of time, because you have to build your brand by yourself. However, you never know, until you try. I think, one of the best things of Origins is the essential oils mixture.

Nataly: Yeah, the smells are great!

Jean-Alexander: I find it's interesting that everyone reacts to the product in his own way. One would smell some product and say “Oh, this smells so good, I love it”, while the other person would say something like “Ew, it smells like citrus!”. For some people the smell would be connected with memories and they would say “This reminds me the time I was in Istanbul”.

Nataly: That's exactly what I feel when I smell Origins products!

Jean-Alexander: Maybe I'm a naive idealist, but I think that it is in human nature – always trying to discover new things, progress and learn, go further, move forward. I think this is what makes life so interesting.

Nataly: I know. I think this new generation moves forward so fast.

Jean-Alexander: I find it very interesting. Many teenagers at the age of 16 or 18 are more mature than my peers. The teenagers think about global concerns of humanity, like the environment, politics, economics.

Murad: However I think that sometimes there is too much info on social media.

Nataly: Yeah, but I think it's normal, and it's good that people can share their opinion on social media.

Murad: I agree, it gives a lot of opportunities for youngsters, because back then it was really difficult to be in the media - it was all controlled, and now everything has changed. A couple years ago we were targeting on millennials. But now, you know, I'm millennial, so millennials are old now. Our generation is old.

Nataly: C'mon, we’re not that old!

Murad: So new generation is coming. I think millennials generation is also something that we have created, this concept, like this whole thing. There is always a new generation coming, and now that generation has the decisive word.

Jean-Alexander: I think that’s exiting! This is a progress, this is an evolution.

Nataly: It’s true.

Murad: According to the organic cosmetics ... On what generation your brand is oriented?

Jean-Alexander: First of all we’re not organic brand, we are natural cosmetics brand. We use organic ingredients in our formula. The brand was created in New York in 1990, and has been funded inside by the corporation and by William Lauder himself, so it was created by the family, which is very interesting. You see, it is all about evolution and generations. The brand was launched in 1990, but was created at the end of the 80’s as a reaction to post humanism and society of the 80’s, you know, when people thought their opinion really mattered. The philosophy of our brand is based on respect: yourself as a person, your skin, your needs, your own intelligence to choose and decide, and also respect nature. So we take the best from the nature. We travel all over the world and pick many ingredients for our products. What is reaaly important is that we stand against toxins and parabens. So, answering your question, all progressive people, who care about themselves and the world around them are our target audience.This is the philosophy of the brand. We also have a lot of products which are inspired from traditional Chinese medicine.

Nataly: Yeah, I know that your brand is popular in China..

Jean-Alexander: Yes, we were on Chines market for more than 7 years. Asian people are more familiar with the natural ingredients that we use in production.

Nataly: We just came back from China.

Jean-Alexander: Oh, where have you been?

Murad: We’ve been to Beijing, Guilin, and its surroundings, in Danxia...

Jean-Alexander: Have you been to Shaanxi?

Murad: Oh, no, not yet!

Jean-Alexander: It is very beautiful!

Murad: We went to these colored mountains.

Jean-Alexander: They are in China as well?

Nataly: Yeah, but it is not so easy to travel there.

Murad: To get there, you have to fly there, then take a train, then take a bus...

Jean-Alexander: I’ve been in China many times, I love Asia, I love Asian culture. I also heard about place like this in Argentina.

Nataly: We’ve never been to Argentina, but we really want to visit it. Our next country will be Mauritius.

Murad: Yeah we will be in Mauritius for 3-4 days. There are so many places we haven’t been. For instance South America.

Nataly: I really want go to Peru.

Jean-Alexander: Oh, yeah, I’ve never been there, too, but my friends been to Machu Picchu and they say that it is a very special place.

Nataly: If we go to Peru, we have to visit Bolivia, you know with salt lakes.

Murad: Yeah they look like windows onto infinity.

Nataly: There are so many places we want to visit like New Zealand, Iceland. The key is - never stop discovering. And we always want to come back to the countries we’ve been to.

Murad: Yeah like India, we’ve been there for 5-6 times already.

Nataly: I’ll be in Himalayas in the monastery in July, I want to explore it.

Jean-Alexander: Do you have plans to go to US, to NY?

Murad: It is a bit far from Moscow, so we travel to NYC not very often, every 3-4 months.

Nataly: But we have a lot of work in America. We have more projects there, than in Russia, we’re quite popular in America.

Murad: In Russia, all the Russian brands are just discovering social media. US have been on this market for several years. However, everything changes so fast.

Natasha: We work with different audience. Our first target audience is in America, second in Russia, third in China, Asia. We have huge audience in Brazil.

Jean-Alexander: You also have fans in India, as I know.

Murad: Yes, a lot of people know about our project outside the social media. Now we work with editorials to attract older generation, because the youngsters, they are on social media, they know us, but the older generation still read newspapers and magazines. We try to hit different media, not only staying on social media.

Nataly: Yeah and it is really important for us to communicate with people, we travel a lot and we always meet talented people, like shoes maker in India, or maybe a super talented photographer, and we always try to see the country through their eyes.

Jean-Alexander: It is amazing that the concept of Origins as a brand and the concept of your project is so similar. I like the idea of meeting people, learning about culture and discovering something special about the traditions.

Nataly: Yeah, the culture, the traditions... If you don’t understand the, you don’t understand the people, and you can’t understand the country.

Jean-Alexander: You know, sometimes we discover ingredients for Origins with the help of local people. For instance, one of the products called Plantscription. Its main ingredient is Anogeissus and it is a bark of tree in Africa. We have a team of 50 scientists that travel a lot and belong to some universities and research centers who discovered that for hundreds and hundreds years in Africa people use the mix of the bark of the tree Anogeissus to heal any cuts. It has a very, very strong healing and repair properties. So, we use it in our cosmetics. There is also a product called Modern Friction. Modern Friction is a scrub which is based on rice. In old times, Japanese ladies were using rice to soften their skin. You know, sometimes it sounds like a cooking recipe, the way we choose only the best ingredients for our formulas.

Nataly: So interesting!

Murad: Do you send researchers to the countries and they stay there for some period of time?

Jean-Alexander: Well they don’t have to travel all the time, they do a lot of preparatory work and sometimes you don’t need to send someone because you have a partners in that country who can help with the research.

Murad: Maybe you should create a story, about a person who travels across the world to find rare ingredients.

Jean-Alexander: Well we don’t create stories, it's all truly happens. We have some people who travel – one of them is Livda Clark. She is based in our RND lab in Brussel. She travels a lot as a part of Origins, still she attends seminars and while traveling she researches and discusses the trends in natural ingredients or healing properties of some ingredients with other scientists. We also work in collaboration with Dr Weil since 2005. Dr Weil has MBA from Harvard in Integrative Medicine. He is also very inspired by Asian traditional medicine. He has published a lot of books about anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients, he traveled a lot. So, if you manage with some - let’s not say "ingredients", but remedies - to address and break this cascade of inflammation, then you will destroy the root cause. He has huge experience and work in Asia, in Japan, in Singapore, in Beijing. So he is also always looking for new ingredients, he discovered these three mushrooms – reishi, chaga and cordyceps - for the mega mushroom line. It’s really an amazing product.

Nataly: As I know, you also have been to Philippines.

Jean-Alexander: Yes, I spend almost 2 years there. We have four stores in the Philippines.

Nataly: Last year we started our TV program, and one of the series was about traveling in Philippines.

Murad: I remember how we ended up in the middle of the really bad storm during this trip. But that place was very beautiful.

Jean-Alexander: Was it scary?

Murad: Not very scary, but the power of the storm was not very pleasant, you know, you’re in the car and you couldn’t even hear people talking because of the strength of the water that hit the car.

Nataly: Yes, our first storm was in Philippines. Second was in…

Murad: Beijing?

Nataly: Yes...

Murad: I think in Beijing the storm was actually good, cause it cleared up the fog from the pollution. When we were in Beijing just recently, the sky was so clear, everything was so nice and beautiful. There was some summit, they closed factories, they stopped working, the sky cleared out and we saw the beautiful Beijing. People don’t see it, they don’t see the sky all the time.

Nataly: Really? Wow, it’s like in Russia, the clouds.

Murad: What’s your main clientele? What’s the main market – US?

Jean-Alexander: The biggest market is US, because it was launched there 27 years ago, so it’s a very big part of the business. The second country is China and then it’s the UK and travel retails, cause you know travel retail is not country, but people shop here.

Murad: You mean like mainland China or Hong Kong, Shanghai?

Jean-Alexander: Well, when I say China, I mean mainland China, so we’re in 22 cities in China. We’re also in Hong Kong and in Taiwan.

Murad: Hong Kong and Taiwan are really big in terms of market.

Nataly: Yeah, yeah, they have a huge potential.

Jean-Alexander: And also you can use Facebook or Instagram in China. They always find ways.

Murad: We launched a special Weibo account.

Nataly: Now we’re creating WeChat account as well.

Murad: We’re going to WeChat as well, but Weibo is like a platform where you can gain followers, so we have like 200000 people there in China, but you can really work with the locals there.

Jean-Alexander: Oh that’s good, Also I really love Taiwan, Taiwanese people, their food. I know you’ve been to Taiwan.

Nataly: Yeah.

Murad: We love it.

Nataly: It’s so modern.

Jean-Alexander: I love Taiwan because, for me it is a great mix of Chinese and Japanese cultures, it is very beautiful.

Nataly: Yeah, it’s nice.

Jean-Alexander: We should totally travel together, that’s would be fun.

Murad: We’ve been at the festival in Taiwan. During it they put a boat in salt, they build it for two years, and then they burned it.

Murad: I also love our shot of Taipei 101. It’s really difficult to shoot, it’s huge.

Jean-Alexander: Oh, I was very lucky to be in Alishan for the cherry blossom. People think connect Japan with cherry blossom, or Kyoto, but, in fact, it is also very beautiful in Alishan.

Murad: Are you leaving today?

Jean-Alexander: Yeah, I leave this evening.

Nataly: To New York?

Murad: Hope the weather in New York will be better.

Jean-Alexander: I think it’s very hot and humid in New York now.

Murad: Well, New York is the same latitude as Rome, so…

Jean-Alexander: I prefer the climate of Rome, to be honest. Rome is one of my favorite cities. I will be in Europe for 10 days next month. It is going to be a launch trip, so we will come to Italy for the launch of Origins and we will come to Turkey.

Murad: Turkey?

Jean-Alexander: Yeah, we launch next month.

Nataly: In Istanbul?

Jean-Alexander: In Istanbul, yes.

Nataly: I love Istanbul.

Jean-Alexander: Yeah it’s very beautiful.

Nataly: Yeah, I love it. We have to go to take a picture together.

Jean-Alexander: Okay. But you should tell us when you are in NY. I think, we should share our travel plans and organize something in New York, so we can show you all the secrets of our formulas at the lab and the factory.

Nataly: Okay. Let’s travel together somewhere!

Jean-Alexander: That would be fun!

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