Sustainable Luxury, Born of Passion and Made For Ritual

By Sarah Jean Harrison

Clean beauty is a growing field with new brands and products entering the marketplace everyday but few take such a thoughtful and 360 approach to development as Cūrata. In my conversation with Serena Rogers, founder of the sustainable luxury body care brand Cūrata, we chatted about the unexpected evolution of Cūrata, why luxury has to be sustainable and the importance of creating a ritual of self-care.

Sarah Jean: Of course, I have been stalking you online and I noticed that you come from the spa and beauty industry. Tell me about where you started and the work you did in the spa world.

Serena Rogers: I’ll give you the short story since we all have long stories! I started working in 2002 as an aesthetician at Spa Diva in Montreal. There was something that attracted me to spas and I fell in love with the industry. I loved the personal connection you make with your clients.

I slowly worked into supervisory roles and then managerial roles until I was operations manager of Spa Diva. It was just a natural transition and it was fabulous training ground. I was lucky to learn from the ground up and really know what that front-end customer experience.  

But I was quite young, in my early 20s and an operations manager. I was driven. I was excited and I wanted to do more. The next logical step was moving into a director’s role but at that time Montreal didn’t have the luxury hotel spas. I knew I wanted to grow, so I decided to join an international hotel group.

Eventually I settled with Hyatt Hotels, where I was offered the pre-opening Spa Director’s role at the Hyatt Regency in Trinidad. It was so exciting! I had no idea what I was getting into but it went well and my next opening was the Grand Hyatt Macau.

What fantastic international experience! How did you transition from international Spa Director to brand founder?

In 2011 I came back to Montreal, I just felt the need to come home, and I started consulting for several years. It was a great gig. I really enjoyed working on project but it wasn’t mine in that real way. Somewhere along the line I had been bitten by the brand bug. I felt like I needed to create something that was unique and all my own. I thought of all sorts of ideas like tea or t-shirts.

How did you get from tea and t-shirts to beautiful, luxury body products?

It all really started with a quotation and a bar of soap.

I love soap. I love bathing. I love the ritual of self-care. It’s so important that we care for ourselves and others. At some point I have this bar of soap that I love and then I see one of those Instagram quotes. You know the one that’s something like…a year from now you’ll wish you started today. And I just thought I’ve got to do something. It has to happen now. In 2015 I started conceptualizing Cūrata.

Where does the name Cūrata come from?

Cūrata is from the Latin root that means to restore and to care for. Which really is our essence.

I would imagine that with your experience it would have been easy to put together a conventional beauty product. What drew you to clean beauty?

I was exposed to the world of clean beauty later in my career as a director. In my earlier years it simply was not a discussion we were having. No one was talking about ingredients. It only started to come into our collective consciousness as an industry in the last 5-10 years but it really spoke to me. Eventually, I started to question why are we as leaders in the industry, running these world class facilities for what is supposed to be healing, wellness and connection, were not giving our clients only the best products that could help them? How could we sell them these products that look fabulous but are full of junk?

I realized that I couldn’t reconcile this discrepancy any more. If I was going to create something it had to be truly clean, pure, transparent ethical beauty. And I wanted to do it all the way, from a 360-degree perspective. I didn’t want to fake it with great packaging and photography but the products are less than. I just thought if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right.

Curata Aureo Multi Radiance Oil

I love the stories of people, like you, who are working in their field and they suddenly look around and say “wait a second…I can’t be preaching this if I’m not doing it.”

Exactly. And going a step further, I really started to explore the concept of luxury too. I was looking for a tagline in 2015 and at that time the word and concept of sustainable wasn’t what it is now. I kept thinking is my tagline natural luxury? Is it luxury natural? But none of those words combined really spoke to me in that completely wholistic way. Eventually I got myself to sustainable and realized that I had found a descriptor for everything I had been mulling around: from ethical to transparent to clean to safe to waste free. Sustainable was it.

Sustainable luxury is such a great descriptor. I personally believe that if it’s not ethical, it’s not luxury.

You just hit the nail on the head. I realized that unless it’s sustainable, it’s simply not luxury. I love the traditional luxury brands and what they stand for in terms of craftsmanship and heritage and provenance. But it’s scary what they’re doing regarding waste and supply chains. This cannot be luxury.

I hear you! I love them too for their heritage and for their sense of history and craftsmanship. But if they’re harming people and waterways in the process of tapping into that, then it’s no longer luxury. It’s just a façade.

Absolutely a façade. The waterways, the people, the animals. It all counts.

You mentioned earlier that you found yourself drawn to the ritual of self-care. Can you elaborate on that?  

Curata Dulceo Botanical Perfume Extract

I think self-care is also connected to our understanding of luxury. Luxury can’t just be about making us look good. It also has to make us feel good and it has to let us do good. What about that time you need to take at least once a week to decompress, breathe and scrub yourself down to your little pinky toe? And when you come out of the bath or shower, what are you doing with that time?  Again, I came to the ah-ha moment where I thought how can I reconcile spending that 10-15 minutes with products that weren’t doing incredible good? Cūrata grew into this body care brand because it’s so important that we take the time to care for our skin, not just our faces, but our whole body. Obviously, you’ll look good because our products are so pure and so high quality, that they’re nourishing your skin. You’re going to glow. But it’s also about feeling good and doing good. I wanted to create body care that would become part of women’s ritual for self-care.

I love that. Such a beautiful reminder to women to care for ourselves. Tell me about your natural fragrance. As soon as I looked at your website I was immediately interested in natural fragrance because I am one of those people who can’t wear synthetic perfume.

Oh my goodness you’re one of them!

I am! I’m the one that gets a headache and it breaks my heart a little because I love beautiful fragrances.

You are the exact Cūrata client! There are so many brands on the market that say “we’re 95% natural” and yet in that last 5% there’s some terrible ingredient in there, something hidden in the generic “perfume” label. I think it’s so sad that there are so many actually natural products now that are just going fragrance free. Or they’re just adding some rose essential oil. Or maybe some lavender because it’s safe. But how sad! We’re losing our ability to discover the delicious, phenomenal experience of natural fragrance.

I decided that we had to find a way to showcase the incredible and dynamic world of natural fragrance and botanical perfumery because there’s no way we can lose this.

Amazing. I can’t wait to try it out!

We’ve had very positive responses from people, like yourself, that normally get headaches and with Dulceo they don’t. They get to explore the world of fragrance again and just delight in it.

Publisher’s Note: Sarah Jean Harrison is a sustainability communications specialist at Peace Flag House, working with sustainable fashion and lifestyle brands. Her work has appeared in The Canadian Organic Farmer, Spin Off Magazine, FORWARD Fashion and Eco Warrior Princess.