Michelle Pfeiffer, who claims she once went a whole decade without wearing perfume, officially entered the $3 billion fragrance market on Monday. Bottles of Henry Rose, the “100% transparent ” fine fragrance line the Golden Globe winner and three-time Academy Award nominee teased back in March, are now on sale.
Henry Rose, a conjunction of the middle names of Michelle Pfeiffer’s son, 24, and daughter, 26, will be sold exclusively online and is currently only shipping to the U.S. The collection is comprised of five different unisex fragrances and each will come with a card listing all of its ingredients. The bottle itself is made of 90% recyclable glass and the cap is made of soy. At $120 a bottle for 1.7 fl.oz, Henry Rose is on the more expensive end of the spectrum with other high end fragrances like Viktor & Rolf, Gucci and Balenciaga.
The company is fully self-funded by Pfeiffer, 60, though the American actress known for her roles in films like Batman Returns, Scarface, and most recently, Ant-Man and the Wasp declined to comment on how much she invested in the venture; one she says was truly a labor of love.
“The idea for Henry Rose really started when I first had children,” Pfeiffer told Forbes. “I began to look for products that were not only healthier, but had the same quality that I was used to. I then fell down a rabbit hole looking at different products’ ingredients and quickly realized anything with ‘fragrance’ was flagged as toxic.”
Ken Cook, the president and cofounder of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization that offers a tool that rates the toxicity of personal care products, explains the problem with fragrance is not that all are necessarily harmful, but that it’s impossible to say what’s in it. “Fragrance is judged harshly on the EWG site because of the lack of transparency,” says Cook. “It’s a term that can hide hundreds of ingredients.” The most notorious families of toxic ingredients used in some fragrance mixtures are phthalates, according to Nneka Leiba, the Head of Health Living Science at EWG. Phthalates are used as solvents and fixatives in fragrances, and certain types can cause developmental and reproductive issues.
Leiba explains that it’s unclear how often phthalates are still used in fragrance, due to the industry’s lack of transparency, but because of its potential health hazards, Pfeiffer gave up perfume completely for 10 years. Then in 2010, frustrated there still had been little to no progress in the space, she began approaching various cosmetic companies about developing a fragrance line and securing a licensing deal with her, with no success. Pfeiffer couldn’t get companies to agree to full ingredient transparency, though she would not mention who she approached, specifically.
“People literally told me, ‘you’re going to fail,’” recalls Pfeiffer, referencing how these cosmetic companies didn’t believe anyone would be willing to list ingredients. “I kept hitting dead ends because no one was willing to be transparent with ingredients and I wasn’t willing to put my name and face on something that I wouldn’t use.”
Not getting anywhere, Pfeiffer shelved the idea, but continued her advocacy for sustainable products and joined the board of EWG in 2016. With the support of Ken Cook who became, “a dear friend,” Pfeiffer eventually forgoed her idea of securing a licensing deal with an established beauty brand as they all said no, and decided to, instead, develop her own fragrance company.
Pfeiffer landed on International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) to develop the formulations for Henry Rose. “She came to us with a very clear vision,” Frederic Pignault, IFF’s VP of Fine Fragrance Sales told Forbes. “It was a new challenge for our perfumers to develop what Michelle wanted.”
With the goal to make Henry Rose the first EWG verified and Cradle to Cradle certified fragrance, IFF’s perfumers were limited to a palette of roughly 300 ingredients compared to the typical 3,000 in order to comply with both organizations’ rigorous standards. There’s 35 pages of steps that companies have to take to achieve EWG verification. This includes, “signing all kinds of affidavits that you’ve tested the ingredients and tested impurities,” explains Ken Cook. “Every single ingredient has to be disclosed in order to receive verification and there’s a long, long list of things that absolutely can’t be used.” Additionally, both Cradle to Cradle and EWG require scientists to work with companies seeking verification to ensure all of the criteria is met during development. In a number of instances in the process of formulating Henry Rose, a scent in the collection would be “finished,” then new research would come out about an ingredient that would cause EWG to question it, so they would need to completely reformulate. To date 1303 companies have met the standards for EWG verification and only 650 companies have a Cradle to Cradle certification.
Pfeiffer was shooting Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, and Ant Man and the Wasp at the same time as IFF worked to develop the formulations for Henry Rose which Kip Cleverley, IFF’s VP of Global Sustainability, described as a “learning curve” for everyone involved. To remain involved in the process, Pfeiffer would fly in for meetings as well as work remotely, having IFF send her different lab samples of revised formulations to smell and she’d send back her notes.
Pfeiffer hired Melina Polly, a former VP of Marketing & Communications at Headspace, as Henry Rose’s CEO and plans to soon bring on a COO to assist with expansion. Pfeiffer also stated the company will likely bring on investors in the near future.
Although other beauty brands weren’t interested in the idea of Henry Rose, Linda G. Levy, President of The Fragrance Foundation, a non-profit organization for industry expertise, is optimistic about the company’s success. “It’s difficult to make a profit when launching a new fragrance line, but consumers are interested in the background behind what they’re buying, who created it, and what the ingredients are. Henry Rose seems to offer all that.”