Rachel Roy is trying her hand at something new.
The designer has introduced a beauty brand — her first foray in the category — called Ancient India by Rachel Roy, which sells directly on its website. Prices range from $68 for a moisturizer to $129 for a facial oil. The other two products include a serum mask and a facial serum with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid.
The brand gains its name from the East-West modalities it combines. “Ancient India is rooted in science, but it’s also deeply rooted in ayurvedic Indian tradition,” Roy said. “I have studied with Deepak Chopra for probably 15 years now, and I think about what our relationship is with the passage of time, how that shows up on our face, how we damage,” she said, referring to how skin shows damage over time.
Her journey started after a scleroderma diagnosis left her with “en coup de sabre,” the medical term for a thickening line down the center of her forehead. Combining modalities was Roy’s strategy for reversing the disease’s effects, which worked almost completely. “I started pouring over Western medicine and it didn’t give me any answers. I combined that with Eastern medicine, as in Ayurveda, and have had almost a full recovery,” Roy said.
“Indian skin care is about hydration and anti-inflammation. Western skin care is about removing the top layer of skin and asking it to rejuvenate itself,” Roy continued. “I’ve never had one laser, not one peel, simply because my skin type can’t handle it. This is what I’ve been learning when I did a deep dive into how I scar, and how I regenerate my own skin cells.”
Roy has tapped into her designer side in thinking through the creative details, including the Italian glass packaging and organic ingredients. The face cream, for example, includes squalane, turmeric, lotus flower, ginger root, carrot root and pentapeptide; the serum mask features babchi, triphala, ginger root and snow mushroom.
Future products include a cleanser, a body cream, and an eye shadow smudge stick for smoky eyes. She didn’t rule out retail expansion, but doesn’t see it in the immediate future. “I am direct-to-consumer currently, I plan on being for a while, until I either go into a major retailer, or I’m also interested in spas,” Roy said.
A percentage of profits will go to a bevy of charities: The Chopra Foundation, Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, Operation Underground Railroad and the Care Organization. That percentage will vary depending on the brand’s performance, Roy said. “With every single thing that I do, with every decision I make, whether it’s packaging, or how to interact with my consumers, the stories that I tell — I want that all to be with an angle of conscious give-back,” she added.
Part of what’s given her the freedom to realize her vision, Roy said, was making the decision to start out self-funded.
“Over the years, I’ve had different partners, some have shared values, some have not. And any time you are opening yourself up to having partners, you’re opening yourself up to be watered down. So, I decided to do this with no partners.”
She’s also taken a grassroots approach to marketing, which follows her organic approach to growing the brand. “I’ve given myself a year to put one foot in front of the other to garner followers on social media, and to see if I can build a community the old-fashioned way — not buying followers or paying for ads,” Roy said.
“It is perhaps a naive assessment of business to go in there following your heart, not needing a business plan, not having any investors. At one year, I may start making business decisions that proper CEOs or CFOs would be happier with. But I’m going to be flexible and do the things I’ve learned in my Indian tradition of yoga, which is to be flexible enough to bend like water, and water fits into places that are uncomfortable.”