[9 MINUTE READ]
Happy Friday all and welcome back to another Friday Founder interview! This week, we were thrilled to chat with the Co-Founders and Co-Creative Directors of Fragile Cosmetics, Franco Gobbi (International Hair Stylist) and Manuela Affatato.
If you are not familiar with Fragile Cosmetics, it is a beauty brand that aims to represent the delicate balance between human nature and the planet we live on.
"We create our products in a way that not only respects nature but also our skin."
Morning Franco and Manuela! Franco, please could you start by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel it has influenced you today?
FRANCO: I was born in Santarcangelo di Romagna, a small town in Italy in 1976. Although it is a small town, I was able to be very creative there. During my childhood, I followed and loved the London cyberpunk scene, particularly the artist collective, The Mutoid Waste Company, which settled in my hometown in the ‘90s. My ambitions led me to open my own hair salon in central Riccione, Italy at the age of 21. This experience gave me firsthand knowledge of the creative journey and when I was 23, I moved to Milan, soon followed by Paris and New York where I collaborated with influential photographers – ranging from Nan Goldin to Karl Lagerfeld. My creative passions led me beyond fashion and art photography to collaborate with many inspiring musical artists such as Bjork, Adele, Katy Perry, Cyndi Lauper, Courtney Love, and others. Today, I continue to work in the art, music, and fashion industries. My latest artwork, the “Fragile” book and exhibition, is an expression of my creative vision as Co-Creative Director and Co-Founder of Fragile Cosmetics.
Wow, what a resumé! Manuela, how did your background and childhood contribute to your business venture and ambitions?
MANUELA : I was born in Puglia, in Monopoli and my city was always a source of inspiration for me. It was also where I first met Franco in 2017. At the age of 18, I moved to Northern Italy to study International Relations and Human Rights. I would have liked to have started a diplomatic career and gained experience abroad, but I became a mother at 23 with Bianca and one year later, with Clara. I love my two beautiful girls more than anything else, so it was definitely a blessing! I had the best job in the world, working as a Mum full time until my daughters started going to school. Then, I started investing in tourism in Puglia by buying a property with my sister and renovating it, which is another great passion of mine. I was starting up my own Bed & Breakfast in 2017 when I met Franco and instead, we decided to create a natural cosmetics line together.
That is such an interesting trajectory. So, for both of you Fragile Cosmetics was a bit of a pivot from what you had been working on prior. Why did you decide to start up the brand and was the timing important?
FRANCO: The decision to start this new adventure came in the summer of 2017 when I met Manuela - who would become the woman of my life - at a beach resort called Marzà, in Puglia in the South of Italy. We had such a mutual love for nature and beauty so we decided we couldn’t ignore our instinct to bring this project to life. We decided to dedicate our first campaign to the magical place where we met.
MANUELA: When I met Franco, he had a really hectic life as he was always travelling. Between all the flights and photoshoots, we discovered that we were both lovers of nature and we thought that it would be nice to create a line of products together. My quiet life, punctuated by my life with the girls, has allowed me to spend a lot of time on the computer researching suppliers and important details. In the beginning, although we were apart we shared many phone calls and our ideas slowly began to take shape. Over time, we realised that our very different lives were actually complementary in many ways.
That is wonderful! Does Fragile Cosmetics consider issues relating to sensitive skin/allergies?
FRANCO: We take allergies and sensitive skin very seriously. It is the reason why we use primarily clean ingredients. Our BLOOM face/body/hair oil works against irritation and sensitive skin and is dermatologically and nickel tested. So is our GLOW shampoo and FLOW conditioner!
MANUELA: Every product is also vegan, cruelty-free, and made of at least 98% natural ingredients. We create our products in a way that not only respects nature but also our skin.
I’ll have to give those products a go! So, how does sustainability factor into your business?
FRANCO: It factors into every part of the business. We reduce the use of plastic to a minimum and our secondary packaging is created from recycled paper and cotton post-consumption. We also ship our products in recycled carton paper boxes and seal them with our labeled recycled paper tape.
MANUELA: We want to optimise beauty by offering fewer products. The products we do offer should be versatile and cross-functional in order to limit the impact of production.
Absolutely! It can be hard for businesses to admit that fact so I appreciate you championing sustainability in this way. Franco, do you think people are more conscious of the ingredients in their beauty and skincare products nowadays? If so, why?
FRANCO: More and more people want to know what they are consuming. They deserve the opportunity to be part of the change.
Absolutely! And what do you both consider to be your biggest challenges in starting up Fragile Cosmetics?
FRANCO: Our strategy changed during the process due to the pandemic. We decided to focus on E-Commerce and the divulgation of our network.
MANUELA: Personally, I found fostering a work/life balance to be very challenging. From a business perspective, truly delivering on the promise of sustainability is a huge challenge.
It’s refreshing to have you acknowledge that because it is not easy to achieve. A lot of effort and finances are required. What strategies do you think have been key to the success of Fragile Cosmetics?
MANUELA: I believe that every product must tell a special story. Our goal is to treat Mother Earth with the utmost respect and to preserve the place we live in. We also have a community of people within the sector that help us to spread our values by supporting and loving our products.
That is so important in any business. Manuela, what is your favourite thing about your job at Fragile Cosmetics?
MANUELA: I love getting positive feedback from strangers and from friends. It makes me very proud every time. I also love the fact that I can work remotely from anywhere with Wi-Fi!
And Franco, which is your favourite product that you’ve created?
FRANCO: We love all of our products. The reason we didn’t have a large product range at the start was because we created all of our products from scratch. They are our babies! If I had to pick, the one that I think is truly revolutionary is RISE, a texturising and volumising spray.
Ooh, it sounds fantastic! What do you think makes Fragile Cosmetics stand out from other beauty brands?
FRANCO: Our products stand out because they are genderless, multifunctional, ecological, luxurious, easy-to-use, and effective. They are all 100 ml too, which makes them very travel-friendly.
"I am inspired by respectful people, respectful projects, nature, our fantastic travels with Franco and the girls, which allow us to add a piece to the Fragile Cosmetics puzzle every time."
What a great touch! Franco, could you describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment since starting Fragile Cosmetics?
FRANCO: It was definitely the moment that I found someone who shares the same values as me. That was the reason for every step forward in this dream collaboration with my partner Manuela Affatato.
That’s beautiful. Manuela, where do you get your inspiration from?
MANUELA: I am inspired by respectful people, respectful projects, nature, our fantastic travels with Franco and the girls, which allow us to add a piece to the Fragile Cosmetics puzzle every time. Seeing Franco at work also inspires me. The world of fashion and beauty is really creative and what you create on set with the team is often very interesting and stimulating.
It is! Could you describe what an average day looks like for you?
FRANCO: A day in my life is never the same. I could spend an entire week in front of a computer doing research and the following week I could be in the middle of a desert for a photoshoot.
MANUELA: I tend to wake up at 7, make breakfast, and take the girls to school. Then, I get ready for any business meetings. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the computer due to business. I try to carve out some time to play sports, but once the girls are home from school I dedicate myself to them. When Franco is not travelling, we all spend time together. Bianca and Clara love Franco infinitely and have created a very special bond with him.
Do you think either of you is able to maintain a work/life balance?
FRANCO: I guess it depends on how you perceive it because I feel as though I do, but that is partly because I do what I love, so my work is also my life.
MANUELA: It is a continuous, daily struggle for me, and I am always trying to improve. I must say that Franco helps me a lot with this and reminds me to take a break.
It is great that you have each other’s backs! What words do you live by?
FRANCO: Love, respect, and joy.
MANUELA: Love, respect, passion, curiosity, and responsibility!
Those are all vital, in business and in life. What’s next for Fragile Cosmetics?
FRANCO: There are so many new projects that we are working on starting this spring and more in the summer. There is nothing that we can share for now as we are Italian and therefore, superstitious.
MANUELA: I hope to make Fragile Cosmetics more well-known globally and definitely want to raise awareness about sustainable beauty products.