19 May 2017
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Judging by Olivia Wilde’s Instagram, the actress is not afraid to speak up for causes she supports — within the last few months, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the International Women’s March have all been mentioned in her feed.

Wilde has signed with True Botanicals as its chief brand activist, WWD has learned. She is the Mill Valley, Calif.-based brand’s first official celebrity endorsement, and the first prominent celebrity signing of a natural skin-care line in the beauty industry. The chief brand activist role — which Wilde and the business partners running the direct-sell luxury skin-care line are quick to say is more like that of a salaried employee in lieu of a traditional ambassadorship — was created specifically for her.

For Wilde, the role is a far cry from her contract with Revlon, where she was signed as a face from 2011 to the end of last year. The move from representing mass brand to niche natural is just the latest sign of the continuing shift in the consumer drive toward wellness-oriented, better-for-you products. But even True Botanicals isn’t so niche anymore — in March, Unilever Ventures acquired a minority stake in the company as part of a $3 million round of seed funding. Wilde is planning on playing an active role in promoting the brand via her social media channels, as well as working on projects with the True Botanicals team.

“She’s the spark,”said Christina Mace-Turner, chief executive officer of True Botanicals. “We’re part of a growing number of businesses thinking about sustainable practices and changing the norms in our industry. Olivia completely got what we were doing and it felt like a very natural partnership.”

Of her new title, “We sort of made it up,” said Wilde. “I’m thrilled to be part of the company as an advocate and help spread the word about the important mission they’re on, whether it’s talking to consumers and vouching for it personally, testifying before congress, learning about the research behind the need for these [nontoxic] products, learning about clinical trials, [or becoming involved in the actual [product development]. I’m really eager to learn more about what consumers are looking for.”

“Everyone is a part of it for the right reasons,” said Wilde. “It’s a very different experience than working for Revlon, which is a massive global brand and has a legacy, [unlike] something new and trying to change the game like True Botanicals.”

Founder and president Hillary Peterson started True Botanicals two years ago, after several years running another natural skin-care brand, Marie Veronique. A survivor of both thyroid cancer and melanoma, the former Levi Strauss & Co. marketing exec switched industries and became a product safety activist after learning about the effects of toxins on people and the environment. All True Botanicals products are formulated sustainably and without toxins, and are Made Safe certified — a third-party organization that evaluates household and personal care products. The upscale products, which include serums, oils and masks, are sold for the most part directly to the consumer, except for a few Barneys New York accounts in major cities, natural beauty store Follain and in the Auberge resorts and hotels.

Safe personal-care products are a passion point for Wilde, who noted that her interest flared after becoming pregnant with children Otis, age three, and Daisy, seven months.

“Suddenly you think, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t use that sunscreen, that face wash, that shampoo,” said Wilde. “When you think about the EU, there are more than 1,000 [ingredients] banned, and here it’s under 20. It’s up to us in this country to regulate what we’re using because we cannot trust the government to regulate them in a safe way.”

The partnership with True Botanicals came up simply because Wilde liked the products — they worked for her. “People assume these nontoxic, natural products are beautiful and lovely and they smell great and you feel pious using them, but that they aren’t actually going to solve the problems you have,” said Wilde. “[True Botanicals] actually addresses specific issues — whether it’s antiaging or acne. Once I tried the products I thought, ‘This is something really exciting.’”

That organic connection is key to the brand’s influencer strategy.

“If somebody tries and loves the products, we’ll start a conversation,” said Peterson. “We’re all about authentic discovery and sharing of the brand.”

And in her new role, Wilde is expected to maintain that authenticity. “We want Olivia to play herself,” said Mace-Turner. “It wouldn’t be a fit if she didn’t love our products or believe in our mission — we’re looking to eradicate selling toxic products to women, and that’s what Olivia is looking to do.”

“A lot of this is about providing consumers with accurate information. Celebrity culture not only accelerates purchase and use of a lot of products out there, it gives the impression that those products are safe,” agreed Peterson. “With Olivia’s support, we can tell the story and show that businesses can be profitable and benefit the health of everyone involved — and the environment. She really cares as much as we do about helping to change the industry, and we’ll look for innovative ways to do that together.”

For Wilde, the partnership extends beyond just her relationship with the brand — it’s a social cause.

“This is the generation that will change this,” said Wilde. “Our kids won’t have to worry about this stuff — they’ll look back and say, ‘I can’t believe you guys were slathering that stuff on your skin.’ I get to say I was part of the solution and tell my kids, ‘I worked really hard to make sure you had an alternative.’”

Ellen Thomas / WWD

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