MUSINGS: SOTO-tally Inspiring

| 20 February , 2010 | Reply

Recently I was lucky enough to interview Francine Clingnan, the creator of SOTO Skincare, my latest skincare obsession. I love beauty and fashion with heart, though and philosophy and SOTO has that in bundles. I hope you\’re as inspired by her wonderful story as I am&

MUSINGS: Tell me about what inspired you to create your own skincare line&

It\’s been a long and bumpy journey. It started with my husband and my desire to have a family. We tried for a few years and nothing happened. We tried IVF and had a really bad experience with it because we hated all the medication and chemicals. So we saw a naturopath and began to change our lifestyle. We started doing things like eating organic and using herbs and essential oils. The difference in how we felt was significant, so I started consciously considering skin care I was using. It was at odds with our improved eating and lifestyle choices.

That was my initial inspiration. My prior years as a beauty therapist earned me a sound understanding of ingredients and the functions of the skin. I then studied do-it-yourself natural skin care, and met a chemist who specialised in natural cosmetic formulation. I eventually spent many hours with her learning as much as possible. She did the original formulations for me and we created a basic range for family, friends and small markets. Then about two years ago we reached a crossroads – either really make something of it, or forget about it all together. We decided to go for it.

MUSINGS: Why was it important to you that the SOTO skincare line be certified organic?

The early version of SOTO was not certified organic. It was natural, and it was really good. It seemed to me there seemed to be more and more skin care ranges claiming to be,  ‘organic, completely natural, pure\’, the fear of greenwashing hovered over me. I felt that SOTO had to stand out from the crowd, so after much agonising I decided to find someone to convert my formulas to certified organic. This turned out to be an enormous challenge as I was uncompromising in my quest to fuse all the great things about SOTO version one with certified organic formulas.

MUSINGS: How did you go about researching the organic ingredients included in the products?

It started when we first saw the naturopath; basic ingredients like olive oil, avocado oil and essential oil properties became really interesting to me. When I did the natural skin care course it opened up a whole world of unusual and interesting ingredients. I am an avid reader and spent many hours researching books, the internet and magazines. The biggest influence however was the cosmetic chemist I met, her knowledge of natural and organic ingredients is astounding. We are still in touch and I\’m always learning more about newly discovered ingredients from her. I\’ll never forget the day she told me that Kakadu Plum (aka billy goat plum) has the largest known concentration of Vitamin C, I love learning stuff like that.

MUSINGS: The “ingredient duo” is a concept unique to SOTO, pairs of organic ingredients that offer powerful combined benefits. Can you tell us how the concept came about?

Its origin lies in the principle of the periodic table and the combination of elements to form something different, for example water which is H² + O. This idea also links me with my family – my dad is a metallurgist and has worked with metals for over 50 years; the periodic table is the basis of all metallurgy. We then expanded this idea to each product. It was a challenge to select only two ingredients to hero as all of the ingredients have fantastic properties and benefits. Nevertheless we did narrow it down. For example the Facial Cleanser features Watermelon Seed Oil and Australian Blue Clay. Both of these ingredients have particular benefits – watermelon seed oil has fabulous cleansing ability without harsh stripping of natural oils, Australian blue clay helps draw out toxins from the skin – so on their own they are beneficial, however as a combination they provide even greater benefits for the skin.

MUSINGS: Do you have a favourite product in your range?

It\’s a little hard to say as they are all great. If I had to narrow it down probably the Day Cream and the All Over Body Scrub – yum!

MUSINGS: What do you think are SOTO\’s biggest strengths?

  • Effective formulations – active ingredients include anti oxidants, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, which are all vital for skin health and maintenance.
  • Certified Organic with Australian Certified Organic (ACO) a Division of Biological Farmers of Australia – the most stringent certifying body in the world.
  • Combinations – totally pure on the inside, contemporary urban on the outside. SOTO is good for you, and also cares for the planet.
  • No unnecessary artificial fillers and synthetics solely for superficial reasons, like smell and texture.

MUSINGS: Your products won a packaging design award prior to their release, what was the process behind creating such ground breaking packaging?

My husband has worked in brand and design for many years and emphasised to me the importance of the story behind a brand. I was resistant to this in the beginning as it opened up vulnerabilities in me such as the failed IVF and general feelings of despair. The process started with the concept of innate contradictions. This notion is based on aspects of my own personality; I love bush camping, but I also love my Prada handbag. It\’s the idea of merging two things that may not logically belong together, in this case, certified organic purity of the creams packaged in cutting edge design. No twigs, leaves or brown packs here. This was then stretched to combinations, thus the incorporation of the periodic table and the creation of the SOTO square.

MUSINGS: What\’s next for SOTO, do you have any ambitions to move into cosmetic or more skincare products?

Yes we are in the process of adding more products. We have in the pipeline a lovely seaweed face scrub and a super-serum for dry and mature skin. After that possibly traveller sets, and over time we plan to introduce further face and body products. We are very keen on moving into colour cosmetics down the track, especially if we can certify. Who knows from there? Lastly, we do have in sight a happy ending from the original inspiration to start SOTO. Although the IVF and natural therapies didn\’t work we are adopting a baby from Korea, and hoping to receive good news in the next few months.

Ladies and gentlemen, the amazing woman behind this groundbreaking brand! Impressive huh?! My pick from the SOTO range is the Facial Cleanser Francine mentions above. It\’s wonderfully nurturing, but has the most unique texture. It\’s completely non-foamy and you feel like you need to use loads, but you don\’t. I know it feels different to what you\’re probably used to, but after my first go with this stuff I was completely hooked. It smells like a little drop of heaven, and it cleanses your skin like a laser cutter carves diamonds; removing absolutely all the dulling crap, leaving perfectly preserved and protected diamonds. Or in this case, face. SOTO Facial Cleanser, $49.

Love and musings,

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