This may comes as a surprise, but my love for skincare is on a similar level to my love for wine. Perhaps it’s because they are both very much a process for me. From choosing a brand to the rhythmical process of removing my make up and cleansing at the end of a long day, it’s a similar feeling to that of opening a bottle of wine. I also feel that when I spend on skincare, I can feel a little tiny bit less guilty for the regular dehydration I put the largest organ in my body through on a regular basis. A similar, and terrible logic, to sitting in the shower on a hangover.
When skincare and wine collide, we are left with nothing short of a magical occurrence. ‘You mean to say, that the glass of antioxidants that perks me up no end can also perk other areas up too?’ And that’s exactly what Pelegrims have created, skincare that is inexplicably linked with not just wine, but English wine, to perk you up from top to tail. I caught up with one of the founders, Jérôme Moisan, on just how this fantastic company came about.
Could you start by telling me about yourself and your love of wine.
I am a Frenchman living in the UK for over 20 years; my professional background is in the software industry but I’ve long had a passion for wine and took my WSET Level 3 to broaden my horizons. In recent years, I’ve really enjoyed the incredible development in English wines and I’m lucky to live in Kent in an area surrounded by vineyards (Chapel Down’s Kit’s Coty, Westwell and also Nyetimber). Alex Verier (co-founder) comes with the skincare background (he was previously at Haeckels) – he is too polite to mention it but he has incredible talent at formulation and a great nose for scents.
How did the grapes to skincare journey begin?
I was lucky to enjoy the Caudalies experience in Bordeaux and kept looking for a British version but nobody else did it so I made contact with Alex to explore the project. The raw material from grape skins, seeds and stems post-harvest is right on our doorstep– in fact just 20 minutes between Westwell’s (our partner) vineyard and our lab – so it happened quite naturally. We’ve worked on this for the past 18 months so it’s nice to be able to finally share the products.
Does it matter what kind of grapes you use?
Sure – first of all, philosophically, you want to associate with a vineyard you admire – for “what” they do but also the “how” they do it and Westwell has a low intervention approach in the vineyard which matches ours in the lab. From a more scientific point of view, we obviously care about the grapes’ polyphenols (which contain fantastic anti-oxidant properties) and to an extent, they vary between grapes (the highest concentration being in Tannat but you find it more in Madiran and Uruguay than in Kent and Sussex!) but more important is the hang time of the grapes so they reach full maturity.
Could you have a ‘bad vintage’ of grapes for skincare?
Yes but that’s part of the beauty of wine itself – we have to accept and celebrate vintage variations; it gives a new challenge every year. The last thing we seek is uniformity. 2021 is looking like a tricky vintage in Europe so we look forward to the challenge of adjusting – it could be that we add other extracts to balance things out. We’ve experimented with Morello cherries who are also local to Kent and have had their share of fame in the wine and spirit world (Grant’s Morello Cherry from Lenham was Queen Victoria’s favourite drink).
It seems like a really sustainable way to make use of the entire product, was this one of the original goals?
Low intervention is a good way to summarise how we approach things and we love the fact that there is a circular element to the journey from grape to waste to being reborn as a potent ingredient in a different field. Our direction of travel is towards B Corp certification and we are mindful to build a company that our grand children would be proud of on all aspects.
The packaging is beautiful, can you tell me a bit more about the development and artwork?
Thank you. We were lucky to work with Gill (@thisisgill) and Galia (@monstrouspencil), both local in the South East and who guided us throughout. Galia hand drew illustrations of microscopic cut-throughs of the vines themselves. We also had some debates about whether to write the vintage on the bottles (2020 vintage for our launch products); it is a bit strange to sell a skincare product in 2021 and 2022 as you’d expect storytelling based on freshness etc. But being true to the origin of the core ingredients was more important than conventional thinking.
What’s the plan with growing this brand, will there be a bigger line in future?
We try not to over-plan but we love to experiment. A key point is that we’re independent so the absence of investors frees us from the pressure to release products at a cadence dictated by commercial considerations. Instead we follow the creative process until we’re happy with the end product. For example, we’re currently working on an eye gel but I can’t tell you if it’ll be ready in 3 weeks or 3 years. We have a long attention span and we enjoy the luxury of time!
I will be running a competition on my Instagram (@winingawaytheweekend) from Sunday 12th September to win an exploratory pack of Pelegrims skincare so head over there to enter!
And to look into the skincare, ingredients and more details, it’s all on the website: www.pelegrims.com