Having made a splash with its refillable all-metal lipstick for Lush, Reboul (Aptar) is moving on to other projects in the plastic-free domain. Sandrine Bréchon, innovation & development manager, and Marc Cooper, ceo, talk to us about this project and others on the horizon.
What was the biggest challenge of the Lush project?
Sandrine Bréchon: We were comfortable with the quality requirements and the design of a vintage-looking product, but an all-metal lipstick mechanism? That was far more complex! We asked ourselves how we could make a product that meets our quality standards and functions perfectly, but without plastic. That said, we have a plethora of items dating back to our grandparents’ era at Reboul, and they knew how to do everything using only metal – so why can't we do the same today?
How is 100% metal a challenge?
SB: Mechanically, plastic makes for easier movements, and it is significantly simpler to mold plastic parts into complicated shapes than to stamp them out of metal. There was also the economic factor. In the all-metal days there were considerably more manual processes and we could afford to do things that today are more difficult to industrialize.
So what was the result?
SB: The product has a capacity of 4 grams, which is the same as a standard lipstick and is comprised of two parts: cap and base, which are in black aluminum (of which 30% is recycled), while the central piece is made of brass. This is the decorative part and features a small knob that brings a golden touch, and which is used to snap the cap onto the base thanks to the mini gadroons formed in the metal. It is also used to push up the bullet. So that's three pieces. Then we have the cursor, in two parts, where the bullet is inserted; the main part is in brass and a small stud that helps it go up. With the three brass elements and two aluminum ones there is a total of five pieces, which is a very low number for a lipstick.
And cost-wise? Is it more expensive than a conventional mechanism?
Marc Cooper: It depends. Compared to an all-plastic mass product, it is obviously more costly, but not in comparison with a product featuring a cap, base, cap insert, base insert, ballast and mechanism! Then of course it’s the volume effect that comes into play. For us, this is the right price for a rechargeable product that the consumer will keep for a long time. Another interesting aspect to the project was that Lush asked us not to throw away our waste.
At Reboul, we have strict quality control criteria as we operate in the luxury sector and our clients won’t accept even the slightest defect, no matter how small. But for this lipstick Lush believed that it wasn’t coherent to throw away an entire piece due to a tiny defect that in all probability the consumer wouldn’t even notice. They want to avoid waste and so we had to strike the right balance. Lush is also consistent in its procurement discourse. They told us that if we wanted to work with them we had to embrace their cause so we had to forgo working with a number of suppliers and raw materials: no resin from Monsanto, no glue, no silicone... And we were able to conceive the product without these elements.
Will the project inspire future innovations at Reboul?
MC: The lipstick belongs to Lush, but it is making us think differently: how can we make 100 % products a bit differently? Can we design other 100% metal movements?
SB: Indeed, the all-metal approach is now a little more precise for us, always in the makeup realm (lipstick currently makes up about 85% of Reboul’s production). We still need to work on all-metal mechanisms in terms of optimal formula distribution and we’ll continue to develop the lipstick platform from both an all-metal and a refillable angle.
What are the other avenues for innovation?
SB: We continue to work on differentiation through decoration (via reliefs effects for example) and techniques like 3D metal printing, which is an area of development for short runs. We are exploring this technology for shapes that cannot be deep-drawn.
What are the next launches on the horizon?
MC: Next January, there will be a lipstick launching on the market for a luxury brand that called for all of Reboul's know-how... but for the moment it’s under wraps!