Published on: July 29, 2017
There are many skincare brands, department stores, and drug stores a drive or a click away. But in-between the immense forest of well-known names, grow some much smaller independent labels. —New buds of skincare brands that spring perhaps surprisingly from the Caribbean.
Beauty entrepreneur Nydia Norville is the owner and maker of one such brand. The St. Lucian born, NY based creator of the natural skincare line Choiselle makes distinct and coveted products with ingredients inspired and derived from her home island. Even the brand’s name comes from a small town in St. Lucia.
Living in New York, Nydia dreamt of the Caribbean lifestyle that resembled her childhood. She recalled a life closer to nature with lush abundance and no Winters that left harsh impressions on her skin.
We first discovered Choiselle Beauty about a year ago. We fell in love with the product's rich quality, amazing fragrances, and packaging and added it to our annual love list of favs in our 2016 Designer Island Loves List.
In this Designer Island chat, we spoke to Nydia about her St. Lucian roots, the Caribbean ingredients that inspire her products and the journey that led to building her beauty brand.
Di: So I read that you are a former model and that it was during your modeling days that you created your first skincare product for yourself.
Nydia: Yes, I started modeling after college for about 2 or 3 years. While modeling and living in the United States, I realised that I had really dry skin, especially during the winter time and I couldn't find long lasting relief from any of the lotions and creams that were on the market.
I would experiment and combine creams with thick petroleum jelly to find relief, and although this worked, it wasn’t the best solution as it often left an oily residue. My boyfriend noticed and would jokingly ask about this “oil slick” that I kept putting on my skin. I realized then that I should probably find another solution and that’s when I embarked on this journey to create products for myself, which led to the creation of Choiselle.
Di: You’ve come a long way since ‘oil slicks’! Your products are luxurious, and some of the ingredients used are native to the West Indies...
Nydia: Thank you! I began making products when I was living in New York City.
I love NYC, but I also yearned for the Caribbean lifestyle of my childhood.
My grandmother, aunts, and family members lived close to nature in St. Lucia. We all had this lush paradise and all it had to offer at our disposal. You can step out into your “backyard” and pull our food from nature. Whether it’s from the land or sea, nature provides us with what we need. You can’t quite do that in a place like New York City, especially in the heart of winter.
I remembered watching my grandmother making coconut oil as a little girl. We used it to cook and moisturize our skin and hair, so I thought why not do the same things, pull from what nature provides, to create skincare products. —That became the inspiration!
Di: Did you look for other natural products before making your own?
Nydia: When I started looking for natural products back around early 2000’s, it was challenging as there was an insufficient selection, and often these brand were not as natural as they claimed to be nor did they lived up to what my definition of what 'natural' should be.
Additionally, they were not always the most aesthetically appealing regarding packaging. There was a void, and I had a hunch that a shift in the beauty industry was beginning. I felt like there were probably many people like myself that were looking for effective natural products but weren’t finding them. As more friends and family started giving me positive feedback about the earlier products I was making, I felt compelled to create, even more, safe, natural, effective products.
Women are the largest consumers of skin-care products.
I was baffled at some of the ingredients that are in common everyday skincare products. Once I became knowledgeable about this, I became more driven to create alternatives so that women can make better choices.
Di: What was your first Choiselle product?
Nydia: My first product was a lavender body butter. I found these cute little tins, packaged it really nice, made these homemade labels and gave them to my friends and family. I was quite astonished at how well it worked for my skin—no more “oil slick” and many of my friends and family started asking for more.
Di: Was Choiselle always the name?
Nydia: No it wasn’t. My first brand was called ‘Luxe Essentials.' I operated for about three years under that moniker before rebranding and reformulating to what you see today.
Di: So when did the re-brand happen? I read that you got the name from a place in St Lucia?
Nydia: Yes! I named my brand after a town in St. Lucia that is known for making arts and crafts. In fact, most if not all the crafts from the island come from Choiseul. Many talented artisans who make baskets, mats, wood-carvings, pottery, furniture and many other great items using materials found locally came from Choiseul.
I saw a parallel with what they do, taking elements from nature to create something new, which was what I was doing and thought it was a perfect fit. I also wanted to pay homage to the artisans and to the country that inspired it all for me.
Di: Is Choiselle based in the US or St. Lucia?
Nydia: Choiselle is based in the US and St. Lucia. We are currently doing research to incorporate local/regional talent as well as raw ingredients from St. Lucia and the Caribbean region.
Di: When did you move from St Lucia to the US?
Nydia: I moved to the US when I was a small child.
The majority of my family still resides in St. Lucia. I visit there several times a year. Regardless of how long I’ve lived away, it always feels like home.
Di: What is it like creating each Choiselle product? Did you have a lot of background knowledge about raw ingredients and the formulating of the products? Please tell us a bit about your making creative process
Nydia: I did a lot of research on formulating and ingredients. I had to determine which ingredients I thought would be acceptable to use in natural products and which would not be acceptable.
I had and still have many ideas. That is the beauty of being an entrepreneur. As far as my process, I will be somewhat vague for obvious reasons. Initially, I came up with the formulas myself and tested the end product on myself as well. There were a few things I would look for such as the texture, smell, and effectiveness of the product. Once I felt confident that this is the product I've developed, I send it to be tested and then it's off to market.
Di: How did you go about the research? Was it found online or from asking family back in St. Lucia?
Nydia: Yes, some of it was online. Some also came from several books, and some came from asking friends and family.
Di: Best sellers? Do you have favourites? What do people love the most, or why do they love it?
Nydia: The lemongrass is our best selling fragrance. I think, what people like about it so much is that it’s a unisex scent, a man and woman can use it, and it smells great. It has a way of invigorating your spirit when you take a whiff. Lemongrass is also a great natural insect repellent which is another reason why everyone loves it.
Di: I recently turned 35, and I was telling a friend that I’ve never had perfect skin, but I also think that as I’m maturing, I’m more interested in trying to heal and take care of my skin instead of always trying to cover up imperfections. I feel like lately, I see more articles about skincare than I did when I was younger. I don’t know if it’s an actual shift in the market or just my shifting age…
Nydia: There’s definitely been a shift in the market. I had a hunch that this would happen and started seeing it in as early as 2004. Consumers were becoming more aware and concerned with what they put into their bodies. So naturally, they will also be concerned about what they were putting onto their skin.
Di: The majority of your customers are, would you say, American, West Indian, European, mixed? Who are the Choiselle customers?
Nydia: Right now, I would say mixed. I’ve gotten a lot of support and interest from people in St.Lucia, throughout the Caribbean and lot of interest here in the United States, which I love. Our customers are people who love a great smelling product and who take the time to read labels. I think our customers are people who also recognize quality ingredients.
Di: We have a thing for people who can recognize quality as well
Thanks so much for chatting with us Nydia. We need to restock our Choiselle products!
To learn more about Choiselle and purchase their products click here.