A Beauty Director Chats Favourite Products, Career Advice & More
A Beauty Director Chats Favourite Products, Career Advice & More

A Beauty Director Chats Favourite Products, Career Advice & More

As a former beauty buyer for British Airways and Harrods – not to mention a consultant for some of the biggest brands in the business – Clare Horner is an industry stalwart. Today she’s beauty director at Harvey Nichols, so we jumped at the chance to talk to her about her career and find out which products everyone should own.
By Rebecca Hull

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I’ve always loved beauty. As a child, I was obsessed with fragrance and my dad often came home from a work trip with a new scent for me to try. That aside, I’ve always loved the power of make-up – it’s transformative in so many ways, which is fascinating to me.

A year in France was so valuable. Having studied French and management at Reading University, I moved to Toulouse to finish my degree. Living there gave me so much knowledge and insight into French beauty brands – many of which are ahead of the curve. Learning the language has also been useful in my career.

I’ve always been a big believer in change. My first job was in beauty buying and merchandising at Gatwick airport, and then British Airways. I moved over to Harrods to do the same job – which was a huge step for me in terms of profile and network – before joining luxury fragrance distributor KGA. I spent many happy years there but started my own consultancy business on leaving, working with beauty brands on their strategy and making appropriate retail introductions. It’s always served me well to have new roles and challenges. It's key you switch things up to learn and evolve.

It’s always served me well to HAVE NEW ROLES AND CHALLENGES. If you don’t SWITCH THINGS UP, you don’t LEARN AND EVOLVE.

A return to retail was a no-brainer. In my previous roles, I’d worked with a broad cross-section of retailers – each had such different customer groups and a distinct way of working. Harvey Nichols meetings were always a breath of fresh air – the business was and is different, and I love its highly selective approach. When I got the call to join them, it was an instant yes. 

My best piece of career advice is to get started early – as long as you know where you want to be. I recommend working your way through the buying office and growing experience in all the relevant categories. As I say, change is good, too. Moving between retailers and roles in similar sectors can enrich your experience and give you a better perspective. Experiencing retail and the brand side of things has opened me up to all sorts of possibilities.

The first product I ever tried was an Estée Lauder Private Collection fragrance that belonged to my mum. I also remember when Molecule 01 launched at Harvey Nichols when I was in my early 30s. It remains one of our top selling fragrances today and it really does smell different on everyone’s skin.

There are a few fragrances I buy on repeat. If I had to choose one for the warm weather, it would be Neroli Amara from the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire – it’s beautiful, with hints of orange blossom. If I want something with more depth, try Le Labo’s fragrances. I love them all, but Thé Noir is my current go-to.

Finding mentors is hugely helpful in this industry. I have great admiration for Jo Malone. I love that she chose to focus on her passion at Jo Loves. She is a formidable entrepreneur and has taught me the importance of joyfulness in business. I should also shout out Rihanna. We work closely with the Fenty Beauty team and it’s clear how involved Rihanna is with every facet of her brand – she is smart, creative and always innovating. 

My team and I always trial the skincare before deciding to stock it. The three ingredients I swear by are retinol, niacinamide and vitamin C. The products I love – that feature all three ingredients – are Augustinus Bader’s Retinol Serum, Dr Barbara Sturm’s Niacinamide B Serum and Sunday Riley’s CEO Glow. Skincare is a tricky category and customers find it hard to navigate. My advice? If you find something that works, stick with it. Of course, you can switch things up but simplifying your routine is always a good idea. 

A skincare brand to watch is IRÄYE. It launched with us earlier this year and it’s created by a dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon. Together, they have formulated a product that activates the power of the body’s natural lymphatic system. Topical application – as well as the gesture of application – helps to sculpt skin and boost radiance. The most asked question we’ve had is when will this brand launch bodycare? Watch this space. 

YSL’s new eye palettes are my latest obsession. Its Mini Clutch Eye Palettes are amazing – we’ve launched them exclusively at Harvey Nichols and I am yet to get my hands on one as the demand is so high. 

Look out for new brand Minimalista. It’s a hair accessories brand that does brilliant brushes – they are so gentle and they look chic. I also recommend under-the-radar fragrance brands Tobba and Rook. The former was created by Jasper Li, a painter who translates the visual into the olfactory, while the latter was created by Dr Nadeem Crowe, a London-based perfumer, doctor and actor. Other lesser-known brands include The Light Salon. It’s the best for quick LED treatments that have visible brightening and anti-ageing benefits.

My best skincare advice? IF YOU FIND SOMETHING THAT WORKS, STICK WITH IT. Of course, you can switch things up but SIMPLIFYING YOUR ROUTINE is always a good idea.

Expect to see more hybrid products launch in the beauty space this year. We are all time poor, which is why there’s been a surge in people looking for make-up with skincare benefits – like Charlotte Tilbury’s skin-loving foundation with hyaluronic acid and Dior’s Lip Glow Oils. Lip and cheek tints – like YSL’s – have also been high on the bestseller list for a while now. Similarly, multi-tasking skincare products are now so popular, as are bioengineered products that incorporate the benefits of natural ingredients as well as renowned active ingredients to yield instant results. Ignae is a new skincare brand that’s been really popular in this field.

The hair category is particularly exciting right now. There is so much innovation happening within hair. Our bestselling brands that cater to scalp health as well as hair health include Aveda, Color Wow and OUAI. I also love how gentle Larry King’s products are. Expect to see plenty more scrubs, masks and hair serums to come.

There are several Harvey Nichols treatments I recommend. One would be a mani/pedi at Nail’d It – we partner with them in many of our stores and the manicures are the best. I also love visiting the Jo Hansford team at the Knightsbridge store. You’ll find them on the  fourth floor and they are brilliant. For my brows, it’s the one and only Shavata Singh. I’ve known her for 20 years and can safely say she’s the best in the business. I’ve also recently tried Flavia Morellato’s lymphatic drainage massages and I know I’ll never look back – they really help to tone your skin. Finally, I love a good Hydrafacial and Beyond MediSpa des some of the best – and it can usually slot you in at short notice. You’ll find them on the fourth floor, too. 

Finally, my parting beauty advice is to focus on the basics. Unless you wear SPF there’s no point in investing in great skincare. As I’ve mentioned, I can’t recommend a good brow shape and tint enough – it can really enhance your features without you having to do much else. Finally, take your make-up off before bedtime no matter how tired you are – your skin will thank you.


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