Dominique Nils Conseil
President of Aveda
Born c. 1962. Education: Institute National de Languages et Civilisations Orientals, degree in Pacific anthropology and Polynesian languages; École de Hautes Études Commerciales du Nord, masters degree in management (marketing and international finance); also attended École Superieure des Officers de Reserves du Service d'Etat Majore.
Addresses: Office —Estée Lauder Companies Inc., 767 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10153.
Spent ten years as brand-management and marketing associate for Proctor & Gamble; joined L'Oreal Parfums and Beauties and launched L'Oreal's prestige subsidiary in Thailand; served as president and representative director of Cosmelor Ltd., L'Oreal's Japan subsidiary; named president of Aveda, 2000.
Dominique Nils Conseil became president of Aveda in 2000. The French cosmetics executive took over the reins of the immensely successful hair- and skin-care manufacturer from its legendary founder, Horst Rechelbacher, but was firmly committed to preserving Rechelbacher's original mission of bringing safe, environmentally friendly products to the market. "What I find is that the beauty industry is not very beautiful," Conseil reflected in an interview with Fast Company writer Danielle Sacks. "It can't be beautiful if it's not also doing good."
Conseil spent most of his young adult years pursuing his education, after a stint in the French army. At the Institute National de Languages et Civilisations Orientals, he earned a degree in Pacific anthropology and Polynesian languages, and went on to further study at the École de Hautes Études Commerciales du Nord, one of the top-ranked business schools in Europe. He earned a master's degree in management, with a focus on marketing and international finance, and joined the overseas office of the American personal-care products giant Proctor & Gamble. For the next decade he held various brand-management and marketing jobs at the company, including postings to its Singapore and Malaysia branches. In this capacity he helped introduce or oversee sales of such Proctor & Gamble staples as Vidal Sassoon, Pantene, Head and Shoulders, Oil of Olay, and Clearasil in Asian markets.
Conseil moved to French cosmetics powerhouse L'Oreal Parfums and Beauties, and oversaw the launch of a L'Oreal prestige subsidiary in Thailand. Once again, his earlier anthropology and Polynesian languages education served him well, for he was fluent in several languages besides his native tongue, including Swedish, Japanese, Thai, and Tagalog, the language of the Philippines. After four years in Bangkok, Conseil was promoted to head L'Oreal's Cosmelor operations in Japan. This was the subsidiary that made and sold the Lancôme, Helena Rubinstein, and Biotherm skincare and cosmetics lines, as well as the Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, and Lanvin fragrances.
Conseil became president of Aveda in 2000, taking over from Horst Rechelbacher, the company's Austrian-born founder. A hairdresser by training, Rechelbacher arrived in the United States in the mid-1960s and settled in Minneapolis. Over the next decade, his Horst & Friends salon enjoyed immense success as one of the Twin Cities' poshest salons, but along the way Rechelbacher developed an amphetamine-abuse problem. After restoring his health by using his Austrian mother's herbal remedies, he founded Aveda in 1978 with the launch of his first product, a clove shampoo. A full line of hair-care and body products followed, all made from botanical extracts and sold only in salons initially. The company developed a cult following for its all-natural, plant-based products, and Rechelbacher was determined to grow his company in a way that reflected his own principles of respect for the environment.
Aveda experienced tremendous growth during the 1990s, and in 1997 was acquired by Estée Lauder Companies Inc. for $350 million. It was just one in a string of notable acquisitions for the Lauder firm in that era, and Aveda joined a stable of high-end brands that included the makeup lines MAC and Bobbi Brown Essentials. Executives at Lauder brought Conseil on board to take over duties from Rechelbacher, who remained involved as a consultant. But as Conseil later admitted, he joined the company at a time when some at Aveda were still nervous about the new corporate parent. "A lot of my employees came to me and asked, 'Is it still okay to live up to the Aveda mission?'" Conseil told Sacks in the Fast Company interview. "I realized that people in the company needed to see that the mission of Aveda was still core to the company."
Conseil's first task was to improve Aveda's distribution network, and oversee an expansion plan into Asia and the Pacific. He was also firmly committed to ensuring that research into new products continued, and continued with Aveda's original goals at the forefront. "Some people say you cannot pursue naturalness and deliver cutting-edge results," he said in the Fast Company article. "That's just something petrochemical companies say. They have to discredit nature because they cannot take a patent on a plant."
Aveda consistently earns high marks from environmental watchdog groups for its dedication to protecting natural resources and reducing consumer waste. Before Conseil joined Aveda, the company had discontinued one fragrance line because it was unable to locate the exact source of the Indian sandalwood oil used for the blend. Rather than take a chance that illegal harvesting of the sandalwood trees was taking place and the oil finding its way to the Aveda lab, the company halted production. Conseil took up the cause, and in 2002 Aveda relaunched the line after finding a new source in Australia, where the oil was harvested by aboriginals in a process that did not degrade the land.
Following Rechelbacher's lead, Conseil led Aveda forward in its commitment to being green. "We are increasing the organic content in our products," he told the London Sunday Times ' Bethan Cole. "All our aromas have to be 100 percent organic-certified oils; as for the rest of the formula, we would not approve anything that didn't have a 95 percent plant mineral content." He also devised a checklist for all Aveda products. Those responsible for each division must ensure that shampoos, bath products, cosmetics, aromatherapy candles, and other products come from verifiable sources and that the use of each ingredient does not adversely affect the local community. Aveda has a target goal of zero waste, and Conseil is one of its chief proponents. Aveda's plastic bottles, for example, are made from 80 percent post-consumer recycled content.
Rechelbacher, who turned 60 the year after he stepped down as president, knows his company's original principles are secure under Conseil's watch. "He is my thermometer, I trust him," he told Cole in the Sunday Times interview. "If they try to change anything, he will leave."
Fast Company , August 2004, p. 50.
Sunday Times (London, England), January 18, 2004, p. 31.
WWD , April 7, 2000, p. 6; October 27, 2000, p. 10.
"Dominique's Biography," Fredrics.com, http://www.fredrics.com/aboutfredrics/doninique.html (September 14, 2006).