Pacifica’s Founder on Being a Vegan Cosmetics Innovator
Founded in 1996 by Brook Harvey-Taylor and her now-husband Billy Taylor, the cosmetics brand Pacifica (which means “peaceful”) has been creating completely cruelty-free and vegan products for twenty-five years.
One of the best-known, highest-quality, most widely available, and affordable vegan cosmetics brands, the company that began with a VW van full of all-natural perfumes has grown to offer a vast array of beauty products including makeup, haircare, body care, suncare, and supplements. Kinder Beauty—which had the honor of partnering with Pacifica for the June 2021 Kinder Beauty boxes—had the chance to talk to the company’s passionate leader about founding one of the very first all-vegan and cruelty-free beauty brands.
Brook Harvey-Taylor’s all-natural upbringing, fascination with aromatherapy, and commitment to animal rights led her to create the beauty brand, Pacifica.
KINDER BEAUTY: When you created Pacifica, vegan cosmetics were practically unheard of. Where did you get the idea?
Brook Harvey-Taylor: We came up with Pacifica on a surf trip (we being my then boyfriend-turned business partner/co-founder, and now husband), and it stuck.
I grew up on a little cattle ranch in Montana. We really lived with nature. My mom was an early adopter of natural products, due to an autoimmune disease. She was a member of our local food coop, and my sister and I worked there as teens to get our discount. This was my first exposure to natural beauty—or lack of it. I would stock the shelves and think about what I would make when I had my own beauty company. This is the same reason our company does not use animal ingredients and is vegan. There was a moment that I realized I was raising and falling in love with animals that would get eaten. This is when I formed my perspective on animal rights.
Perfuming and my love for nature intertwined when I was apprenticing to become an aromatherapist. I found myself obsessed with how the essential oils smelled. And while I was studying the benefits of the oils, I couldn’t help but begin blending them together as perfumes—seven of which became Pacifica’s first scents. Enter Billy Taylor (the guy on the surf trip mentioned above). He was my biggest champion and convinced me that this passion could be a business. I created our first seven scents in my kitchen and took them to a trade show in San Francisco, packed up in our VW van. The response was incredible and we came home, set up a factory, and started creating the first Pacifica products. Whole Foods was one of our first retailers. We started in perfumes (with a hidden aromatherapy agenda) and moved into skincare, makeup, haircare, and sun care.
Pacifica adheres to four core values: clean and innovative ingredients, completely cruelty-free and vegan products, environmentally friendly packaging, and a commitment to social justice.
KB: Pacifica was one of the very first all-natural, all-vegan, and cruelty-free beauty and wellness brands, a true pioneer in the beauty industry. What gave you faith that people would buy your products?
BHT: Truthfully, it never crossed my mind to not make products that were vegan and cruelty-free. It was and still is such a non-negotiable to me that I was hopeful that consumers would support what we were doing and want to buy our high-quality products because of our values of compassion to the planet, animals, and you.
KB: How does Pacifica engage with social justice?
BHT: We have chosen to partner with the ACLU on social justice issues. We are dedicated to supporting our community by creating an inclusive culture, giving back to women’s and LGBTQ-focused shelters, supporting voting rights, and donating to animal-focused causes. For Pride this year, we donated 100 percent of the sales of our new Vegan Longwear Liners purchased on PacificaBeauty.com on June 26-27 to the ACLU in line with our mission to be compassionate to the planet, animals, and you.
Throughout the years, Pacifica has stayed true to its original values, and this sustainable beauty company plans to continue to lead the way as ethical cosmetics innovators focused on natural ingredients.
KB: How has the Pacifica brand changed over the years?
BHT: Honestly, at our core, we haven't changed at all! We were rebellious kids, living in Portland when we started this brand. That is still who I am in my heart. Our core values have guided everything we do, always. So that is intact and always will be. Our product offerings have changed as new ingredients become available, and we work to keep our packaging approachable and fresh.
People didn’t even know what vegan beauty or skincare products were even 10 years ago, and I remember being at tradeshows and having to explain to people what we were up to. And when we founded Pacifica in 1996, the clean beauty category didn't exist. In fact, we didn’t call ourselves “clean” until much later. Pacifica has always been a trailblazer and pioneer, and today it feels like our mission is coming full circle. But I want to add something important here: we have always offered something that we felt was an alternative, without judgment. We are clear about who we are and the choices we make as a brand. There are a lot of ways to experience beauty, and we want to be part of that choice. As a brand, we feel that we need to do all we can to be better stewards of this planet and to take responsibility for our footprint. That is our goal. We feel this is an act of compassion.
I am super proud to say that we were also a very early brand to use the PETA certification and corresponding packaging logo. By adopting this standard, we showed our commitment to what we considered to be a more noble standard of innovation from the start, even before it was on trend to do so. I believe that all ships rise together, so I really do feel great pride, and honestly, some relief in seeing that almost all new products today proudly display cruelty-free certification.
Finally, in a continued pursuit to do better for both people and the planet, we also created our in-house recycling program to deal with #5 plastic, which isn’t generally curbside-recycled in the US, in partnership with recycling powerhouse, Preserve. This collaborative effort was truly a first-of-its-kind venture, upcycling all #5 plastics into razors and toothbrushes (two of the most often discarded plastic bathroom tools) that consumers can purchase from our site. All non-#5 plastics are still eligible for the program as well. We send consumers a prepaid shipping label so the products are free to recycle. In exchange for recycling, the customer gets loyalty points as a reward for future use! We have some other really exciting things in the pipeline as part of our greater sustainability plan and I am so excited to share more with Pacifica’s fans later this year.
Maya Gottfried is the author of books for children and adults, including Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary and Vegan Love: Dating and Partnering for the Cruelty-Free Gal.