What Matters Most With Denise Williams
The founder of Matter Company blends tradition and innovation to create an artisanally crafted plant-based brand.
It seems holistic healing is essential to your company’s approach to creating products. Could you elaborate on this philosophy?
In regards to a holistic approach to skin care, yes this is fundamental. We look at the self as a whole. From a health perspective, we take into consideration mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects as well as social and environmental factors. We look at everything we do as affecting the whole. How we treat ourselves is correlated with how we treat our planet.
We emphasize using whole ingredients in our products as opposed to their broken-down chemical constituents. The use of whole ingredients is like food for the skin. They have a gentle balancing approach to overall health. Plants are made up of many chemical constituents. In modern-day science, often only the main active component is extracted. From a holistic perspective however, the sum is greater than its parts. It’s our belief that the whole plant offers a delicately balanced approach to healing the individual.
Is it important to understand the essential qualities of a plant in order to extract it and utilize it properly?
The practice of traditional herbalism is found throughout all cultures. We all have an herbalist in our family, even if it’s just our grandmother who has a traditional soup remedy for colds and flus or our mother’s ginger tea for sore throats. The beauty of this practice is that it is accessible.
There is however, with the onset of google, this idea of everyone being an expert. The pendulum can often swing from one extreme to the other. When I started this company 20 years ago, I had to convince people of the benefits of herbs and natural remedies. Now there is so much information out there that people’s ideas can be misled through the rabbithole of the internet.
Why does the myth of ‘complexity equals quality’ still persist?
Possibly it’s what we are familiar with, as this is what has been marketed to us. Complexity takes control out of the consumer’s hands and gives it to the corporations that are selling us the products.
Why do you emphasize small-batch production for your products?
Small-batch methods let us focus on the craft that defines our quality. We slow cook our herbal formulas for 24 hours. We take care in mixing our blends and hand-pouring our products. There is a human touch to everything we do. We use organic ingredients, herbs, botanicals, extracts, and essential oils chosen individually for their quality and effectiveness. For us, small-batch methods are part of the traditional practice of making herbal skin care products.
Is it getting harder or easier to find quality ingredients, suppliers, or distributors who share your values?
It’s getting easier. When I started the company 20 years ago, plant-based and natural ingredients were not commonplace. Organic ingredients are especially becoming more accessible. As people become more aware of healthier lifestyle approaches, it helps the industry and our ability to source quality ingredients.
What is the relationship in your life and in your work between traditional wisdom and contemporary knowledge?
I love this question. I think what we try to do is to bring a modern-day approach to a traditional practice. We subtly bring plants into people’s lives by incorporating them into their daily rituals through natural skin care products. Contemporary knowledge is also at play. As an example, for our new mineral-based sunscreen, we consulted with chemists to help us to create an effective formula. We’re currently working on an SPF-50 mineral-based sunscreen with a formulator using traditional herbs in a contemporary framework.