Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
It’s no secret that we love Vintner’s Daughter at TQE – along with pretty much anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of trying the brand’s game-changing two-step skincare system. The quality and care in the brand’s hero products are no accident. We caught up with founder April Gargiulo to learn more about her journey to founding Vintner’s Daughter, the ethos and process behind making products that are time-intensive (and radically potent), and how she takes care of herself amidst it all.
I’d love to begin by learning more about your personal background, and how that informed the beginnings of Vintner’s Daughter.
I actually don’t come from the world of beauty; I come from the world of fine winemaking in Napa Valley. My family still makes wine there today. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have spent so much time in a community that places such a high value on craftsmanship, process, and unmatched quality. It’s what led to our mission to create the highest quality, most performance-driven, and safe skincare. We want to create products that bring about profound health, balance, and confidence to the skin.
Like winemaking, we are patient and understand that in order to make the very best of something, you must start with the very best raw materials and honor them through meticulous formulation processes. In a skincare world where fast and cheap alternatives are abundant, this foundation in the old-world process is what allows Vintner’s Daughter to service the skin in such a transformational way.
Like winemaking, we rely on both age-old and new technologies to accomplish our singular level of connection with the skin. Additionally, we are patient in our approach and understand that in order to make the very best of something, you must start with the very best raw materials and honor them through meticulous formulation processes. In a skincare world where fast and cheap alternatives are abundant, this foundation in quality and the old-world process is what allows Vintner’s Daughter to service the skin in such a transformational way.
Can you describe how quality factors into your Active Botanical Serum and Active Treatment Essence? I’d love to hear more about the ingredients in each and the process of formulation.
We believe that making the very best of anything takes time. We begin every formulation by sourcing the world’s finest quality and most active whole botanicals from conscious farmers and producers who share our commitment to quality. Every ingredient is thoroughly tested to ensure the highest standards.
Next, we create our signature Phyto Radiance Infusion™; a three-week-long, temperature-controlled process that gently captures the full spectrum of our whole plants’ nutrition. Not only does the process capture complete skin nutrition, but it also protects all of nature’s powerful synergies. Your skin immediately recognizes our advanced nutritional formulas and puts them to work to accelerate its own powers of regeneration, repair, brightening, and firming.
How did you make the decision to take the plunge and launch Vintner’s Daughter? How did you move from the ideation stage to creating the two hero products that VD is so well-known (and praised!) for?
I struggled with my skin my entire life. I was someone who, like many, was dealing with cystic acne, pigmentation, and all the fun things that come along with getting older. I was using what I thought were the very best “luxury” products. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first daughter that I began to really start looking at the ingredients. I was shocked to realize that they were .01% active ingredients, the rest was low-quality filler that was also in many cases toxic. None of that sat right with me.
The community where I come from is dedicated to making the finest wines in the world through meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship. Short cuts are not allowed and practically every grain of dirt is considered for its quality. That to me is the true definition of luxury; beginning with the finest raw materials and honoring them through the most thoughtful formulation practices to achieve something even greater than the parts.
That to me is the true definition of luxury; beginning with the finest raw materials and honoring them through the most thoughtful formulation practices to achieve something even greater than the parts.
This was the genesis of Vintner’s Daughter. I wanted to build a true luxury skincare company that made products from the finest ingredients in the world, using time-honored techniques in order to bring about profound and lasting balance and health in the skin. Not only are we making a positive impact on the health and balance of our customers’ skin, but we are helping to build confidence by improving their relationship with their skin. That is everything to us.
Can you speak to some of the greatest challenges of building VD, both at the beginning stages and in the present day?
When I took my formula to the top labs in the world, I was turned away time and time again because they told me that no product should take over 6 hours to produce, much less the three weeks it takes to make every bottle of Vintner’s Daughter. They encouraged me to substitute synthetics, powders, and extracts for my powerful whole botanicals. Thankfully, I didn’t follow their advice and trusted my own gut. As a result, our products are able to communicate with skin in a profound way that amplifies the skin’s own powers of rejuvenation, healing, brightening, firming, and radiance. Of course, today I am happy I stood my ground, but at the time it felt crushing.
The Botanical Serum and Essence — Vintner’s Daughter’s only two products — completely transformed and replaced my entire skincare routine. (Not to mention a few of my friends’ routines as well, after sampling from my set!) Was this two-step simplicity always a part of your vision and brand ethos?
My mission has always been to have a hugely positive impact on skin in order to inspire joy, confidence, and gratitude. I don't believe you need a 15 step routine to achieve this. We all need to wean ourselves off the idea that more is better. The world is waking up to the true costs of our consumption and it is something we have thought about since day one. It is why we produce fewer, but more finely made products because there is nothing more sustainable than less.
We all need to wean ourselves off the idea that more is better. The world is waking up to the true costs of our consumption and it is something we have thought about since day one. It is why we produce fewer, but more finely made products because there is nothing more sustainable than less.
In the DTC beauty and skincare world, it seems that there are constantly new “must-have” inventions or products. Have you ever felt pressured as a brand to iterate or create new products, or to expand the VD skincare regimen?
A constant churn of new products pointing out our “flaws” we didn’t know we had that can only be “fixed” by their products is not only damaging to our psyche but is also a detriment to our environment. This is why we focus on far fewer and far better products that our customers marry, for life, because our nutritional skincare will always feed their skin at a foundational level no matter the skin concern, age, gender, or tone. We only introduce products that will dramatically improve the skin and lives of our customers. It is a very high bar and one that we take seriously.
Have you noticed any shifts in skincare trends and consumer habits during the pandemic? Can you speak to any unique challenges or learnings for VD specifically?
We saw a huge increase in our Subscription Program, which we love because it allows us to have a much deeper connection with our community and customers. I love sending their 6th bottle free! I believe this was in part driven by people’s desire to declutter and move beyond a constant need for new and next. People are finding their core products and instead of constantly dating around – marrying them, for life.
As a founder, how do you take care of yourself and prevent burnout? Can you share any go-to self-care practices that are an essential part of your day or week?
I love my morning ritual, which always begins with a beautiful pot of tea and my daily meditation practice. It's important to find simple and effective ways to take care of yourself. For me, self-care is less about any particular ritual or cream and more about finding ways to connect to my body and mind and listening carefully. When I do that and follow their lead, I am my most content.
Shop April’s favorite brands – those that embody the same ethos of quality and craftsmanship as Vintner’s Daughter:
Are you ready to say “I do” to a two-step skincare ritual and find your happily ever after? Take it from me – you need to try Vintner’s Daughter. Start with the Travel Set (at $160) and thank me later.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity. Have a founder you’d like us to interview next? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.