To say that Francesco Clark is one of the most beloved people in the fashion and beauty industry would be a massive understatement. Anyone who can call him a friend is a lucky person indeed.
Fran is the creator of Clark’s Botanicals which we told you a bit about last spring. But here’s a little recap. Back in 2002, Francesco was working in the fashion department at Harper’s Bazaar when that summer he suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury in a swimming pool accident. Since that time he’s not only created one of the best skincare lines around (born from the changes in his skin post-accident) but become an ambassador for the Christopher Reeve Foundation while also undergoing myriad treatments for his own injury. Let’s just say Fran’s a total badass.
And tonight at 9 pm on the PBS series This Emotional Life, you’ll be able to see a little bit of his awesomeness for yourselves. We highly recommend you set the DVR and you’ll see exactly why designers, models, editors, and even the First Lady are fans.
I had a little chat with the man himself to give you a teaser.
Can you tell me a little bit about what we can expect to see in the special?
Well, luckily PBS is high-brow, so maybe I’ll look smart(er)? The series is entitled This Emotional Life and my segment focuses on “Rethinking Happiness.” That involves many different facets of my life, before and after my spinal cord injury in 2002, and how, despite initially not being able to feel or move 98% of my body, how my personality remained intact. It shines through best when I think of that initial moment, being underwater, in three feet of water, watching water bubbles float up from my mouth to the surface and not being able to do anything. Instead of thinking I was technically dying, as my body had started going into shock and inhaling water into my lungs, collapsing my left lung, I thought: “Damn it! Do you realize how much therapy you’re going to have to do now?!”
From that point on, I was committed to living a full life. I knew if I could live through the near death and its aftermath in the ICU, I had to be thankful for life and happiness would inevitably follow. So, the series shows all of that, my physical therapy routines, my starting my skincare line, Clark’s Botanicals, working as an ambassador for the Christopher Reeve Foundation, and the importance of my family as my foundation.
What’s new over at CB and how are you working with the industry to promote your cause?
Everything about Clark’s Botanicals is the complete opposite of the way any traditional beauty company works. CB, after all, was not thought up as a way to make money or even as a business when it started. I just wanted my skin to look good again! It was a point in my recovery when I realized I needed to regain my self-confidence, and that included looking good again. The injury had taken its toll on me. Because my skin lost its ability to sweat, anything and everything that could go wrong with my skin did. It was red, grey in spots, flaky, oily in other spots, and acneic: I just didn’t look like myself.
Now, working directly with the Christopher Reeve Foundation, Clark’s Botanicals gives directly to cutting edge medical research funding and resources for caring for those with spinal cord injuries. We started the Champion’s Committee with Alexandra Reeve Givens and Matthew Reeve and Elisa Lipsky Karasz, where we hold NYC-based events to bring increased awareness to the cause, as well as shopping events, and web-based incentives.
What’s the latest and the greatest product-wise?
We’re launching our Ultra Rich Lip Tints, and we were the first beauty company to used the Uttwiller Spautlaber apple stem cells in our Cellular Lifting Serum. (Even Michelle Obama is a pleased fan!) It is so important to me that Clark’s Botanicals products focus on hard science, with every ingredient building upon the other, to create an ultimate synergy of botanical extracts and lab-based ingredients to foster healthy, glowing skin. The apple stem cell was particularly important to me as I have undergone two stem cell procedures since having sustained my injury, and the Cellular Lifting Serum actually launched the day after President Obama repealed the laws limiting funding for stem cell research.
So now we’re launching our Ultra Rich Lip Tints, using the same formulation as our Ultra Rich Lip Balm, but with beautiful, subtle colors. Each of the colors is named after a person who was instrumental in my recovery with the first two being: Alexandra Rose, a beautiful nude color named after Alexandra Reeve Givens to compliment her skin tone. The second is called Carlotta Pink, since my sister Charlotte became my caregiver after my injury and really took the bull by the horns, learning the ins-and-outs of what caring for me while in the hospital and later at home, would mean. Now, she got her master’s in Biology and just graduated medical school. Her dedication and kind soul shines through in everything she does.
And my book, Walking Papers will be released June 1, 2010 – on the anniversary of my accident. It is a memoir about my life thus far, funny and everything else that goes with it.
Who are some of your biggest fans?
I love ALL of the Clark’s Botanicals addicts! But yes, we do have a wonderful celebrity following like Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Thakoon Panichgul, Peter Som, Robert and Jeffrey of Costello Tagliapietra, Tyra Banks, Rachel Weisz, and, as I said earlier, Michelle Obama!
So, personally, what do you love about our weird little fashion/beauty world?
You mean, like, “No wire hangers!!!” “Where’s my non-fat, double soy, baby Zoloft, latte?!” Ha! I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s nice to work in an industry that doesn’t always take itself too seriously. Then, for me, I take pride in being able to enjoy the creativity and tying it all into making it give back to a worthwhile cause and a strong life mission.
I’m lucky to be able to garner a certain demographic of people, young women, and make them aware of what spinal cord injury research means through beauty! Super cool!
And why was it important that wanted to stay connected to it, post-injury?
I mean, lets keep it real – I need some sort of creative outlet or else my head would implode. I can’t be so one-dimensional as just doing physical therapy all day long. I need some sort of stimulation other than Frappuccino’s – so my passion for fashion translated into a skincare line that helped me connect all the dots of my life: my former life in fashion at Harper’s Bazaar, my injury, and Clark’s Botanicals!