We sat down with Antibes-born, New York-based beauty legend Veronique Gabai in her art-filled East Side apartment, and her words on life and work feel newly resonant. When Gabai decided to launch a namesake line after over two decades in beauty, and three years as president of Vera Wang, she did so with a focus on the ways we connect to ourselves and to each other.
“I was born in the Cote d’Azur so it was natural to anchor there. It belongs to the Mediterranean, the birthplace of hedonism, this idea of expressing your senses and the sensoriality. It becomes more important in a world that has become so virtual that even your intelligence can be replaced by a machine. So to me what is left of you being human, if not your capacity to feel and to sense?”
To that end, Veronique Gabai the brand is all about the ways we express ourselves and care for others. It is built with generosity and luxury in mind, and a thoughtfulness about what it means to put something new into the world. All ingredients are ethically sourced and manufactured, but her focus is on working fairly and responsibly with others rather than cutting corners to make a marketing claim.
“I really wanted to bring back humanism to the center of everything I do…”
“How do you do that with fragrance or body lotion? You do it by letting people express their personality. You encourage freedom, you encourage self expression, you encourage playfulness.”
Gabai’s debut collection is centered on skincare-makeup hybrids like the all-over Goldie Highlighter and Sunshine Face Oil, and fine fragrances, many of which are built around a single flower from the South of France. Noire de Mai explores the dark, mysterious side of rosa centifolia, the singular roses that arrive only in Grasse and only in the month of May. And Souvenirs de Tunisie is a water-drenched orange blossom that envelops but never overwhelms its wearer. Gabai recalls her Tunisian-born parents filling the family home with the delicate citrus flower. “They brought back the tradition of putting orange blossom everywhere,” she says. “We had it in trees. We would spray it in the rooms. We would put a drop in coffee. Of course it would flavor the cakes.”
This immersive way of experiencing scent extends to the way she hopes others women will live with her work. “I really wanted to bring back humanism to the center of everything I do,” she says. “How do you do that with fragrance or body lotion? You do it by letting people express their personality. You encourage freedom, you encourage self expression, you encourage playfulness.” She created two “booster” scents, Eau du Jour and Eau de la Nuit, that can be worn with any of her other perfumes to make it either more luminous or more sensual. “We are like that, right?” she says, “There’s a part of us we show, and there’s a part of us we keep.”
And then there is what we can share with each other. “You put your name on a bottle, it’s an ego trip, come on. But what I realized is in doing this is I want to connect with people and make them happy. And make them happy in an environment that leaves the world a better place,” says Gabai. “You can surround yourself with beautiful things, why not? But be careful what you surround yourself with, curate a little bit so that you keep things for a long time.”