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Reverie Founder Garrett Markenson on the Future of Clean Beauty

Gone are the days of silicones and synthetic fragrances- the green revolution is at the beauty industry’s gates. And leading the charge is Reverie, the cult-favorite hair culture brand behind some of the most of-the-moment products (does hair milk ring a bell?).

With an ultra-chic aesthetic and an unparalleled commitment to transparency, Reverie is far more than just a beauty brand. It’s an entire lifestyle. Founded just over a decade ago, Reverie is striving for a more sustainable tomorrow– one perfect product at a time. From ethically sourced, farm-to-table ingredients, to travel-inspired scents and 100% recyclable glass packaging, every fiber of Reverie is intentional. Carefully curated to reflect an immense passion for community and craft. This stellar small business is certainly making a major impact.

We sat down with Reverie founder and expert hairstylist Garrett Markenson to discuss all things Reverie and the future of clean beauty. So read on to find out what makes Reverie one of the beauty industry’s most exciting brands on the market.

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Quite Revolution

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MA: How did you get started in the hair and beauty space? 

GM: I’ve studied art my entire life. I’d always imagined I’d be an art teacher. I did some time abroad at a university in Florence, and that’s when I met this hairdresser that kind of redirected my focus and interest into that medium. Because it’s really just the same application but a different medium.

MA: What inspired you to start Reverie? 

GM: In 2007-2008, there was a writer’s strike in Los Angeles that was really starting to impact a lot my clientele and people I knew. This was at the forefront of the housing market crash, so when these two events connected and all of these people were expressing that they wouldn’t be able to come in and get their hair done anymore, the experience was really emotional. I felt like the salon owner I was working for at the time was a little tone deaf to what was happening. Not because they were a bad person but because they were very privileged. That’s why I decided to open a hair salon, because I felt like I needed to be accountable for the experience of my clients and also be the creative direction for my team so that we could thrive in hard times. 

A year into retailing other brands’ products, I became kind of discouraged at the lack of authenticity, transparency, and ethics that other haircare companies were offering. They had this attitude that they owned the retail space, and it really upset me. I also felt that most of the haircare lines, if not all of them at the time, didn’t really match my lifestyle. It didn’t match the types of foods I like to put in my body, the types of smaller business I like to support. For me, starting Reverie was more about emphasizing how I could be passionate about bringing more business to California and also stimulate more economies around the world.

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The hero of your haircare ritual ✨

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MA: What sets Reverie apart from other brands?

GM: Reverie is not manufactured in a lab, it’s more of a farmer’s market process. We’re able to look at these ingredients from a global market, purchase them from a sustainably sourced origin with certifications, and then formulate them to be effective to a high standard. For example, the best vanilla in the world is from Madagascar and that’s where we get it. Our Bergamont is from Sicilly, from a third generation farm which just blows my mind. That’s the story of Reverie. The creative process is in the supply chain. It’s who we choose to do business with and who we choose to put our money towards. 

We also never use silicones. When we started, people were so addicted to silicone. We’ve never used them, it’s been a big point of difference for us. Especially creating an anti-frizz product that doesn’t use silicones, it’s a pretty big deal. By not using silicones, we’re making a choice to stay away from a nonrenewable toxic resource, something that doesn’t biodegrade, something that pollutes our oceans and makes hair dull and dry.

MA: What was the process of starting your own brand like?

GM: The end game was never to be well known. It was just to create art, put it all out there, take a step back and see how it’s perceived. And then to see what creativity and artistic direction could be drawn from that.

When I started it it was just me. I did all of the packaging, the scent formulations. But for the past four years since my wife and I have been married, it’s been a family-owned business. The only two employees of the company are her and me. We do everything. I do all of the creative assets and she does the business end of it and that’s it. If you DM us on Instagram, you’re talking directly to one of us.

MA: Can you talk a little bit about the creative process behind developing a product?

GM: Our first product, Reverie Milk, took three years to hit the shelves and that was because I was so particular. Things come up within those three years. As you travel you become more exposed to new foods, different interior designs- you get exposed to different worlds. I try to be a collector of beautiful things and put those into my work as well. For example, the scent of Reverie Milk was created with 16 essential oils all inspired by wine tasting. I was tasting abroad in Italy and it was a bit more rustic and not as produced, not a structured experience. It really resonated with me and I took that into Reverie.

All of my inspiration for formulations actually comes from skincare. They’re 10 years ahead of haircare anyway. I drew a lot of inspiration from the language of skincare and the ingredients. Skincare has a different sensibility and commitment to what they’re putting out there. That really resonates with me. Our products have to be inclusive. Men, women, short hair, long hair- they have to be for everybody. Reverie is actually produced at a skincare lab in San Francisco. When I met the woman who runs it she said “I don’t do hair,” and I said, “that’s why this is going to work. It’s refreshing” and that’s where we’ve been ever since.

MA: Reverie’s sleek design and minimalist type face are so unique, what was the inspiration behind that aesthetic? 

GM: Reverie Milk is bottled in a black-violet glass manufactured by Miron. We were the second company to use it ever. The idea was to preserve and further the ingredients without having to add anything unnecessary. As I was spinning the glass around I thought “we have to celebrate the whole bottle.” So I said “let’s do a design that sort of wraps around the bottle, so no matter which way it is something is at a front focal point.” The aesthetic is inspired by the Bauhaus, so a lot of modular square, circle, triangle shapes. Our logo is inspired by God’s eye, those things you make with popsicle sticks and yarn. I’m so proud to have had an impact with that design. It makes me happy knowing the aesthetic is appreciated as an artist. 

The bottles are also 100% recyclable. Most beer and wine is paper labeled. If they used conventional inks, you wouldn’t be able recycle the plastics and glasses. When I discovered that, I knew I had to be responsible. So in order to do the bottle right but ensure it was still sustainable, I sourced out a ceramic silk screen company. That way the ink on melt becomes a part of the glass and it will never come off. You can feel it, it’s a little raised. So it has a little luxury to it and it can immediately be recycled. We’re actually relaunching the line to tell people on the bottle how to recycle it when it’s empty.

MA: You just launched a personally curated tool shop at Reverie. Can you tell us a little bit about that project? 

GM: I launched a tool shop on Reverie years ago when we just had Milk and no one knew who we were or what we were doing. I travel as an educator for hair, and for every question I get about hair I get 5 about what tools I’m using. And that’s because I’ve traveled a lot and collected so many things. The Koh-I-Noor that we now retail in the tool shop I found at a small pharmacy in Puglia. It was this random brand I’d never seen anywhere in the states, and I wanted to share that with people. They’re made with this beautiful tortishell acetate, high quality like a mason pearson but made with a different approach. And then of course the Sanbi, the Japanese brushes. For us, curating this was to make it more accessible. It’s not even about sales, it’s about educating.

MA: What’s next for Reverie? 

GM: I’m very much interested in what I can give and not get. I want to leave this industry better than I found it. So I’m constantly trying to figure out, does the industry need this? I’m not really interested in nostalgia. I think really talented hairdressers are always looking ahead. But I do think there’s a lot of our past in hairdressing that has kind of been lost or forgotten. In addition to the tool shop we’ll be launching Rare, which is a curated space of curio items. So, books on hair from Vidal Sassoon, vintage french hair barrettes, vintage combs. I have an original photo of Vidal cutting Mia Farrow’s hair on the set of Rosemary’s Baby in a boxing ring. I hope this collection will resonate with people who want to feel connected to their past but to think about what they can contribute to the future. 

Reverie is about hair culture. I want to continue to elevate the aesthetic os the salon and the hairdresser. So we’re making objects for the space that are very limited. The last one that we did is called Smock. In most salons, you’ll see people weaning an apron. They’re cool, some of them are very stylish and they’re definitely functional. But I’ve always appreciated that hairdressers jacket or that artist’s smock. So I partnered with Everybody World, a local ethical manufacturer in Downtown Los Angeles that works with all upcycled cotton. We designed a one-size-fits-most smock specifically for hairdressers, with deep pockets for hairspray and brushes, a big iPhone pocket. We garment dyed them 8 different colors chosen by 8 different hairdressers to give them ownership and recognition. 

We’re also launching “Milk For All Humans” this week. It’s a campaign we did with 8 different people all styled with just milk to highlight how inclusive it is. We worked with a really brilliant photographer and Zola Jesus did all of the music. It just goes back to what I said before about how we chose to inject art back into our community.

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