Meet Stacey Fraser, The Driving Force Behind New Zealand’s Most Popular Beauty Brands

By Ashleigh Cometti
From Raaie's eco-luxe serums through to Tronque's cosseting body care, cosmetic chemist Stacey Fraser has influenced the path to success for a number of New Zealand's top beauty brands. Photo / Supplied

Turns out Tronque, Raaie, Chloe Zara Hair, Embodyme and Inxhale all have one thing in common. Rather, one person in common. Below, Ashleigh Cometti speaks to Stacey Fraser, the cosmetic chemist on speed dial for some of the country’s top beauty brands.

To most, the name Stacey Fraser may not

But if you tend to support New Zealand beauty brands when stocking your bathroom cupboard, then chances are you’ve used products she helped formulate on your face, body or hair.

As the impetus behind some of the country’s most successful beauty brands — think Chloe Zara Hair, Raaie, Embodyme and Tronque — Stacey is surprisingly humble.

She dialled in for our Zoom call from her native Christchurch, where she works as a design practice teaching fellow at the School of Product Design at the University of Canterbury.

It’s here she teaches the next generation of product designers, and on other days acts as a consultant for budding beauty brand founders.

“I kind of fell into it,” Stacey says of finding her start in cosmetic chemistry. The travel agent of 15 years took a sharp career pivot after 9/11, which saw her venture into the realm of health and wellbeing.

Her studies in aromatherapy, massage and reflexology led to a chance meeting with Sarah Wickens, co-founder of Trilogy in a health store, who was looking for someone to help them at their head office.

“I pestered them for a job,” Stacey says, adding that her time spent with the brand built the foundation for a lifelong passion for natural ingredients. Stacey grew in tandem with the brand, eventually landing a role as a product designer.

But it wasn’t until Stacey was in her 40s that she decided to formalise what she calls her “education in the trenches” with a diploma in cosmetic chemistry at the Australian Institute of Personal Care Science.

Before long, Stacey was connecting with brand founders on the edge of success, and founded her own beauty consultancy business in the form of Stacey Fraser Co.

In fact, when I initially reached out to interview Stacey, she thought it was to start my own skincare brand (I wish!).

This is all part of the service she offers, being approached with a dream and turning it into reality.

Stacey works alongside students as a Design Practice Fellow at the University of Canterbury. Photo / Supplied
Stacey works alongside students as a Design Practice Fellow at the University of Canterbury. Photo / Supplied

Over the past four years, Stacey says her clientele has comprised clients requesting premium products, giving her more wiggle room when it comes to which ingredients she formulates with.

“It means you can put a lot more into them, and the quality can be much higher,” she says.

Now more than ever, she adds how important it is for brands to be realistic about the financial side of launching a beauty business.

“It’s not for the faint-hearted anymore. Once upon a time it was, but not so much now,” she says. “You have to be aware of the investment it takes to create your own product range.”

In what can only be described as a cluttered market, Stacey says she’s becoming increasingly selective of which briefs she accepts, and prefers to create products with purpose.

A clear vision also helps, and Stacey isn’t afraid to challenge ideas or leave concepts on the cutting room floor.

“I think to survive, you have to be able to know where you’re going, how you’re going to sell it and who your customers will be,” she says.

“I’m not brutal, but I am devil’s advocate because I’m not just going to take them along the path for the sake of it.”

Realistic, yes, but it’s a fun process, too. Excitement bubbles over during the consultation phase, where Stacey works through as many ideas as possible before trimming a concept back to see what’s commercially viable and satisfies a gap in the market.

One of her recent projects saw Stacey connect with communities in the Pacific, working with people in Tonga and Samoa to discover the magical properties of local ingredients and how to incorporate these into product ranges.

Despite pouring so much time and energy into formulating a range, Stacey says she’s never been tempted to create one herself.

“It’s not just about creating the most incredible product that everybody wants and can’t live without. There’s so much more to get it out in the world, then drive and grow it,” she says.

“I’m more than happy to create some gorgeous things, then let those other wonderful, talented people take it off into the world.”

She shares fond memories of her interactions with the founders she’s had the pleasure of formulating alongside — connecting with Chloe Zara while pregnant with her son, Albie, to now seeing her mature as both a mother and a brand; advising and supporting Katey Mandy on the formulation designs for Raaie; or meeting with Katie Guthrie at a retreat before diving into the world of aromachology with Inxhale.

The challenge posed by Katie was a unique one: create a product to boost mental alertness for long-distance driving. It began with the concept of a car diffuser, before a trip to Thailand saw Stacey discover an olfactory wellness tool at a beauty convention.

Ideas evolved from there, culminating into a coterie of luxury inhalers to either awaken or soothe the mind. “I love where we’ve ended up. I love the journey of all the research that we did,” Stacey says.

“I’m busting to get some really good clinical studies going where we can do a brainwave test, to show your brain activity as you’re inhaling these things.”

Today, with more information accessible to consumers than ever before, Stacey says it’s becoming harder and harder to formulate products with widespread appeal.

“It’s a lot more work, I have to admit,” she says.

“I’ve never seen consumers holding brands so much to account as they do today. It’s one thing to say a product is natural, or has 17 ingredients, but now there’s a whole range of things you have to be transparent about.”

She warns people should be mindful of where they source their beauty advice from (TikTok being one of them), due to the amount of scaremongering and opinion-based advice given out freely on the platform.

“There are still a lot of myths and misinformation out there. If we listened to all of it, we’d probably not use anything,” she says.

The team at New Zealand's oldest personal care manufacturing facilities and the only one in Canterbury - Peerage Products. This is Stacey's working R&D lab and teaching space for the Chemical Formulation Degree at The School of Product Design, at the University of Canterbury.
The team at New Zealand's oldest personal care manufacturing facilities and the only one in Canterbury - Peerage Products. This is Stacey's working R&D lab and teaching space for the Chemical Formulation Degree at The School of Product Design, at the University of Canterbury.

Two decades later, it’s clear Stacey’s enthusiasm for unearthing the next big thing in beauty remains undimmed.

Most notably, she explains the term “anti-ageing” is on the way out, while scalp care is on the rise.

“If you’ve got a healthy scalp, you’re going to have amazingly healthy hair follicles,” she says. “That’s going to be a biggie.”

Multi-purpose or multi-functional skincare isn’t going anywhere, Stacey says, with streamlined routines calling for fewer products cluttering up bathroom vanities.

Beyond products themselves, Stacey predicts the uptick in application rituals that tap into the mental health side of self-care.

“The act of self-care, or taking the time to perform a ritual that honours self or is a moment of time-out is coming through strongly at the moment,” she says.

In fragrance, olfactory wellness is an untapped market but one that Stacey claims will explode in the future.

“There are so many studies about how olfactory wellness can affect the brain and help with a whole host of things going on,” she says.

Trends like these remain hot topics among her students, and Stacey says it’s exciting to see how the next generation is addressing some of the issues of overconsumption in the beauty industry.

“It’s cool hanging out with the younger generation to see how they are already looking at making changes in the world we’ve left for them to inherit,” she says.

“A lot of the designs and ideas they have are not just ‘me too’ designs, which is really great.”

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