Tata Harper — natural, complex, uncompromising, ideal. Words that describe both the luxury clean skincare brand and the woman who created it and gave it her name. Tata Harper skincare cracked the code on natural preservatives and emulsifiers to produce cleansers, moisturizers, creams, serums, masks that deliver 100% toxic-free richness. It’s no surprise that the brand is a leader in the next generation of beauty.
Tata herself is a trailblazer. She saw the need for chemical-free skincare a decade ago and dedicated herself to meeting that need. It was a delight to sit down with her in her New Canaan home, after she returned from 6 months in Vermont, to talk about Tata Harper—the woman and the company.
Tata, I know you were educated as an industrial engineer at Tecnologico de Monterrey, the MIT of Mexico. There must have been many areas you could have focused on. Why a skincare company?
My step father was diagnosed with cancer. I went with him to his doctors and listened to what they were telling him. While I had always been a health enthusiast, I now realized that the scope of the decisions you make every single day – what you put in your body, on your body – affects your health. All of a sudden, I’m here with doctors talking about toxic load. I looked at my toxic load.
I started changing everything about the products I used. I started to buy organic food and cleaning products, and use organic dry cleaners. Really skincare was the last frontier for me.
I’m Latina, I’m Colombian. I was inculcated with the idea that personal care is really important….not only about how you look, but also about how you feel. It’s a little bit of a sacred ritual in our culture. Beauty is not seen as a chore, it was a way of taking care of yourself.
But now, I wanted to switch to something natural. There were no “so-called” natural products out there that had the richness and complexity of what I had been using. None spoke to customers like me, who wanted high end, high quality, and high tech. In fact, they were not even totally natural. I was used to using very advanced skin care and could not find anything natural that would really work for me.
I searched the big department stores. They showed me products with botanicals. However, when I turned the box around, I saw that these botanicals actually were mixed with tons of synthetic industrial chemicals. Ingredients no one ever talks about because they are not active ingredients. They were ingredients like propylene glycol, an emollient similar to one used in antifreeze. Chemicals that belong more in my car’s engine than on my face.
How did you get from there to here….from having the idea to now having the company?
The challenge wasn’t an easy one. I was married at the time to my business partner and Co-CEO Henry Harper. (Henry and I continue to work together to build the brand and business we have today.)
My focus was on R&D and product development. I knew we needed to build formulas from scratch. We needed to find natural replacements for parabens, for phenoxyethanol, and for all the myriad of synthetic industrial chemicals used in making skin care products. We have a large farm near Middlebury, Vermont. We’ve owned the farm for 18 years and lived there full time before moving to New Canaan. Most of the ingredients in our products are grown on our farm. We selectively bring in additional ingredients from around the world as needed. I comprised a team of scientists (all female!) and together we spent five years perfecting our formulas. We turned the 3 large barns into a production facility. In fact, all of our products are made in our barns in Vermont. Nothing is outsourced. It’s this hands-on craftsmanship that guarantees the products’ purity and freshness. We keep our quantities manageable to ensure consistency of the highest level of quality. I am very hands on. Henry has his pilots’ license, which makes it easier for me and the rest of the team to get back and forth from Vermont quickly on a regular basis.
Henry's Cirrus SR22
Henry Harper, Co-CEO
Why New Canaan?
I purchased a house in New Canaan about two years ago. I did not want to live in New York City, but wanted to be near it. I work closely with my lab and production teams in Vermont, but some of my other teams need me elsewhere. Global business needs – retailers, clients, press meetings from Dubai to South Africa to China – made it difficult for me to be based solely in Vermont. I would spend a lot of time in airports – way too much time! I also needed to spend a lot of time in New York. I needed to live in a place that is relatively close to major airports.
Space.NK was our first retailer here in the US. I remember coming to their New Canaan store and falling in love with the town. I remember going to Rosie for a bite to eat. I have always loved this area and have lots of friends in Bedford.
A friend of mine lives in South Salem. She introduced me to an amazing agent, Hannelore Kaplan. Hannelore had helped her find her home.
I wanted a house with a set up that could accommodate both my family and my business. I knew it was a tall order, but Hannelore came through for me! She found me the perfect home. It felt right from the beginning. Not only is the set up ideal, but within a few minutes I can be in the woods that remind me of Vermont. I’m surrounded by natural beauty here.
Your home is full of energy and love, I can feel it, sitting here. Did I count 6 dogs?
You did! I have two German Shepherds…Wallace 13, Archie 1; one Labradoodle, Maxwell 3; one Lagotto Romagnolo, Vito 4; two English Cream Dachshunds, Coco and Gio six months. I’ve always had lots of pets in my life.
What do you enjoy best about this area?
There is so much that I love! In addition to running a business, I am also a mother of 3 school age children– two daughters (Tata Mia and Grace Paloma) and a son (Hunter).
Tata with her sister Carolina, Coco and Gio.
I am a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a niece. My sister Carolina works with me in New Canaan. She’s a graphic designer and illustrator for the digital team. Henry has a place a few miles away, also in New Canaan. Hunter plays hockey nearby. It’s also easy to get to Vermont where I spend a lot of time with the kids – especially in the summer. I’m close with my family in Barranquilla. Because of the proximity to the airports and Jet Blue flights to Cartagena, I can even take my children to Colombia for long weekends.
Family is everything to me and this area is all about family. The people who live here are warm and welcoming. My children and I have made the most amazing friends.The schools, the parks, are great for the kids. I love entertaining family and friends. Dinners at the Inn at Pound Ridge are the best. We take our bikes and go to Grace Farms. We walk the trails at Irwin Park. We are in town a lot… we eat at Sole, shop at Space.NK, and the kids pick out their clothing at Groove. Really, what’s not to love?