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Grow Beautiful film raises awareness of Regenerative Organic Agriculture for Earth Day | #BehindTheIdea

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Independent creative agency HarrimanSteel recently launched ‘Grow Beautiful’, an artistic creative campaign for renowned sustainable beauty brand, Davines. The film-led campaign showcases both the brand’s and the agency’s mission to redefine the beauty industry through environmental action.

Over the past 40 years, Davines’ unwavering commitment to sustainable practices has enabled it to become a leading ethical beauty brand, championing positive change throughout the industry. Given their own impact-focused credentials, HarrimanSteel was perfectly positioned to partner on the brief, amplifying Davines’ experience to build advocacy within this field.

The campaign specifically seeks to raise awareness of the role Regenerative Organic Agriculture (ROA) can play within sustainable beauty. By communicating how soil health is intrinsically linked to everything from plant health and human wellbeing to the future of our planet, ROA represents a positive, viable solution to tackling the climate crisis head-on.

Building on Davines’ recently launched ‘We Sustain Beauty’ brand platform (which outlines the brand’s ethical pledges), HarrimanSteel collaborated with French choreographer and dancer Fanny Sage to create a film with purpose. It had to be as beautiful as it was powerful to bring the conversation into a new cultural space, and make it resonate with the discerning owners and clientele of Davines salons.

Featuring Sage’s mesmerising, emotive choreography in natural surroundings, the dance represents her personal interpretation of what it means to ‘Grow Beautiful’. Natural elements such as soil and sky became accompanying heroes of the film – dance partners alongside Fanny – a dance with nature, for nature.

The concept sees Sage born from the soil, then slowly beginning to grow and bloom alongside the greenery surrounding her. The film highlights the fragile beauty of the natural world and is an optimistic rallying call to the rest of the beauty industry ahead of Earth Day later this month (on 22 April). It also amplifies Davines’ core purpose – to foster a closer, healthier relationship between humans and nature. 

To learn more, we spoke to Nathan Dytor, Associate Creative Director at HarrimanSteel.

What was the brief?

The brief was for the second iteration of Davines’ 'We Sustain Beauty' platform. They described it as their 'megaphone moment'. We quickly realised how important the artistic collaboration aspect was to Davines, however what form this was going to take was left wide open, which was an exciting prospect for us.

We needed to form a complete omni-channel strategic framework as well as developing a campaign strategy and in-salon activation ideas. We were also used as consultants on a separate educational brand film and, finally, asked to ideate around supporting collateral and messaging to sell a specific product.

Central to all these threads of work was Davines' desire to shine a light on the significant role Regenerative Organic Agriculture (ROA) can play in making the notoriously un-environmentally friendly beauty industry more sustainable, and to put the Davines brand at the centre of that conversation. It was a seriously wide-reaching brief – something we could really get our teeth into. 

What was the process behind ideating the concept?

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Having an inspiring artistic collaboration was important to the client from the outset. We explored this through various mediums from soil sculptures that would degrade over time to large-scale light sculptures.

When we landed on the dance idea and really began researching and finding references from landscapes to expressive choreography, we instantly knew it was the right approach to take. I was so confident presenting the idea that we nearly didn't even show the alternative explorations. Thankfully, it also felt right to the client immediately, and from there we worked quickly to start nailing down the narrative and speaking with talent.

We needed a dancer that would elevate the performance; someone that also has a firm handle on choreography and had worked in this world before. We were drawn to Fanny Sage as our chosen talent because she seemed so open and collaborative, and she really got behind the concept and narrative. She believed in the subject matter and the message we were ultimately trying to convey. This was essential to the quality and integrity of the final result. 

We had already landed on 'Grow Beautiful' as our campaign idea, so the brief became about interpreting that however she wanted to. So, on the day, Fanny was largely left to do her own thing with little direction. This was important to me personally as we entered into the concept wanting a collaboration, not a tightly staged performance. We worked hard to maintain that level of authenticity at each stage.

What was the biggest challenge during production? How did you overcome it?

There were several! But I'd say the biggest challenge was ensuring that we found somewhere that felt alive and almost 'season-less'.

We were shooting in Europe (Mallorca) in November but launching in April, so it needed to feel lush and beautiful, despite having to shoot in the depths of Autumn. The terrain we encountered on the day was also challenging to dance on. We ended up having to change the performance here and there to work with what we had.

What kit/tools/software were used to create the project?

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We shot the film with an ARRI Alexa Mini and Steadicam. Originally, we considered using other types of camera set ups, including drones, but we felt the simple steadicam would give us the most intimate, natural way to capture Fanny’s movement.

What is one funny or notable thing that happened during production?

We changed locations at the last minute to support the 3-stage narrative better. We went from one side of the island to the other on the same day. This meant myself and Paul (our Producer) didn't have time to do a recce beforehand.

When we got there, the ground wasn't level and was covered in rocks. Wary of dancing on such a precarious terrain (especially bearing in mind that she was dancing shoeless), Fanny was – understandably – worried about injuring herself. Paul and I spent the next hour on our hands and knees picking up rocks and levelling the ground by hand. 

What’s the main message of this project and why does it matter?

We needed to put the subject of soil health and ROA front and centre, but it's a super complex topic to get to grips with if you're unfamiliar with it. There was no way to effectively deliver the messaging through one piece of digestible communication.

So, our dance idea was an abstract alternative; we wanted to highlight the subject in a softer, more ethereal, more human manner. It ran alongside a larger strategic piece which did most of the heavy lifting as far as drilling down on the ROA messaging. 

That said, we wanted the take-out from this particular piece to be about how beautiful and fragile the Earth is, from the ground up. Improving soil health is a simple but effective way to harness the Earth's power for good.

We wanted the dance to echo the ROA process, hero-ing natural elements such as soil and sky in the process. Starting slowly from the ground, growing, blooming and becoming more alive through its 90 second lifespan on screen. A dance with nature, for nature.

How long did it take from inception to delivery?

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The dance was only one piece of a much larger strategic framework which was always going on in the background. In July last year, we visited the Davines village in Parma to really get to grips with the brand and what they truly stand for.

We met the whole team we would be working with while we were over, which was invaluable. We had the chance to visit the brand's own, very impressive European Regenerative Organic Center. This pioneering research and training hub was set up by Davines in partnership with the Rodale Institute in 2021.

We also met with the lead farmer, Dario, and had the chance to really understand what ROA is, and what it means not only to Davines, but in the wider context of soil health and regenerative organic farming practices. In total, it was a 6 month project with all aspects of the project being delivered in December 2022. All assets went live throughout April 2023, to coincide with Earth Month. 

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

Rarely do you get the opportunity to make a piece of work with no requirement to sell a product. From start to finish, the project had a feeling of making a collaborative piece of art. I felt a significant level of trust and support from the client to do this.

I have a huge amount of respect for Davines as a brand, their ethos and their drive to push the hair and beauty industry in a more sustainable direction. Ultimately, my hope is for them to achieve this goal, getting more brands in the sector to follow their lead and take environmental issues more seriously. I hope this piece of work helps them on this longer term journey.

More immediately, my hope is that it opens new doors for them culturally to engage and speak to new audiences, allowing this performance to sit and be judged as a piece of art made by a brand, rather than it simply being a selling tool. 

Credit list for the work

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Creative Director: Nathan Dytor
Creative: Joss Murphy
Director: Martin Mur
Account Director: Phuong Nguyen
Talent: Fanny Sage
Agency producer: Paul van Lierop
Production partners: MrFrank & Marisol Films
Executive Producer: Miguel Teixeira

Production company

Producer: Robert Farrelly
Producer: Robert Farrelly
Production Coordinator: Andrea Arias
Editor: Dylan Connor Haigh
Photographer: Elisabeth Salcedo
Music: Harald Boyesen
Stills Retouching: Madem Studio
Colourist: Ruben Labree
Stylist: Angela Ibañez
Hair: Adriano D’Astolto
Make Up: Xisca Covas
Steadicam: Angel Goday
1stAC: Juan Carlos Tejerina
DOP: Nilo Zimmerman
Focus Puller: Chris Kelly

Behind the scenes photography: Joe Curtain

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