Tata Harper has been a leading force in green beauty since launching her eponymous line in 2010, but her training started in Colombia, with a childhood steeped in the at–home beauty rituals of her grandmother, who used local ingredients like avocados and honey on her hair and skin. From her farm in Whiting, Vermont, Harper channels that ethos, making high–performance natural formulas with many botanicals grown on the property, including anti–inflammatory arnica and antioxidant–rich calendula. With the brand’s recent expansion into Hong Kong, ongoing product launches and her own stints working backstage at New York Fashion Week, Harper looks for ideas for her next concoction wherever she lands: “I love learning about the skincare needs that people have in different places and cultures. And when I’m exploring new destinations, I visit furniture stores, ceramicists and museums – there’s a lot to draw inspiration from when making beauty products.”
The Colombian–born, U.S.–based natural skincare trailblazer on her beauty–based upbringing, inflight hydration routine and what she packs when travelling for her global brand.
enRouteHow has your Colombian background influenced your approach to beauty?
Tata HarperI grew up in Barranquilla, on the coast. The town is very vibrant and the epitome of Latin culture: loud and warm, with music playing in the background at all times. There are many women in my family – my grandmother, aunts and cousins – and we all love beauty. From a young age, I saw my grandmother take care of herself with DIY treatments. I was her favourite granddaughter, so I was usually there to help her buy herbs, smash avocados for her hair and make different smoothies for our skin. What all of this taught me is that you do it because you want to feel better and because beauty is a great way of connecting and bonding with others, too. I know some people don’t even like cleansing their face because they think they don’t have time for it, but that wasn’t a conversation with us. There was always time for beauty because it was a ritual, it was transformative and made you feel good overall.
ERDoes travel influence your brand?
THI’ve always loved travel and how it opens my mind. I’m inspired by learning about the needs that people have in different places, and cultures and the details around their routines. Like if you live in the desert, how do you deal with the dryness? Or if you live in a cold place, how do you navigate that? And because we’re a global brand now, knowing this helps me cater to different markets. I also get inspired by visiting furniture stores, ceramicists and museums. I’m looking forward to going to the Louvre Abu Dhabi one day, especially the Dragon and Phoenix: Centuries of Exchange Between Chinese and Islamic Worlds exhibit. And on a recent trip to New York, I went to the redesigned Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History. The exhibit has over 5,000 specimens from around the world and seeing it was a breathtaking experience, especially since I have my own collection of rocks and crystals.
ERWhat are the must–haves in your travel skincare routine?
THI always have the Hydrating Floral Essence mist and Hydrating Floral Mask handy for easy hydration. All that recirculated air on planes is very drying. There are different ways to use the mask: Put on a thin layer and wear it overnight, which is what I do on the airplane; or, apply a thick layer and remove it with the Floral Essence, which emulsifies the mask, before patting dry.
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ERWhen you go back to Colombia, where do you love to go?
THBarranquilla, my hometown, has a special vibe. For me, it's like going back in time and being in my comfort zone. I catch up with friends, listen and dance to local music, go to the beach and fulfill all my cravings. And I love the old city in Cartagena for the architecture, colours, bougainvilleas, little shops and cotton candy sunsets. My favourite place to dine there is Restaurante Árabe Internacional. I usually order a bunch of things to share, like stuffed grape leaves, hummus, and fattoush. I also like Celele – the Posta Cartagenera, a traditional Colombian dish of slow–cooked beef with coconut rice and plantain, is delicious!
ERWhere would you love to travel in 2022?
THI’ve wanted to go to Japan for a long time, so I hope that this is going to be my year. I’m interested in the architecture of all of the royal palaces and excited to experience real Japanese food, like shoyu ramen. I’d also like to visit an onsen in the mountains because I love water therapy.
ERCloser to home, how are you spending the winter months?
THSkiing is my favourite winter activity – Killington and Stowe are two resorts that are easy to get to from my farm. But I also love snowshoeing and sledding with my three kids who are 13, 10 and nine years old, especially after big snowfalls when the snow is fluffy and perfect.
ERWhat’s your packing style?
THI fold to take advantage of all the nooks and crannies in my luggage. I don’t pride myself on being a light packer.
ERDo you pack in advance or last‑minute?
THI usually pack a week before. I make a pile, try everything on and even write down my wardrobe day–by–day so I don’t forget the looks I’ve chosen.
ERAny travel hacks to share?
THI have two pre–packed bags ready to go: One with toiletries, a blow–dryer and a hairbrush, and another for my exercise clothing and resistance bands.
What’s in Tata’s Bag?
Chocolate — I discovered these all–natural Flyer bars at Blackberry Farm, a resort and spa in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. I also love the organic dark chocolate from Lake Champlain Chocolates, a Vermont–based company.
Gentle Monster sunglasses — My eyes are sensitive to light, especially when jet–lagged, so these sunglasses help me cruise around without any inconveniences (and they elevate my outfit, too).
Tata Harper Skincare In–flight Essentials — We created this set based on the three products I use most during flights: Hydrating Floral Essence mist, Boosted Contouring Eye Balm and Retinoic Nutrient Face Oil. These keep my skin extra hydrated, so I get to my destination looking plump and dewy.
Eres bathing suit — This is something that I’d truly be upset about if I forgot it at home. Whether it’s summer and I want to escape to the beach, or it’s winter and I stumble upon a hot tub – I never know when I might have a chance for a dip.
Blow dryer and hair clips — My hair is very unruly, so I travel with a hair emergency kit that includes a Harry Josh blow dryer and these Charlotte Chesnais hair clips – the perfect elegant accessory.
The Elder Statesman cardigan — I get cold easily, especially mid–flight, so I always bring a sweater in my carry–on. Lately, I’ve been loving the bold and unique colours from this L.A.–based label.
Rimowa suitcase — Rimowa luggage is really durable; the wheels never fail. I love that it makes travelling so fashionable – plus, the green colour is on–brand. Most of the stickers are from a recent trip to Hawaii.