the unwash: exclusive interview
After earning a degree in textile science and finding herself in a job that required constant travel, Megan Graham wanted to find a solution for travel-sized products that weren’t fitting her needs and ultimately ended up in the trash. The thought of frequent waste that was being created from these products became a point of frustration that she wanted to find a solution for. This was eventually tabled for a successful marketing career at Vogue and Condé Nast until the itch returned and Megan knew she could create a product for consumers like herself and fill a much-needed gap in the market. Whether it be buying travel-sized products that aren’t your personal favorites or trying to use drug store refillable bottles that leak or break both of these created more stress and unsatisfactory experiences for an on-the-go routine. Megan left her corporate job at Condé Nast to launch Ries – a solutions-oriented company founded to make our travel routines simpler and more streamlined. Ries is a more practical travel option that doubles as a sustainable solution for plastic waste. Their TSA-approved travel bottles are the perfect travel buddy. Created from post-consumer recycled materials that are dishwasher safe, they are made to last and create less waste in the process. We sat down with Megan to discuss sustainability, the process of launching a startup, and the future of Ries.
What was the process of deciding to go from a corporate job to being the founder of a company?
I worked in fashion forecasting, marketing, and advertising for most of my career and I really loved it but my first role in trend forecasting was full-time remote, before it was the norm. I loved the autonomy of that role. It put me in better touch with my intuition, decision-making, and being able to think on my feet. I realized because of that freedom the perfect role for me was to build something how I wanted to. I appreciate being out in the world like I was in my first role. When it came to making this shift to running a business – I had this idea that I had a strong feeling about what I wanted to go after. Shifting from office life to running a business was an easy shift for me. Switching back to this autonomous life is such a confidence boost.
“People have very specific needs in their routine and the way people are using the Ries bottles brings me so much joy.” – Megan Graham, Founder of Ries
While you were the Director of Beauty Marketing at Vogue did you start to see an influx of interest in sustainable brands?
Sustainability was more about ingredients at that point in 2017-2019. Sustainability in packaging wasn’t really a thing, even with refillables there wasn’t much there. It was mainly about the ingredients. One that caught my attention was Seed which started to lean into more innovative, sustainable packaging.
Where do you see the beauty industry going in the future in terms of sustainability?
There are so many more brands now that are taking an interest in sustainability. There is a much bigger opportunity to have founder-led brands rather than corporate-led ones so that we’re getting brands with values. There is a clear interest from consumers on that. We can democratize beauty in a way. So many people are doing incredible, innovative things so I see a much more sustainable future for beauty in the next five to ten years. In the next ten years, I think it will look very different and there will be a huge impact on the reduction of waste. The more the consumers demand it, the more companies have to do something about it. Keep demanding, keep asking, it’s so important. Supporting small businesses and founder-led brands is also incredibly important. It gives me hope that we’re in a moment of innovation and that it’ll continue. Even in the last five years, I’ve seen so much change, like I said it used to be more ingredient-focused but now customers are really paying attention on a larger scale and change is happening.
Now that you’re in Sephora, what is next for Ries?
We have more products coming out, we get lots of questions about new colors so we are launching new colors this year. We have more products coming out that tie into circularity with a focus on recycled materials. Overall these will be focused on the process of making the transition to a more sustainable on-the-go routine. Think – simplifying your routine, making it more sustainable and more mobile. I built this brand for myself so I’m thinking about what you need when going to the gym, on a flight. What are these things I want to improve upon and make the experience better? More non-container things are coming but can’t say too much yet. We’re moving into new spaces as well. I can’t say too much yet but there are lots more to come that you’ll be hearing about closer to the summer.
Ries landed in Sephora within its first year of being on the market and is the first refillable travel bottle to be on the retailer’s shelves. Throughout our conversation with Megan, thoughts around ‘doing the best with what is available to us now’ was frequently brought up and how as brands and consumers this is something to lean into. Brands like Ries are making sustainable solutions while also emphasizing creating a positive customer experience for on-the-go product usage – which we shouldn’t have to sacrifice even when traveling. Megan hinted that there could be further retailer expansion in the future but for any Ries news, we’ll be anxiously awaiting and ready to give everyone the full scoop.
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Ries is a line of TSA-size approved refillable containers retailing at $18. The bottles are crafted from post-consumer recycled plastic and created with the purpose of consistent reuse. Ries puts value on the circularity of their product and hopes choices like using up-cycled materials will become more of a norm in the beauty industry.
Natureofthings is a holistic body care brand inspired by and rooted in nature, including its commitment to sustainability. The brand is committed to creating products meant to make life more pleasurable and enjoyable. Natureofthings puts a large emphasis on ingredient education and transparency, building trust with their consumers so that they are fully aware of what is in their products.
Completedworks creates designs that are meant to resemble pieces of art and stand the test of time, without succumbing to trend cycles. The brand uses reclaimed, recycled, and ethically sourced materials such as marble, glass, bio-resin, and silver. Completedworks proves you don’t have to compromise design and style for sustainable practices but rather that the two can work in harmony to create timeless, wearable pieces.