Giselle Go and Philippe Terrien’s sustainable lifestyle is founded on a deep respect for heritage, built community, and contentment.
Japanese clean skincare brand Damdam finds its sanctuary in the historic neighborhood of Gion in Kyoto. Displaying products made entirely of native ingredients to furniture crafted by local artisans, the flagship store unfolds as a sensory experience. It is only fitting, as the word “Damdam” in Tagalog means “feeling.” Co-founder Giselle Go emphasizes that “beauty is a feeling. It’s not and it shouldn’t be just about looking good, but it’s about feeling good, too.”
Her journey began with 10 boxes of skincare products during her move to Japan. As a former Editor-in-Chief, Go would regularly receive new releases from different brands. But, she admits that as she was getting older, she “started to learn which products or ingredients my skin was responding more positively to and which ones it wasn’t. So, I stopped trying all the products getting sent to me and I just started to gravitate towards more naturally made products.”
In Japan, despite being a country renowned for high quality skincare, Giselle says she noticed the lack of products that used minimal, clean ingredients. So, she embarked on formulating her own, mixing facial oils and brainstorming on ways she could sell them to the Japanese market albeit in small doses. Giselle’s partner and Damdam co-founder Philippe Terrien is experienced in Japanese business having built the Tokyo-based creative agency TFC Japan. He encouraged her to prepare a business plan and she sent him a 96-page document that had innovative ideas for clean skincare that made use of ingredients native to Japan such as shiso. The brand resonated with Philippe completely, and he too was on board.
While a commitment to clean and sustainable living might not yet be a widespread practice for many, it’s always been the case for Philippe who grew up in Brittany, France surrounded by family with eco-conscious values. “There was no intention, I think, [of living a sustainable lifestyle] but that was the way it was. It was a part of my life,” he says.
Among cousins who grew their own pesticide-free vegetables, family who explored sustainable methods of gardening, and a mother who was into alternative medicine, Philippe took an interest in agriculture and natural ingredients at a young age. Once the couple set out to build Damdam, they first searched for regenerative farmers whose practices were also grounded in a mindfulness for the environment. “We realized that it was better, sustainably speaking to produce things, to reduce our carbon footprint and source ingredients locally,” explains Giselle.
When Philippe moved to Japan at the age of 19, he developed fondness for Japanese culture and traditions, particularly ancestral crafts passed through generations. “When I had the chance together with Giselle to build this brand,” he tells Vogue Philippines, “It was natural for me to go to these craftsmen, artisans, farmers, and try to do something with them because I love them so much that I wanted to incorporate them in our art form.”
And with many things within Japanese tradition, Damdam’s art takes time. “We’re not in a rush; we want to do things properly and slowly,” Philippe says.
Makeup: Zidjian Paul Floro. Hair: Noel Muncada, Lindsay Agapito, Gerelyn Valentino, Renz Repuya of Toni&Guy Philippines. Stylist: Neil De Guzman. Art Director: Jann Pascua. Nails: Jeneve Aldave and Maritess Dela Paz of Extraordinail. Producer: Bianca Zaragoza. Multimedia Artist: Tinkerbell Poblete. Photography Assistant: Christian Manlunas. Makeup Assistant: Kim Roy Opog. Stylist’s Assistant: Jilliane Santos and Kyla Uy.