For James Read, tanning was by no means his destiny, in fact, it was more of an accidental tumble into the tanning world. A trained psychotherapist, fake tan was a converse universe, but luckily for us, he landed feet first in the this realm, and we’ve been thankful ever since (particularly the tanorexic folk). The celebrity tanner, responsible for the burnished limbs of Lady Gaga, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Cindy Crawford, now has the most innovative and lush tanning line on the market, and quite frankly, one we’re obsessed with (the H20 Mist is a must).
For our final instalment with the celebrity tanning kingpin, he chats about humble brown beginnings, the inextricable link between skincare and fake tan, who has the best tan chat and how those ingenious products really come about (coconut oil and bronzing? Genius).
GRAZIA: Who has the best tan chat?
JAMES: I always have a laugh with everyone. [Lady] Gaga is really good. But I also love chatting to a lot of celebrities ‘cause they’re just normal people but also quite creative. I like creativity.
G: What’s the best story you’ve heard?
J: Best story? I’ve got loads [laughs]. I really can’t think!
G: Your whole premise is the combination of tanning and skincare – how did that come about?
J: Because no one really did it, and I always found that self-tan dried my skin out. When I looked into a sleep mask, there was really no category for self-tan for the face, and that changed how people were tanning. All of a sudden people started putting skincare and tan in one and then all of a sudden tanning brands started concentrating on face products as well as body; it wasn’t just an add-on.
G: Do you think there should be a clear distinction between face and body tan?
J: I think people use both now. In the winter, I think people just tan their face and use face products, or they do their body with the rose water and easy stuff like that where you can just do it anywhere. So, it’s products that can be on the go, where you can put it in your bag if you want a quick pick me up and you can spray your face.
G: Is it OK to use body products on the face, though?
J: Yeah, you can use both. Especially for tanorexics like yourself. Also, products like the H20 uses grapes, so it doesn’t highlight pigmentation, it won’t make your face go too dark because it stops at a certain level.
G: So for those with pigmentation, which a spray tan always accentuates, what should they be using?
J: H20 Face Tan Mist. It just literally glows, it doesn’t highlight those areas.
G: A lot of your products – like the H2O Mist and Contour Kit – are really innovative and progressive. What’s your creative process like? Do you conceptualise them or does a team?
J: I’ve got a team of people but I come up with the ideas. Haha when they’ve been working on them for about six months, sometimes I just come in and say, “Scrap that, I don’t want to do it, I’ve changed my idea!” The new ones we’re doing now are totally innovative but also totally what the market is missing. It’s like what Chanel does, Chanel will never copy someone, they’d wait three years and then do it better. I would never copy someone, but I do think about it, and then do it better – but in a different light, so it’s a totally different product and I’ve completely changed how people saw it originally. I try to look at what’s happening with trends. Coconut was massive so I brought out the coconut oil which is, out of all the self-tan oils on the market that are only 3% oil, the first ever 100% raw coconut oil. It’s the first ever to capsulate DHA. It was a challenge, and with coconut, it melts if you leave it out so you have to put it in the fridge to slightly solidify it, but you mix it and only put it in small amounts and the colour is amazing.
G: That was the one that I loved. It’s such a genius idea.
J: If you put it on in small amounts, you don’t go too tanned. It’s like any oil, if you put too much on, it goes too oily. So I think of the ideas, I look at what’s going on in China and Japan, all the skincare, where skin care is going next year, and then try to match them to tanning.
G: Why tanning originally?
J: I was working for a department store and I think I was on a final warning [laughs]. And I was always quite creative and doing my own thing so I was like, “Oh well, I’ll just get a job in tanning”, and then all of a sudden I fell in love with it. I used to use tanning anyway, like wipes and stuff, and I used to love it, and it pushed me to look for a job in tanning. I found a job in tanning and then 15 years later I’m still there, amazing. I watched The September Issue, and it was a scene when the dad says to Anna Wintour at 15, “What do you want to do when you’re older?” And she says, “I want to be editor at American Vogue.” It made me think, she knew that at 15 and I knew that I wanted my own brand, so that’s why I did.
G: Back then, did you know wanted your own brand?
J: About half way through I did. But it was on the back burner because I trained as a psychotherapist; I wanted to do criminal psychology and then all of a sudden tanning took off and that was it.
James Read Tan Coconut Melting Tanning Balm, $52. SHOP NOW