Jamie Sylves says she never carefully considered the ingredients in her beauty or skincare products until she was pregnant with her daughter. She began to explore “clean” beauty brands, those that eliminate harsh or harmful ingredients tied to everything from skin conditions to cancer.
After living and working in New York for 10 years, the Pittsburgh native moved back to her home city and created Clara Mae James, a local, small beauty company that specializes in finding and selling non-toxic products made by independent, women-owned businesses. Launched in June, the concept combines her years of doing marketing for major brands like CoverGirl, SK-II, Laura Mercier, and L'Occitane, with her drive to find high-quality and healthy beauty and skin products.
Pittsburgh City Paper spoke with Sylves ahead of Clara Mae James appearing at the Made & Found Holiday Market on Sun., Dec. 15 at the Ace Hotel.
Where does the name Clara Mae James come from?
My name is Jamie Claire, and I was named after my grandparents, Clara Mae and James Sylves — both from North Braddock, which is where I grew up, too. In 2012, I started a blog called Clara Mae James, and it was a creative outlet for me to write about beauty, fashion, food, etc., and then after I had my daughter, I started to think of ways to evolve the site.
Where have you sold? Are you mostly online?
We are primarily an online shop with the hopes of having a brick-and-mortar someday. I've had pop-ups at Synthesis in Shadyside, Bloom Beauty Parlor in East Liberty, and most recently Reed & Co. for Small Business Saturday. I look for places that align with my brand ethos to ensure it's a good fit.
In terms of harmful ingredients, what are some of the things you don’t allow in your products?
Phthalates, Parabens, ethanolamines, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), synthetic fragrance, to name a few.
Who do you source your products from, and how do you choose them?
In terms of sourcing, I go to trade shows, I read industry outlets to see who should be on my radar, and I find some brands through social media.
Are any of the products locally made?
Not currently, but I'd love to consider local, clean brands that fit our criteria.
How do you feel you differ from other local skincare/beauty product makers?
I offer a nice variety of beauty products, from skincare to body care to cosmetics, and recently launched wellness. It's a one-stop-shop for clean beauty, all of our brands are woman-owned, and everything is under $100.
What’s your best seller?
It varies from online to pop-ups, but online it's the Kari Gran Lip Whips, specifically Rosie Gold.