A Q&A With Swissline Global Brand Director Custodio d’Avo
Beauty biz veteran Swissline Global Brand Director Custodio d’Avo talks prestige skincare, parrots and philosophy with The Skin Experts. Read on to be educated – and entertained!
Swissline Global Brand Director Custodio d’Avo is a prestige beauty veteran. He’s worked in the business for three decades, honing his craft at companies including Chanel and La Prairie, before joining Swissline in 2007. A seasoned traveller with a wide span of interests encompassing everything from parrots to philosophy, Custodio is an accomplished and experienced creative who is passionate about nature and skin biology. He sat down with The Skin Experts to discuss the science behind Swissline’s skincare formulations, his personal take on luxury – and a very special donkey called Balthazar! Read on for an entertaining and enlightening glimpse into the world of this leading, science-driven Swiss skincare brand.
What First Attracted You To The World Of High-End Skincare?
That’s a long story… I’ve been working in this industry for a long time – it’s been my life and my job – and I think the bigger question is: what made me stay?
It’s an immensely competitive, ever-changing, very fast-paced industry. And what makes it fascinating is this combination of science and biology, but at the same time, Zeitgeist, politics, world culture – everything affects this industry. It’s a very driven industry, it attracts interesting people, and that’s really appealing.
Can You Describe What Makes Swissline So Special?
What Do You Think Luxury Means To Consumers Today – Within Skincare And/Or Other Sectors?
What Is Your Favourite Swissline Product?
How Would You Define Beauty?
Beauty is anything that, when you look in the mirror, makes you feel alive, makes you feel driven, makes you feel positive, and hopeful for the future. It’s that certain something in the eye of the beholder, which makes you say, I like you – in my case, the old man in the mirror!
Describe A Typical Day In Your Life
Let’s describe a day before COVID, because since then, I don’t think any day in my life has been typical! I wake up super early, super energetic. I’m a morning person. Every day I wake up around 5.30am, 6am at the latest. And that’s seven days a week, the same on weekends as weekdays. I normally try to do some sort of exercise in the morning, and I drink lots of matcha and my coffee.
I don’t eat breakfast. In fact I don’t eat anything until lunch. I follow a very tight fasting window: I eat for four hours, and then I don’t eat for 20 hours. It works wonderfully for me. It’s not about weight management, it’s about energy levels. I have the sort of bio clock that makes me very active in the mornings, so this is normally when I do most of my work ‘shift’.
After lunch I usually do more follow-up work. I have a very early dinner, at 4pm maximum, then I leave the office (and I don’t eat anything afterwards). I’m known for being the first to arrive, and also the first to leave. I realise I’m very lucky I can follow this lifestyle – not everybody can. So I have a huge amount of time between finishing work and going to bed, to go to the cinema, to read, to do whatever I want. Sometimes I join friends for dinner – their dinner, not mine. I drink a herbal tea and still enjoy myself. And don’t worry that I’m boring just because my dinner is tea!
What Advice Would Your Give To A Younger Version Of Yourself?
I really pondered this question, but my answer is very short. I would say, be less emotional, and more patient: you’re going to live at least half a century. But I only know that now.
You Have An Unsual Hobby. What Sparked Your Interest In Parrots?
It’s true that I live in Zurich with six parrots. They are dwarf African Lovebirds. I have always been surrounded by animals. I have a need in my soul to have that challenge, to connect with other forms of intelligence and emotions. The thing I love the most about parrots, which has always fascinated me, is that they have these excessive personalities. They are extremely territorial, dominant, tricky, loud, slightly psychotic – and that mix keeps us on our toes!
I’m a member of the World Parrot Trust, a UK-based non-profit organisation. We work to protect birds in the wild, and strive to educate owners. Not everybody should have parrots. They are wild, not domestic animals. All of my birds are given hours of freedom throughout the day.
I also have two tortoises, two dogs, and the love of my life, which is a donkey called Balthazar! But parrots have always been very important for me. When I look back, they’ve always been there, and what I like about parrots today is that they keep me connected [with my past]. I think I was eight years old when I had my first parrot. So now they connect me, aged 50, with eight-year-old Custodio – that’s anti-ageing!
Who Inspires You?
In practical terms, regarding my job and Swissline product development, more than anything else, I would say nature and biology. The idea that we are biology, we are life, and there is life all around us which we need to find meaning for, I think that’s very inspirational. I approach skincare with this in mind. There are laws and rules and we should first try to understand them. This inspires me a lot. Trying to be connected with the world, to be curious like a child, to want to know more about animal behaviours and plants and fungi [influences my work at Swissline too] in terms of ingredient choices.
Regarding intellectual inspiration, I studied philosophy when I was very young. And I plan to go back to that when I retire. I have kept all of my philosophy books from university. If I had to name two philosophers [who inspire me] it would be Plato and Nietzsche. If I have those two, together with biology and nature, I’m strong inside.
What Do You Consider To Be The Key Challenges And Opportunities Facing The Luxury Beauty Business?
Where Do You See Yourself In Ten Years Time?
In ten years’ time I will be entering my 60s and pre-retiring. Actually, I think I will never really not work. I hope that before and even after officially retiring, I still have the opportunity to work in product development, in the creative phase – I think that would be a lot of fun. Skincare is always evolving. Look back ten years, it wasn’t how it is today. And I remain very curious about how skincare will look ten years from now.
I also think about maybe moving from Switzerland back to southern Portugal. I will live on the same farm in the countryside where I was born, and have that absolute luxury of closing my life the same way it started. I’d like to revisit those golden places from childhood, this time with the eyes of someone who has travelled the world and is hopefully a little bit wiser. And to still enjoy my passion – always animals.
I have this little secret dream, which I’m sharing with you, that I will create my own parrot sanctuary. Because there are so many elderly parrots (they live very long lives) that have been traumatised by multiple owners, and things that have gone wrong throughout their 50, 60, 70 years in captivity. This sanctuary would rescue these old parrots and give them the best years of their life. I’m sure it would be heart-breaking at times, and noisy, and crazy psychotic, but I would enjoy it all the way. Little eight-year-old Custodio is still inside me somewhere and if life gives me that chance, that’s my wish for ten years from now!
Keen to find out more about Swissline’s advanced, science-based skincare formulations? Click below to browse our curated collection. Watch and listen to Custodio D'Avo's full interview at The Skin Experts Youtube.