Claudia Sulewski long teased she had a new project up her sleeve—leaving her nearly 2.5 million YouTube subscribers and 2 million Instagram followers wondering what industry she’d enter next. Over the years, Sulewski, who’s been making lifestyle videos on YouTube since she was 13, has collaborated on a clothing line with Nordstrom, created her own Wildflower phone case, and even appeared in her first major film, I Love My Dad. But now? The 27-year-old is entering her Entrepreneur Era with the launch of CYKLAR, a genderless, sustainable body care company.
“I’ve never built my own brand or put my name on something as, here is 100 percent me,” she recently told ELLE.com. “This is my first time doing that. And I’m happy I waited as long as I did, because I knew whatever I ended up making, I wanted it to have a purpose and a reason to exist. I really wanted to create something that had impact and meaning to it.”
In keeping with that ethos, CYKLAR’s first product is a luxury body cream, $58, packaged in a clear embossed jar with minimal design or fanfare. “From the get-go, my mission with this brand was to really consider every ingredient, every material,” Sulewski said. “I didn’t want to overlook any component.”
Starting with the formula, Sulewski set out to make a product that was thick, hydrating, and would leave the skin feeling “velvety and satin-like”—a process that took three years to complete. Aiming to keep the cream vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free, and silicone-free, Sulewski focused in on three key ingredients: banana flour extract, an upcycled ingredient with hydrating properties and antioxidants; niacinamide, which works to even skin tone; and prickly pear, which boosts your skin’s natural exfoliation process.
“I had my own little checklist in my brain every time I’d receive a formula,” Sulewski explained. “Is this achieving the feeling I want? Also, I did my own research and looked up every ingredient…I was definitely a stickler, and I think we went through at least 15 iterations, if not 20.”
The body cream’s scent—which features velvet woods, cedar, and moss, as well as florals—is also extremely close to Sulewski’s heart, inspired by the woods that surrounded her childhood home where she’d bike with her brothers. “I knew I wanted my debut scent to remind me of that experience,” she said. (It’s even called Crescent, e.g. the name of the street where Sulewski was born and raised.) In hopes of creating a truly genderless product, she made a point to run the scent past the male individuals in her life. “I wanted to make sure it received the co-sign of all my straight, cis friends and my boyfriend [musician Finneas O’Connell],” she said. “Getting to pick the brains of my closest friends and family was a really fun part of this process.”
But perhaps the element that best highlights Sulewski’s diligence and attention to detail is the body cream’s jar. Sulewski was inspired to create a vessel that could act as a “blank slate,” she said, able to be rewashed, refilled, or used in a completely new way. CYKLAR is even partnering with On Repeat, a U.K. company that uses fully compostable materials to ship out refills. “That’s kind of where the word CYKLAR came from,” Sulewski explained. “Keeping your products in cycle, keeping the cycle going, closing the loop of waste.” The glass jar is also made with a recyclable, fully-aluminum cap and a liner made of BPA-free, post-consumer recycled material.
While Sulewski is prioritizing giving CYKLAR its own presence and personality—as opposed to it being founder-focused—eagle-eyed fans may spot her signature touches throughout the branding and marketing. “All the photos you see, the models are my best friends,” she said. “I’ve been lugging this jar around through my travels this summer and taking my own photos. Anything on the beach was taken with my little point-and-shoot camera, and I’ve retouched every image. This whole experience has just been really empowering, pouring my creativity into new outlets.”
In the future, Sulewski plans to create a full body care collection with refills for every product. From there, she hopes to expand even wider, building out CYKLAR into a “self-care company.” She explained: “The way I’m thinking about it in my head is different rooms in your house and where can CYKLAR sit within your house.”
And for anyone worried about no longer seeing Sulewski on screens big and small, don’t fret; Sulewski said that launching CYKLAR doesn’t mean she’s stepping away from making content or acting. But it does represent a new chapter. “[This is] my baby,” she said. “I’ve just poured everything into it. And I’m so excited to finally be sharing it.”
CYKLAR launches on October 20. You can purchase now on CYKLAR.com.
Madison is the digital deputy editor at ELLE, where she also covers news, politics, and culture. If she’s not online, she’s probably napping or trying not to fall while rock climbing.