Francesco Clark was just twenty-four years old when his career in fashion started to take off. He was in the Hamptons with his friends, celebrating a major promotion at Harper’s Bazaar, when he became paralyzed from the neck down from a swimming pool diving accident.
In dealing with the trauma and the complete life change of a spinal cord injury, he found himself needing to redefine himself. His focus had shifted from the things he enjoyed doing to a sole focus of recovery. “I was just staying home or doing therapy,” Francesco remembers. “I was going to the hospital to do outpatient therapy. I would shave my head bald. I would wear the same t-shirt and paper hospital pants every day. “
It wasn’t until his mentor Christopher Reeve passed away that Francesco started taking back his life. Reflecting upon his time as a patient at Mount Sinai Hospital after his injury, Francesco still remembers the impact the resources provided by the Christopher Reeve Foundation aided in his recovery. However, Francesco realized that he was relying too much on Christopher to be his advocate, and with his passing needed to take responsibility for his life and become his own advocate.
“I wanted to look the way
I felt and treat myself with
respect. I wanted a sense of
wellness and self-care.”
“I looked in the mirror for the first time in three years because I was asked to be a part of an advocacy group for people with disabilities in Westchester County here in New York. It was my first time going out and being around strangers again. So, I put on real pants, and I looked in the mirror. I didn’t recognize myself.“
“My skin looked ten years older,” he says. “It felt like the perfect storm with anything and everything that could go wrong with my skin did. I wanted to look the way I felt and treat myself with respect. I wanted a sense of wellness and self-care.” Francesco’s injury is at the C3-C4 level of the spinal cord, which effects his skin and his ability to sweat, his skin breaking out more often.
With the help of his father, a homeopathic medical doctor, Francesco started formulating his own natural skin care remedies. Clark’s Botanicals was born out of personal necessity, but quickly became a brand that yields results. His father’s background and holistic self-care approach contributed to the clean skincare brand that is known today.
“The products are result-oriented and multifunctional. Because of that, they are more accessible. For example, you would typically need three products to be able to get the payout you get from the Smoothing Marine Cream. The moisturizer incorporates an exfoliator, a serum, and a moisturizer in one.”
Their award-winning formula was a game changer for Francesco. He was able to simplify his skin care routine from the products he developed at Clark’s Botanicals. “It already takes me longer to get ready during the day. I don’t need three steps. Being able to have a one step skin care regiment was the ultimate accessibility for me.”
The company’s tagline “vanity saved my life,” may come off as flippant to some, but for Francesco, skincare became his lifeline to self-care, confidence, and purpose. “When you are dealing with trauma and you are wading through the waters of a temporary depression, the last thing you want to do is think about vanity. The last thing you want to do is go out, be social, interact with a stranger, and smile. To me, tapping into the outside world helped me realize how much support is available from even people you’ve never met.”