Glass celebrates ten years of Haeckels, the seaweed superheroes making a change
IT IS certainly no secret that the very notion of sustainability has become one shrouded in dishonesty. A word that should generate so much hopefulness has in turn become tarnished with lies and deceit, and the impossible task of separating fact from fiction, or finding where to lay our trust as a conscious consumer. A glimmer of hope however becomes animated by skincare brand Haeckels, a company of the ocean and for the ocean, who’s ever-growing innovations have allowed them to become one of the most progressive and exciting cosmetics brands if not just in the United Kingdom, in the entire world.
Haeckels 2.0 – Photography by Laura Jane Coulson
Founded in 2012 by volunteer beach warden Dom Bridges, the hero of all Haeckels products is seaweed, hand-harvested from a chalk reef in the brand’s hometown of Margate in Kent. What began as a family-oriented business selling fresh soap made from the gelatinous derivative of boiled bladderwrack, has in turn transformed into a hub of innovation and environmental safeguarding: “Every product which we’ve launched has been bio-fabricated to an extent to amplify and connect ingredients to transform skin and body…The heart of the business is built around innovation,” mentions managing director, Charlie Vickery. However still they continually pay homage to their point of origin which injects an endearing sense of personality, whether it be the fresh fragrance of the seaweed, or the GPS codes on each of the perfume packages, taking you to the exact spot the scent found its inspiration.
In the ten years since the brand’s founding one of their most impressive inventions is their packaging. From mushrooms encasing candles to cartons made of old coffee cups, their crowning triumph is a material called vivomer. Though it may look like plastic, feel like plastic, and perform like plastic, it could not be further from it. A bio-polymer made from natural, vegan materials, vivomer will degrade when in the correct compostable conditions after the product has been emptied, meaning it can be buried in the garden and will be returned to the earth within 54 weeks: “We worked with a lab in East-London to bring this to life…The majority of compostable products [from other brands] are industrially compostable rather than home compostable. It took a number of years of working collaboratively to bring this to life.”
Marine AHA Toner encased in vivomer
Haeckels X Red Bull edible cup
This catalysed a series of greater developments, including ones which branched outside of skincare as a whole: “Our edible cup was a happy accident of a new material we’ve been working on for a number of years. We have been investigating the gut/skin axis – whereby what you eat can help amplify the effects of what you put on your skin.”
A recent collaboration with Red Bull allowed Haeckels to turn this “happy accident” into a groundbreaking product used at summer festivals, a reusable edible cup, which if not eaten will decompose naturally within days once discarded, similar to vivomer: “We exist as an amplifier of the natural world, enabling us to develop new materials, technology and products based on sustainable natural resources or by creating sustainable versions of unnatural things.”
Though their actions are poised to make waves in the wider industry, it isn’t to say they aren’t a detriment to their own income: “It’s very challenging to pioneer new materials without compromising profitability because innovation compromises profitability in the short term. We’re very long-term focussed, so we see these as periods of investment into future-proofing the brand.” This unmatched outlook however has seemingly placed them head and shoulders above other competitors who rely too heavily on greenwashing rather than action, and in turn led to a recent, exclusive collaboration with the Patina resort in the Maldives, who likewise strive to make excellent headway in sustainable practice.
Haeckels store in Broadway Market, London
Their stance on profitability is strengthened by their outlook on consumerism and in turn the sustainable implications which lie within that: “There’s a lot of labelling built into the marketing machines of very unsustainable business models. For example, if you do a Black Friday promotion, you are not a sustainable business because you are fuelling a capitalist consumption pattern that is unsustainable and resource intensive.” A controversial buzzword for many, Haeckels recently announced they would combat the craze of consumption of Black Friday weekend by stripping all of their stores of their own products, and replacing them with that of local small business.
Though their actions are indeed an incentive to buy into their brand, they originally became beloved simply for their fantastic products. Using three species of seaweed: bladderwrack, kelp and dulse (which is grown and harvested in house), their cosmetics are a feast for the skin and centre entirely on regeneration and maintenance. Since May, their fascinating expertise have been taught at their very own Beauty Academy, which aims to tackle stigma, virtue signalling and an unforgivable lack of race representation all too prevalent both within the beauty industry and education.
Dreamland Parfum – Notes of rose, smoked wood and leather inspired by the Kentish amusement park of the same name
Haeckels Broadway Market store front
Already they are ahead of the curve and truly indebted to research but to be able to watch them grow and develop even further is what makes such them an exciting spectacle. “It takes investment to create, and few brands are willing to put in the legwork but many are willing to reap the rewards. If you look at and respect your vertical, the best practices can be created from within.”