The seaside town of Margate is giving East London a run for its money; as well as being a cultural centre featuring the Turner Contemporary gallery, it’s also home to artisanal fragrance and skincare brand Haeckels. The all-natural ingredients in Haeckels products are harvested from the seashore and hand-made locally – we caught up with Alex Verier, who runs the business along with founder Dom Bridges, to explain the passion behind the product.
How did the idea for the business come about?
Dom was working as an advertising director for major brands and companies. This included skincare and fragrance companies whose ingredients were needlessly synthetic whilst trying to promote themselves as wholesome. At the same time he was eating seaweed on set when filming in China where everyone accepts and uses it to eat healthy. Back in England, Dom had just moved to Margate in Kent where there’s 10 times the usual amount of seaweed on the coast but nobody was using it. He looked up the uses of seaweed and found the local variety was ideal for using in skincare products. He then started making soaps out of his kitchen using the local seaweed, and from there expanded the range into a complete skincare offering as well as home fragrance and perfumes.
And where does the name Haeckels come from?
The name stems from the Victorian Botanist Ernst Haeckel who was famous for intricate drawings of plants and animals, especially noted for his records of different types of seaweed. It was his attention to detail and respect for the natural world which we try to reflect in everything we do at Haeckels. Everything is 100% natural using local herbs and flowers as well as the seaweed that started everything off. Anything that touches your skin or hair contains seaweed we harvest by hand in Margate because of its potent healing and rejuvenating properties.
How big is the team who are doing all this hand harvesting?
We’re still very small actually! Until recently there was only two of us who did everything from conception of ideas to design and into production. In September we were really happy to be able to start working with one of my old school friends, Buckles, who’s now in charge of all production at our new making facility in Margate.
And what do you do in your time off? Do you find it hard to switch off?
It’s definitely a tough one which is always on our minds as when you work for yourselves its a lot harder to clock off and get away from everything. We see what we do as very much a lifestyle which in a way means we’re always working. But we really love what we do and it’s very much in our minds that you have to work hard but you also have to remember to play hard too – it’s fantastic!
What’s your vision for the future growth of Haeckels?
We’re very keen to just keep on as we are, we don’t want overnight giant growth but steady and responsible expansion which still maintains our vision for the company.
What’s been a really successful form of promotion for your business?
We’re big fans of Instagram – because it’s so visually-based we’re able to really indulge in taking beautiful photos of our products and the coastline that surrounds us. You don’t need things to be so focused on selling the product or anything like that – it’s all about just showing people beautiful things and hoping they like them too.
What’s been your favourite product you’ve produced?
Our chalk room diffuser has always been super special because nobody else in the world is using chalk as a diffusing material. At the same time it’s also laser-etched with carvings of people’s names and messages that come from the actual chalk cliffs in Margate, so it’s very personal.
What do you love most about running your own business?
It’s the freedom to do whatever we want. We’re all our own bosses and we have scope to do or make anything we want; that’s how we’ve always worked and it’s delivered some amazing ideas, concepts and products so far!
What’s on your work playlist?
I love film soundtracks such as A Single Man, the Tom Ford film from a few years ago – but we play Club Tropicana every day too, so it’s quite a mix.
What advice would you give to anyone else looking to start their own business?
Have your own ideas and be original and you should do okay.