The husband and wife team behind PLANT Apothecary goods are making some of our favorite organic grooming and bath products that are 100% free of petroleum, parabens, PABA, sodium lauryl sulfate, silicones and all other synthetic nasties. We were thrilled to feature PLANT Apothecary goods in our Holiday Gift Guide and we're even more excited to share this exclusive interview with founders Holly McWhorter and Bjarke Ballisager. Enjoy! Xoxo Alexis
1. Holly tell us about how you formulate for PLANT? What are some of your favorite organic skincare ingredients?
We create our formulas using a broad base of knowledge about natural herbs, oils, extracts and minerals that I've accumulated over years of personal study. I'm sort of obsessed with learning about the potentially therapeutic compounds different natural ingredients contain, what effects those compounds have on the skin and mindset, and how they can work together with the compounds found in other ingredients. It's incredible what studies show about the healing and age-protective qualities of pumpkin, pomegranate and sea buckthorn oils, for example. And sea buckthorn, which is one of our favorites, offers very real sun protection--as well as fatty acids that have been shown to reduce the appearance of fine lines, and even help heal burns (like sun damage) faster. Nature is such a gold mine of healing ingredients!
2. How does living in Brooklyn inspire the design and formulation of your products?
I'm not sure that living in Brooklyn has had consciously had an effect on our formulas—but we're both really inspired by the incredible ethnic diversity of Brooklyn, so it could be that that has subconsciously influenced our choice of ingredients that are traditionally used in skincare all over the world. Matcha tea and rice bran in Japan, for example, and sea buckthorn in Scandinavia and Asia... We try to pull the best ingredients from the many different natural skincare traditions around the world. As for our design, though, I can say this: There's such a huge and active design community in Brooklyn, and NYC in general, that we never hesitated to bring out a very minimal, design-conscious brand appearance in a market that, at the time (2011), wasn't nearly as saturated with that look as it is now. We felt pretty hopeful from the beginning that at least locally, there would be a positive response to our package design. And we've been very fortunate to find that to be true.
3. What is it like working as a husband and wife team?
Oh, boy! It's not always easy, especially when you're growing a company from the ground up. It's tricky to navigate differences in opinion about how the business should go while leaving your personal relationship intact. And the long hours a young business requires can easily mean being together all day every day, and not every otherwise compatible couple is compatible enough to sustain that! We're happy to say that we're doing fine, but we also look forward to the day when we're able to hire enough help that we can at least sometimes step back from doing the day-to-day logistical work together, and focus on more creative aspects of the business separately. But that said, as far as Bjarke and I in particular are concerned, his leaning toward perfectionism and my emphasis on just getting things done often end up complementing each other nicely in the finished product....after a small battle has ensued....
4. Tell us more about why you decided to collaborate with BKLYN UNLTD?
We both come from backgrounds where our parents put a big emphasis on social responsibility and community involvement, so when we started PLANT, it was always part of our mission to make products that aren't just environmentally responsible, but socially responsible as well. And years ago, when was producing the travel spice kits that are now part of PLANT's gourmet line under a different name, I had learned about the existence of nonprofit workshops for people with mental and physical disabilities. It seems only natural that if there's a component of our production that the can do, we should give it to them—it means so much, to many disabled people, to have the ability to earn money for themselves, and also just have a place to go every day and be around other people. After working with other similar workshops in the New York area, we learned about the BKLYN UNLTD from Gaia DeLoreto—the fabulous owner of the local store By Brooklyn, who carries some of our products.
5. I love how inclusive your products are and that you market your skincare line to EVERYONE! Tell us a bit more about the "For The Skin You're In" campaign.
We came up with the “For the Skin You're In” campaign after noticing that so much of the marketing and branding surrounding organic, natural skincare is focused almost exclusively on young, slender, caucasian women. Meanwhile, of course, people of all ethnicities, ages, genders and body types deserve to know about and have access to healthy and environmentally safe products as well—without feeling like they're somehow crashing the party! So we're trying to make a point of the fact that our brand, at least, really is meant for everyone: women, men, black, white, green... and everything in between. We'd like to get a bit more age diversity into the campaign, as well as more diverse body types, so we're working on that.
6. What's next for PLANT?
We've been happy that we've started getting contacted by stores from more far-flung corners of the globe than ever, so we're expecting to expand into even more far-flung markets than we have so far. And the big news is that in mid-January of next year, our bodywashes will be launching at Target stores! They've been taking on a number of all-natural beauty brands lately, and we're super excited to be part of that. We think it's great that people in such a socially, economically and ethnically diverse audience as Target's will have easy access to safe, environmentally friendly skincare products. And other than that, we'll be adding some new products to our line in 2016—but you'll just have to wait and see what they are!