A couple of weeks ago we brought you the news of a new fashion and skincare label starting up in Stockholm. Run by Carl Falkenberg, No Society launched in May with a philosophy that made two demands of its products – that they be unisex, i.e. not pitched towards a specific gender, and that they be eco-friendly, with the range on offer being vegan. To dig a little deeper, we caught up with Falkenberg to discuss his vision of what skincare should be, as well as his plans for the brand’s future.
So outside of No Society itself, what was the state of the skincare/ beauty market before you guys started this company? What have been the major developments over the last ten years, and what is the state of the market you’re walking into?
My interpretation of the market is that consumers are getting more conscious about what brands they buy. Our perception of the beauty market is that there aren’t that many brands out there that people feel enthusiastic about. In some cases, brands strengthen new demands, launch and capitalise on new new products in order to convince the consumers to live to norms. We felt we wanted to create a sustainable brand that was more enthusiastic about individualism, rather than living up to society’s ideals of what a person should be – or look like.
Do you feel that the major beauty brands had been focusing on using marketing to create demand that wasn’t naturally there?
Companies obviously have be profitable, so some brands may try and influence society’s demands of what people should look like and ultimately, what beauty is. We want to build a brand that people ultimately feel good about, when they think about us, our values and manufacturing processes.
Because I guess traditionally, the beauty industry’s marketing has been based on finding cracks in people’s self-esteem and working on them to persuade them to buy products. And you want to escape that model?
I wouldn’t say the ‘Industry’s marketing’ – some brands try to influence how society should perceive individual beauty and persuade individuals to ‘fit in’. For us it’s about individualism – we want to look at humanity and pay tribute the beauty of individualism.
Do you feel that what consumers are interested in has changed over the last ten years?
Our perception is that consumers today are more confident about ‘doing their own thing’ – People already challenge ‘corporate perfection’, and society embraces it. Looking at men’s beauty, this also has gone a bit further – It’s more acceptable to care about yourself and how you want to be perceived then it used to be. Not long ago, some men were embarrassed if they had more than a face moisturiser in their cabinet. Now it’s more accepted also for men to care about how they are perceived.
And I guess the trend that is more prevalent is that people care more about environmental issues to?
Absolutely. It is obvious that consumers are more willing to pay attention to the environment, and want to have a better conscience and consume ‘better alternatives’. From our point of view, companies shouldn’t manufacture products without having nature first in mind. But it´s more complex than looking at the manufacturing process – If you for example order a sweatshirt from an online retailer, it’s usually shipped with two bags (made of virgin/ new plastic), one see-through and one not. No Society ships our fashion-related products in a carton – when we send products such as hoodies, in these cartons, we have manufactured a ‘plastic’ bag from biological material. That said, consumers cannot point fingers and blame industries or companies, without challenging their own consumption and what products they use/ buy.
What was your own background before you started No Society, and what led to you starting the brand?
During the last six years I have been within the beauty industry, working for companies such the L’Oréal Group, Henkel and Eos. Before I entered this industry I worked within media, for a publishing company in the field of design and architecture, but also for a former movie-streaming service (Voddler). During the last couple of years I’ve felt there aren’t that many brands that I as a consumer felt something for in my heart. We want to create a brand that people feel good about when they think about- and consume it. We want to manufacture products with as little environmental footprint as possible and make it accessible.
When did the wheels get in motion for No Society?
I was employed until October last year, so I’ve been working with No Society since then. As I had worked within the beauty industry before, I had an a rather clear idea of how to develop the brand, our sustainable products. Since I’ve been interested in e-commerce for quite a while, I wanted to evaluate how to make No Society available in several markets from day one
Reading your press release, the two main ethical principles that stood out for me were, number one, the unisexuality of the products, and the second was that they would be vegan. Can you go a little more into detail on those two principles?
Today, there is no reason in terms of product performance, to manufacture skin care products that aren’t vegan. From our point of view the question should rather be – Why shouldn’t we manufacture vegan skincare products? For this question, I have no logical answer. There isn’t one good enough reason for us to manufacture beauty products with ingredients that are not vegan. For No Society, it’s our duty to develop highly effective products with minimal environmental footprint. There’s no reason to our knowledge, why we shouldn’t manufacture highly effective beauty products that are vegan. There is a famous and very appreciated ingredient for skincare products called Hyaluronate acid – not very long ago this ingredient was taken from roosters. Happily, this is not the case anymore.
And now we can find other sources to these ingredients?
Yes, and in many cases they’re much better than the equivalents from animals.
And this also extends to testing I guess?
Of course, our products are tested on me and ultimately on customers and the people within the research and development team here in Stockholm – we would never consider testing on animals.
Then the other aspect, the gender neutrality?
Traditionally, society is quite obsessed with gender, and age, and what differentiates us. For us, our products are as effective on men as on women. But for us, it is as obvious as having an including brand, to develop a moisturiser that has a neutral scent, and works as good as on your skin as it does on your sister’s.
Another aspect of your press release was that you said you wanted to ‘take the focus away from correcting imperfections’. So if your focus isn’t on correcting imperfections, what are the attributes you want the product to have?
We are not a product-focused company – for us it is obvious that we manufacture highly effective products and can do so, since we invest more than some other brands into our products, rather than into retailer costs. If we were to have the majority of our products sold through retailers, it would be challenging for to invest this much into effective ingredients and/ or sustainability. Maybe one of the most important attributes for No Society, is that we want people to feel great about what differentiates them from society’s norms – because that is where true beauty resides. We want to challenge society’s perception of ideals and norms.
Is the focus more on health than looks?
Our focus is rather on how people feel about themselves when they use our products. The majority of our customers hopefully don’t use our face moisturiser because they want to get rid of wrinkles. That said, it does contain a high(er) proportion of active ingredients which for example increase skin elasticity, even out skin tones and reduce the fine lines that makes some look like a beautiful bulldog. Also, our Post Shave Mist for example, it contains ingredients such as horse chestnut and Tasmanian pepper, which have similar effects to alcohol – but not as dehydrating and, obviously naturally-derived. Or Post Shave Mist does contain a smaller share of alcohol, to still be an effective after-shave product.
So is that for health reasons or environmental reasons? Is the environmental impact of horse chestnut less than alcohol, for example?
I would say it´s both, but primarily for the sake of your skin. Alcohol is an important ingredient in after-shave products, that said it does dehydrate the skin when this kind of product contains a big(ger) proportion of alcohol. Thanks to the horse chestnut and Tasmanian pepper, our Post Shave Mist has a limited proportion of alcohol, still having the benefit of it.
So we can say for the products, first of all they’re produced locally. They’re produced here in Stockholm, which is an environmental benefit, right?
Yes, as long as you order your products within Sweden it is an environmental benefit. We’ve launched globally, so we do ship the products to other countries. What we can do and are doing at this stage, is to be strict about manufacturing and the packaging of our products. The majority of our skincare products’ packaging is made of recycled material/ plastic and fibres from sugar cane – and is therefore recyclable. You can see an example of recycling process here
And the second aspect is that you’ve put effort into the development of the product, for example finding out improvements like replacing alcohol with the horse chestnut, finding things that improve the quality and the eco-friendly-ness of it.
Yes. For us it’s obvious that it should be vegan, but also that it should be better than other products with similar price positioning, as we can put more time and money into research and development – than into external retailers. We want to create products with minimal environmental footprint.
I wanted to talk about the clothing range too, what are you plans there?
Today, we have a classic ribbed tube sock, manufactured in Italy from 100% organic cotton. We also have vegan key wallets, tote bags, and shortly we will launch a selective clothing range, including a long-sleeve hoodie and t-shirt made from organic cotton. We don’t want to put ten different styles of hoodies on the market.
If your background is in the beauty industry, where did the plan to make clothing come from?
We want to offer sustainable products on a wider basis. It’s challenging to get the brand out there if the products were only to be found inside your bathroom cabinet. Additionally, there aren’t enough sustainable lifestyle-/ clothing brands out there promoting individualism. For us it makes make sense to look at this on a broader scale, because we want to create a brand challenging norms and ideals – this goes outside of both the traditional skincare scope and is global.
And does than then open up the possibility of expanding No Society into other fields in the future? Do you feel you have a philosophy that can be applied in multiple industries?
There was a rather interesting article in the Financial Times a while ago, that five or ten years ago [the divide] was very strict. ‘We do beauty, you do fashion’. Consumers nowadays buy into a brand and their philosophy and attributes, not a product. Our perception is that the consumer buys a brand and a product that makes them feel good and confident. No Society skincare products are probably better than others, but we want to incorporate our brand philosophy into lifestyle products, that make people feel good. That said – skincare is where we come from.
No Society’s current range includes moisturiser, shaving butter and tube socks. For more see nosociety.com