When Koh Kim and Rickie Ashman began to develop EVENPRIME‘s new line of vegan-friendly Korean beauty products they sought out more than the standard dermatological approval. Their target was scientifically formulated, environmentally friendly and honest skincare, produced in partnership with Korean chemists—with design handled from the brand’s Los Angeles home. Concerns over ocean pollution and falsely advertised wellness benefits power their mission to help young consumers feel more confident and break through packaging cliches and gender norms.
Inside each bottle, one will find high-quality bioactive ingredients meticulously formulated for the brand’s market, which Ashman (who’s also the brand’s creative strategist) says is “any age, race, gender or celestial being.” Outside, however, Ashman’s role has included selecting packaging made with FSC-certified paper from sustainable forests, enforcing the use of recyclable bottles and tubes, and donating a portion of all proceeds to ocean clean-up efforts around the world. EVENPRIME sets a new standard: one that satiates the needs of young and/or ethical consumers. And with distinct design direction, and partnerships with artists like Pablo Thecuadro, EVENPRIME’s cosmic vision is unlike any other.
“Koh and I connected a few years ago while working together in the video game world,” Ashman says. “We discovered that we shared a similar desire to build a new type of consumer brand that would inspire and resonate with a younger creative generation raised on the internet, anime and video games.” In 2018, this would manifest as EVENPRIME.
Ashman studied Chinese Opera in Taiwan and attended Waseda University in Japan. During this time, he became familiar with Asian beauty and “enamored by all the beautiful packaging and branding in Tokyo. I particularly loved how anime was naturally integrated into Japanese design. For example, characters from Sailor Moon or Rose of Versailles would be used to sell a sheet mask set or lip balm. This is something I’ve always wanted to attempt in my own work.”
“America has shockingly low standards for quality and regulation when it comes to personal care products,” Ashman explains, lessons learned first from beauty brand clients. “For example, while Korea and the European Union have banned upwards of 1,400 chemicals for use in cosmetics, the US has only banned 30. This means it’s largely up to the consumer to vet product safety and efficacy in America.” In addition to governance over products, the FDA, he shares, “has little authority to protect consumers from snake-oil marketing campaigns.”
“By contrast,” he continues, “Korea has become known as the global epicenter for skincare innovation and is widely considered to be at least a decade ahead of the Western beauty market. Korea also continuously updates its rules and regulations governing the beauty industry.” For these strengths, Kim and Ashman were adamant about developing EVENPRIME in Korea.
Kim, a Korean-American, was able to build a relationship with a laboratory partner in Seoul that specializes in nature-based cosmetics. Ashman adds that they’re “one of only two cosmetic labs in Korea to win the prestigious IR52 Jang Yong Shil Award for R&D achievements in skincare.” Ten rounds of development—and self-testing—went into each of the final products.
Ashman’s background—which ranged from in-house graphic design at Fjällräven (a job that “helped refine my appreciation for Scandinavian design standards”) to Lead Art Director at MATTE Projects (a boutique agency specializing in content creation for luxury brands)—would ultimately shift from NYC to LA. There, he worked “on large experiential projects for brands like SK-II, Perrier-Jouët Champagne and L’Oréal, helping to connect them with younger audiences.” Before EVENPRIME, Ashman was a Creative Director at Roc Nation.
“When I came on board, Koh and I were in full agreement that we didn’t just want to sell high-quality soap. We wanted to imbue the brand with an emotional pull,” he says. They both felt that the exploration of a science-fiction theme would grant their brand a unique edge.
“In the graphic design community, we were seeing the rise in popularity of post-apocalyptic, Brutalist aesthetics,” Ashman continues—visuals that aligned with these science-fiction interests. “We ended up hiring a designer in Mexico to produce the logo and another designer in Seoul to help design the packaging and our unique typeface. My direction to them was simply, ‘Imagine what a beauty product in the world of Star Trek: The Next Generation would look like.’ Though I admire the beautiful vintage qualities of brands like Aēsop and Le Labo, why not instead create a brand inspired by fantastic visions of the future?”
From there, an entire brand blasted forth. “I think ‘space travel’ as a concept conveys a sense of hope, optimism and progress. I wanted to draw a parallel between the 1960s (when designers like André Courrèges and Paco Rabanne were sewing collections inspired by the Space Age) to the present (when brands like Dior are collaborating with provocative artists like Hajime Sorayama). The EVENPRIME brand palette is a little ode to mid-century modernism,” he says.
From French artist Ronan Le Fur (aka DoFresh) to the aforementioned Thecuadro, artists hold an important place in the EVENPRIME universe. For the latter collaboration, Ashman reached out only to learn that Thecuadro was “a fan of our source inspiration—notably, Neon Genesis Evangelion (recently in the news when 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson posted a rather cryptic meme from the series) and Nier (a beautiful post-apocalyptic video game franchise with heavy Humanist themes).”
“I love how Pablo was able to tie this all back to his own abstract art style,” Ashman says. “He’s referencing notions like the duality of human beings (eg: who we want to be, versus who we are). It felt like the right path to explore for a beauty brand.” Ashman’s attraction to the “surreal, trompe-l’œil quality” of Thecuadro’s art turned into three hand-cut collages that speak to the brand’s depth and dynamic influences.
“There’s a new creative class out there influenced by video games and anime,” Ashman says, “It’s reminiscent of how Star Wars inspired a generation. You’ll see hip-hop artists talking about Dragonball Z and Naruto. I remember an episode of Jimmy Kimmel where Lupita Nyong’o mentioned she played Final Fantasy VIII and Tom Holland allegedly plays Final Fantasy XIV. Nicolas Ghesquière also did that collaboration with Square-Enix a few years ago and more recently used music from Final Fantasy VIII in LV’s 2020 cruise collection. It’s an interesting time for pop culture.”
That said, Ashman wants to make clear that EVENPRIME isn’t “skincare for gamers,” but for “all people who enjoy aesthetics derived from anime and video games, alongside other cultural pillars like fashion, music and even sports.” After extensively testing all three products, we can attest to their balance, elegance and effectiveness.
EVENPRIME’s collection can be purchased online, with products starting at $16.
Hero image by Leslie Kirchhoff