The English seaside town of Margate—a historical retreat for Londoners fleeing the city smog—has chalk reefs and cliffs along its coast that nurture unique families of seaweed. Carefully hand-harvested, this seaweed becomes the base ingredient for Haeckels’ skincare products; similarly, local botanicals are foraged to create fresh fragrances that evoke an exact moment and location. The Margate-based line was founded by filmmaker-turned-coastal-lover Dom Bridges, and its deep ties to Margate are what makes Haeckels stand out from the increasingly crowded realm of natural skincare brands. There’s less focus on products promising miraculous results; instead, the focus is on a profound appreciation for nature.
“The whole essence of the brand is to reconnect everyone with the natural core of the Margate coast,” Bridges tells CH. “Traditionally, it was a place for relaxation and health benefits: fresh air, saltwater and the uniqueness of our seaweed due to chalk reef structure.
Everything we make is 100% natural and a direct representation of what our local coast offers in terms of antioxidants from local botanicals and skin rejuvenation from seaweed.”
And Bridges isn’t satisfied with just distilling and bottling seaweed and local herbs. While some natural skincare brands seem to offer all-too-predictable options, Bridges is eager to experiment, innovate and surprise with his products and the way we interact with them. In contrast to reed diffusers, Haeckels’ more minimalist Chalk Room Diffuser uses a small rectangular block of porous chalk (found in the cliffs and reefs along the local Kent coast line) to absorb essential oil and slowly release its scent over time. Haeckels’ fragrances have no name, only GPS coordinates—”the idea being that you travel to a location and where [you stand] should smell like the bottle, because there’s where the ingredients come from,” explains Bridges.
More recently, he collaborated with two local potters to create Aromaphones, unique aroma diffusers in the shape of a phonograph horn. This past weekend, Haeckels also partnered up with London studio Loop.ph for a temporary immersive installation, the Horticultural Spa & Apothecary Experience. The public was invited to step inside an inflatable greenhouse bubble filled with fragrant vapor—which changed “menu” based on the time of day—meant to be breathed in, alongside meditative cups of tea and yoga sessions.
One of the most exciting things happening for Haeckels this summer is the completion of their new, mobile sea-bathing machine, set to open in early August. Bridges’ modern take on the Victorian seaside staple (found commonly in Margate throughout the 18th and 19th centuries) adds a four-person sauna and a private treatment room. The bathing machine (essentially a tiny cabin on wheels) can be towed right to the beach, meaning you can plunge into the ocean immediately after a sauna, massage or facial session and soak up all of the health benefits. It makes sense, coming from a man whose go-to motto is “saltwater heals all wounds.”
Interestingly, this sea-bathing machine came to fruition thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, part of which emphasized Bridges’ desire to have it run by members of the community and improve the local economy. Bridges’ genuine passion for the town of Margate—strengthening the local community and preserving its unique coast—is infectious, and makes Haeckels all the more enticing. “Whatever we are doing is hitting a nerve,” says Bridges, noting the rising interest.
This summer, Haeckels has taken residence at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch until 30 September 2015 for a pop-up shop; on the weekends, their store in Margate is open for those vacationing by the coast. For the rest of us outside of the UK, many of Haeckels’ products, from candles and diffusers to creams, are available online via their webshop.
Bathing machine rendering courtesy of Reworks Studio Ltd, all other images courtesy of Haeckels