By Myrto Katsigera
Sometimes, personal needs and experiences become the motivators and inspiration for new products. It can be a mother’s urge to care for their child, the special skills developed over time in an old family business, or the recipe handed down from a grandmother.
Combined with innovation and creative desire and the wealth of the Greek land, catalysts like these have borne fruit in the form of small – and big – Greek businesses producing quality cosmetics and candles.
We spoke to the founders of six of them about their motivations, products and mission.
Alchemia Handmade Self-Care Rituals
Motivated by the needs of the very sensitive skin of her new-born daughter and the fact that there was no product available on the market to meet those needs, the founder of Alchemia – Alkistis Venetopoulou – began making her first soaps in her kitchen during the first lockdown.
Today, she produces a large range of handmade soaps in her workshop in Neo Psychiko. Shaped like pebbles, inspired by the ones she carefully selected from the beaches on Paxos island, they are made from natural ingredients: donkey milk, shea butter, aloe vera, combined with coffee, rice, turmeric and poppy seeds and with perfumes that evoke Aklistis’ wanderings around the world.
Her products are the result of what she calls the slow beauty philosophy. “We are all so busy, we feel that there is no time to do anything for ourselves,” she explains. “We need something very simple to make the process even more special, during the ten minutes we have to take care of ourselves.”
Laouta Natural Products
Laouta Natural Products were named after the Laouta Estate on Karpathos, where founder Evi Lahana and her mother would collect the necessary fresh herbs. As Evi explains, the company was founded in 2012 as a traditional soapery. However, it quickly developed into a modern indie beauty brand: “We like to use nature, but in a modern way.”
From the packaging with its pop elements, brand marketing and online presence, to the products themselves, the brand’s intent is clear: “for modern women of all ages to enjoy contemporary aesthetics with traditional quality.”
Thanks to direct contact with customers, mainly through social media, Evi and her colleagues aim to meet the specific needs of their customers. At the same time, they want to “educate” people: “For instance, when people see the paper, cylindrical packaging of our popular repair balm they are at first rather frustrated because they are not familiar with it – they are used to the classic plastic tubes. But we insist on keeping it, since we want to reduce plastic waste by making it less available to the public.”
When Marina Koriolano-Lykourezou and her partner, Giannis Zagorianakos, decided to move to Aegina, they embarked on a journey that would last a lifetime. In 2013 they created Cool Soaps: handmade cold process soaps made from Greek olive oil and other natural ingredients from the Mediterranean.
As Marina tells us, their decision to start this business came at a time when Greece had a rather negative reputation abroad. The couple decided to launch a purely Greek product, “a local product that could travel.” It was also important for them to use traditional methods of production, so that this knowledge would not be lost.
Over the years the company expanded and developed into Cool Projects – in addition to soaps, they produce bathroom and home accessories while they collaborate with Aegina’s skilled artisans. “There is something organic about all of this process. Collaborations grow and develop as things fall into place. It all has to do with what talent or expertise can be found here in Aegina – and you always find plenty.”
The creation of Cool Projects is based on the need “to create something with your own hands, to enjoy your life every day, without waiting for the weekend or the summer to relax.” In other words, it is based on the choice for a better quality of life.
Tilia Cosmetics is another project that grew out of personal need. The initial idea behind the first and perhaps most emblematic company product, the multi-purpose beeswax salve, came when the child of co-founders Thanasis Fotou and Natalia Bazeou developed a skin condition. Unable to find solutions with the products available on the market at the time, they followed the advice of one of the child’s grandmothers – they worked with natural ingredients at home, and created their initial version of beeswax salve.
Thanasis describes that the purpose of Tilia was “to give skin the ability to regain its healthy appearance without being completely flawless.”
The 100% active ingredients and anhydrous products would be the company’s trademark. “One of our pots can replace 40 pots of regular face cream, as most of them contain just 2-5% active ingredients.” As we can see from its products, that extend from beeswax salve to pregnancy and baby creams, serums and deodorants, “Tilia grows with us, and with the needs of its people.”
In the picturesque village of Kanakades in Corfu, siblings Eleni and Spiros Moumouris used their knowledge in the field of art restoration and furniture making to create Choé Candles in 2018, housed in their father’s old carpentry workshop.
“Our candles have Mediterranean aromas that stir memories. It is impossible to inhale the aromas of pergamont and fig and not be transported to a place you had once visited with your grandmother, and all those stories,” Eleni tells us. Each candle is made to order, so that they are fresh and fit in with the zero waste logic. Yet the passion of the Moumouri siblings is not only limited to the scents of their candles, but also includes their packaging.
Crafted from natural materials such as wood, glass and fabric, with the aim of representing the four seasons, the candle containers are artworks in their own right, as they can be reused once the candle has melted. The pots depicting images from different styles of ancient Greek pottery painting are characteristic examples, much like the paper-scented candle created to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of the 1821 Revolution, with excerpts of the epic “The Free Besieged” by Dionysios Solomos printed on the decorative fabric.
Boasting collaborations with the Benaki Museum, the National Museum of Contemporary Art and the Smile of the Child, Choé Candles are small pots of Greek luxury.
Everything started when Chrysoula Tsiroga from Edessa wanted to utilize the milk from her donkeys. The first time she made soap from donkey milk in her home in 2012, she intended to make a small batch as Christmas presents for friends.
Today, having created a state-of-the-art production workshop certified by the National Organization For Medicines, she produces a series of soaps and cosmetics, such as face moisturizers, serums and body lotions.
As she proudly shares, all ONOiamata products contain a large concentration of donkey milk, which does not dilute its ingredients and allows for the preservation of its beneficial properties: the anhydrous, cold process soaps take up to two months to make and contain 21% donkey milk, while the face and eye creams contain 24%.
This article was previously published in Greek by “K” Magazine.