April 11, 2016
It was in 2012 when Dom Bridges founded Haeckels. Based in Kent, a small creative team endeavour to make skin care and natural scent products utilising the indigenous fauna of surrounding Margate and further England. Dom’s focus on design and quality became intertwined with his love for his seaside dwelling. Ethically sourcing coastal botanicals, Dom possesses one of only two permits in England to cultivate the neighbouring seaweed growing in the nearby chalk reef. Using specific distillation, formulation and CO2 infusion techniques, Dom and his creative team compose their refined range of skin care products and perfumes.
The North facing shoreline of Margate, hosts one of Britain’s globally recognised chalk reefs whereby the Cliff Terrace Haeckels lab is situated. It’s from these reefs where Dom ethically harvests the unique seaweed used in the lab’s varying skin balms, serums, exfoliants and and masques. The seaweeds used are part of rare strains, found nowhere else in any other worldwide shoreline.
Naturally sustained by the environment of the chalk reef, the seaweed strain known as bladderwrack can be found just off the shore of Margate. During harvesting Dom and the team gather the seaweed for cleaning which first takes place in the sea itself. Thereafter it is then taken to the lab for a further two stages of cleaning in large sink basins. Bladderwrack, amongst other species, have been used for many years by the British and Irish, primarily for their properties and skin benefits. Acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, this seaweed have numerous applications for skin care applications. Their properties offer protection from harmful environmental pollutants as well as anti-ageing benefits. Additionally, the seaweed can aid the treatment of wounds, skin inflammation and joint pain. It’s for these numerous applications that makes bladderwrack so integral to the production of the Haekels range.
Additional to the seaweed, the team also harvest other local organisms permitting their seasonal yield. Seen amongst the company’s media, the team continually and seasonally harvest surrounding flora, indigenous to Margate and further afield. Various wild plants such as fennel, bay leaves, gorse flowers, geraniums, lavender, and camomile are all utilised in the lab to make varying serums, balms and powders. Pictured below are some documented images of the types of plants used across their repitoire.
After harvest and thorough cleaning the processing can begin, a task very much specific to the ingredient and the resultant product. Dehydration, distillation, grinding and bio-fermentation are just some of the techniques applied to the plants from their raw state. Similar to culinary preparation, each ingredient has it’s own set of complexities, all of which are expertly negotiated to extract the very best from the produce itself. There are numerous methods of distillation and for this, the lab hosts all of these techniques for all that is harvested by Dom and his colleagues.
The pursuit of these local ingredients requires great determination and knowledge but further still, great responsibility. Whilst Dom and his colleagues harvest these natural ingredients, Haeckels firmly employ unwavering ethics throughout their operation.
“We are a very environmentally aware company. All our products are tested on ourselves, no animals, so every product we create we love and know works brilliantly, we use them everyday as each product is designed to make a complete daily skin care routine. Our carbon footprint for production is very low as we limit our use of plastics. What plastics we do use are recyclable and we limit our labelling and printing by laser etching straight into the bottle. This creates sturdy and reusable packaging so that local clients can come back for refills. The brown glass we use is locally manufactured and provides protection from UV light for the natural ingredients inside.
Each product is made with love, a love of what we do and a love of the area or Margate. With that in mind, presentation is important. Why wouldn't a natural product be presented in packaging that highlights the craftsmanship of the town? Everything in our shop is from Margate and surrounding local towns; the ingredients right through to the packaging. The brand itself is a celebration of the ingenuity of the English coast. We have everything that a city has and we need it here to create experiences and products that make people want to visit us.”
Processed from the many plants, flora and fauna is a collection of numerous skin care and fragrances offered by Haeckels. Ethically sourced and beautifully packaged, you are continually reminded of the ethos of the company via the packaging materials and branding. Bespoke solid brass is locally machined to make the bottle caps their range of perfume bottles. On the side of the bottles are laser etched coordinates from where the ingredient botanicals were handpicked including the weather conditions that day.
Further to the work undertaken by the team at Haeckels, their creative endeavour has led them further afield from just their range of skin care and perfumes. For their London Shoreditch shop, the team developed their own automated scent diffuser for dispersing their range of coastal scents. The diffuser is slip-casted from porous ceramic earthenware. Designed to emit their range of natural perfumes, the diffuser is named the Aromaphone. The form is directly influenced from the classic gramophone shape and was used in the launch of the East end store in London.
More famously, Haeckles launched a crowfunding campaign in 2014 aiming to bring back a traditional Victorian sea bathing machine, with a state of the art sauna inside. To describe this project is similar to a horse drawn beach house. These bathing machines were traditionally used to transport passengers into the shallows of a sea bay for the view.
“Sea bathing in Margate was widely known about along with the health benefits of the sea. Bathing machines were all along the coast to protect modesty when bathing, whilst enjoying the local waters. They are described in 1805 as being 'four-wheeled carriages, covered with canvas, and having at one end of them an umbrella of the same materials which is let down to the surface of the water, ... machine by a few steps is concealed from the public view, whereby the most refined female is enabled to enjoy the advantages of the sea with the strictest delicacy.”
The project achieved it’s full funding with a final total of over thirty thousand pounds. Dom launched the project as a way of revitalising part of Margate’s heritage. Extensive to it’s historical resonance with the town, the bathing machine was also launched as a economic boost for the town. Designed by a nearby architect, the machine was built and is currently managed by locals. The bathing machine not only drew attention to the local area but provided local work and great overall engagement for the community of Margate.
We have huge admiration for the work undertaken by Dom and the Haeckels team. Behind their natural ingredient product range is arguably what could be described as a localised, creative and ethical rejuvination. The area of Margate has provided Haeckels with an array of seasonal ingredients and it would seem that Haeckels only reciprocate via their creative means. In their maintenance of the jurrasic chalk reef and restoration of a victorian bathing carriage there is little doubt of Haeckels proud position within the Margate comminity.
We would like to thank Dom and his team for speaking with us and we wish them every success in the future.
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