We explore the Margate-based, seaweed-focused brand which has taken up residency at London's Hostem to bring the seaside to the city
Who? Margate-based cosmetic company Haeckels was launched in 2012 by self-proclaimed "coastal enthusiast" Dom Bridges, a man who was determined to celebrate the seaside town's approach to healthy and sustainable coastal living. After discovering that Walpole Bay beach was left in a state of disarray, and hearing his friends complain about its potent smell of seaweed, he volunteered as a beach warden and started making soaps from the vegetable that he would collect on the shore. So lovely were the soaps that people were reluctant to actually use them – and so, Bridges says, "I knew I was getting somewhere; I’d changed people's perceptions and a disrespected object had become a coveted one."
In light of this success, Bridges decided to turn this manufacturing sensibility into a business – but the regulations around harvesting seaweed are remarkably strict, particularly so considering that the place where Haeckels obtain their seaweed is a Jurassic chalk reef, a globally-recognised site of natural interest. By working closely with environmental bodies, Haeckels earned a licence for harvesting – "it meant an awful lot to me and it's something that gives me an immense sense of pride," says Bridges – and have continued this eco-friendly ethos throughout their entire product range, eschewing plastics in favour of recyclable glass and maintaining a production footprint of only 12 miles. "Yes, some clients have complained about us not using plastic pumps," he continues, "but there are currently seven pieces of non-recyclable plastic in those pumps and, as an ocean-wise brand I refuse to use them in the hope that people slow down and see that their own decisions create the impact on the planet." It's an impressive – and attractive – feat, and Haeckels have recently translated their Margate ethos into a stand-alone dispensary at London's equally enticing store, Hostem, for those who aren't planning a trip to the seaside anytime soon (although, it's August, so you ought to).
What? The Haeckels offering is remarkably broad considering it is such an independent and intimate affair: there's skincare, and shampoo, and scented candles, and all sorts of other lovely bits. The bath products are particularly good – seaweed has remarkable healing properties, and is rife not only with a veritable alphabet of different vitamins but also plenty of anti-oxidants, sirtuin stimulators (to aid in cell repair), and omega 3s (to promote the formation collagen and elastin). This means that soaking in a vat of it (suspended within a net bag, lest you get a bit slimy) is both relaxing and productive; drinking a tea made of it equally so. Luckily, the candles they offer are contained within hand-blown, double-walled borosilicate glass; when you've finished burning them, you can make your seaweed drinks in them, too. If that wasn't enough, the masks, serums and creams on offer are simply great – and finally, they make perfumes. Each one of these perfumes comes in a glass bottle laser-etched with the coordinates from where its ingredients were sourced, and relates to that specific location rather than a specific scent. What could possibly be more charming?
Why? Because we live in a world where sustainability ought to be front-and-centre in our minds, for one. Secondly, because seaweed is a legitimate and scientifically proven remedy for all sorts of different ailments. And then also because the packaging is so good that you want it to be the only thing in your bathroom. Finally, because Bridges says of his decision to move to Margate that "it took me an awfully long time to understand that being within close proximity to ocean is key to me being truly happy and feeling truly free" and if buying into his philosophy and products gives us even a little bit of that authentic, happy freedom, then we're in.