New Skincare Brand Oquist Cosmetics Wants To Be The Tesla Of Beauty
Oquist Cosmetics is a family affair and, like a storied family tradition, it’s intended to have longevity.
Co-founders and father-daughter duo Olga Ringquist and Pavel Babneevs have worked in the beauty industry for a combined 26 years. Ringquist held a strategy and marketing position at Oriflame Cosmetics for six while her father developed natural and organic cosmetic products for pharmaceutical and wellness companies for 20. After Ringquist became a mother, she grew unenthusiastic about her corporate gig. She’d been thinking about starting a brand for a long time, but imposter syndrome always held her back. Once she had a baby, though, it disappeared, and she felt ready to pursue her dream with her father at her side.
The pair wanted to create waterless, multifunctional, unisex merchandise, but were highly aware those qualities weren’t exactly unique in the market. They decided a focus on sustainable packaging could make their brand stand out. To determine the right material for packaging, they scored aluminum, paper carton, glass, plastic and terracotta on various environmental metrics, including recycling and upcyling potential, and carbon dioxide emissions from manufacturing. Paper carton ranked best overall, but isn’t conducive to storing liquid. Ringquist and Babneevs opted to house Oquist Cosmetics’ products in terracotta, which their scoring determined to be the second-most sustainable option.
It took about a year and a half to finalize the brand’s packaging. Ringquist and Babneevs teamed up with a terracotta manufacturer that happened to be located across the street from Babneev’s office in Riga, Latvia. Traditional clay production is common in the country, says Ringquist. She explains Oquist Cosmetics sought a terracotta manufacturer that would care about the details and produce quality goods. Next, Ringquist and Babneevs identified a Scandinavian designer to help shape sculptural terracotta packaging and a rubber factory to produce natural rubber stoppers for it.
Oquist Cosmetics expects customers to upcycle its packaging after using the formula within it. They can put other products inside it or simply display it in their homes. If the terracotta ends up in the trash, Ringquist assures it won’t harm the environment. “It’s earth, which has been refined, so there are no toxins, and it’s basically small pieces of rock that have been molded together,” she explains. “So if you want to throw it out your window, it will just return back to the soil.”
Oquist pre-launched in August with 6-in-1 Anti-Aging Serum priced at 65 euros or around $77 at the current exchange rate. Three more products are slated to be released by November, including 5-in-1 Foaming Oil, 5-in-1 Amber Multi Balm and 4-in-1 Body Cream. Together, the four products are meant to replace the need for 20. “This way, you don’t have to buy this 10-step Korean routine and spend all this time in front of the mirror,” says Ringquist. “You can actually just add the ingredients in one product.” She hopes to keep the arsenal of products small but may add a dry powder mask next year to round out the collection.
Once the collection of four products is available in November, Ringquist plans to introduce a refillable program that will either ask customers to send empty packaging back to be refilled or provide refill choices at purchase. “We just have to decide on which is most sustainable for us,” she says. Oquist Cosmetics sells via its website currently and ships internationally. Store distribution—both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce—is anticipated in the future. “We only ship online obviously, and that’s a lot of shipment for small quantities,” she says. “So, ideally we want to collaborate with stores and some chains because they have a better strategy both from a cost perspective but also from a sustainability perspective, and they usually have a better setup in their shipment compared to us.”
Ringquist believes Oquist Cosmetics has considerable opportunity globally, but says the brand would have to find bigger factories, in addition to the one they already work with, in order to properly scale. So far, she’s invested around $40,000 to $50,000 in the production of its products. If Oquist Cosmetics took on investors down the line, Ringquist says the investors would have to have beauty industry experience and a “sustainable investment strategy, meaning we don’t want to share investors with non-sustainable organizations and brands.”
Already, Oquist Cosmetics has been in demand. Ringquist has had requests from companies looking to buy its terracotta packaging designs. She says the interest could signal a possible side business, but it would require shoring up intellectual property to protect Oquist Cosmetics as its packaging is disseminated. She’s exploring the idea of changing the terracotta packaging styles to keep interest up. “Kind of like a fashion brand where, for instance, once a year, we update the colors or shapes and maybe do some collaborations with ceramic artists,” says Ringquist. “You know, like H&M x Versace.”
Oquist Cosmetics views its beauty packaging as a piece of art. The objective is that the allure of the brand’s aesthetics will lead consumers to make sustainable purchases, even inadvertently. “Tesla was one inspiration for us because a lot of people want the car because it’s cool and trendy, not necessarily because it’s so sustainable, but, then, by doing that, they actually do the planet a favor,” says Ringquist. “That’s what we hope to do in terms of how to acquire non-conscious consumers to become more conscious.”