Funnily enough, Kirsten Kjaer Weis was once en route to becoming an architect. Maybe it was fate or cosmic circumstance, but she soon found herself in a make-up school in Paris, and as they say, the rest was history. Growing up in a farm in rural Denmark, she had always been accustomed to a holistic green lifestyle. So when the time came to start her own all natural make-up brand, Kjaer Weis, it almost felt like a homecoming to return to organic ingredients, and letting Mother Nature take the “beauty” reins.
In conversation with Kirsten, we chat about her collaboration with Marc Atlan and how their innovative refill system not only reduces waste, but also inspires consumers to veer away from today’s single-use, throw-away lifestyle. With the aim of merging the power of natural ingredients, the performance of traditional synthetic products, and the elegance of a luxury product; Kjaer Weis proves that beauty never has to come at the expense of the environment.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? You were originally on the path to becoming an architect, but what made you fall in love with makeup?
I grew up on a farm in rural Denmark, but circumstances led me to Paris, and eventually to makeup school. I had travelled for a while after college, and was enveloped in the joy of traveling. While I had originally considered becoming an architect, I realised that the idea of going to architecture school for an additional six years wasn’t really what I wanted. I heard about this makeup school in ParisI and thought it sounded interesting — almost similar to painting! On a whim, I signed up and instantly fell in love with makeup. It’s an artistic way of playing with colour and also a wonderful way to help women feel better about themselves. When you have someone sitting in your chair who is reluctant about makeup; and then they finally see themselves looking beautiful and natural — that is super gratifying.
What inspired you to start Kjaer Weis?
The realisation that some of my favourite brands and products that I had in my kit, caused a lot of pushback from the models and actresses that I was working with. They got breakouts and reactions and I was really able to see first-hand how all of the synthetics and chemicals in makeup can affect the skin. I wanted to swap out what I had in my kit with natural brands, but couldn’t find anything that matched the performance of the conventional products on the market That was really the A-HA! moment for me. My goal was to merge these two completely separate worlds of green and conventional together — while also tying it in with luxury.
How has your natural and organic lifestyle growing up influences the way you approach your makeup brand?
I think it was more of a subdued influence. For many years, I didn’t quite realise that growing up in a natural environment and eating organic vegetables was such an important part of my life. Once I decided to go down the path of an all-natural makeup line, it didn’t feel foreign at all. The affinity for all of these untouched, all natural, gorgeous vegetables, subconsciously made it easier to incorporate into my brand. Because I lived my life like that all throughout my childhood and up until I left home, returning to this natural lifestyle felt like a homecoming.
How important is sustainability to the ethos of your brand?
It is hugely important. It’s an essential piece to the “trifecta” of our brand philosophy which is sustainable luxury, high performance, and certified organic ingredients. These are the three pillars of Kjaer Weis.
That being said, one can’t ignore the fact that buying and discarding products without any awareness of our wasteful habits is seriously harming our environment. We wanted to have sustainability as a key component of the brand. This is a responsibility that falls in your hands especially when you are a manufacturer of products that typically get discarded after 3-6 months. It becomes an obligation to do your best to minimise waste whenever and wherever you can.
Tell us a little bit more about your packaging and you collaboration with Marc Atlan? How did you work around the challenge of making something that’s both beautiful and sustainable?
When I had originally started developing the packaging, I came very close to something that was both luxurious and sustainable, but it just wasn’t hitting home for me. I decided to reach out to Marc Atlan so I would never regret that I didn’t. I’ve always admired Marc’s work and his timeless eye for design. He came on board and it really elevated my game as well. It was really difficult finding material that is both luxurious and recyclable, which is why we ended up with our ZAMAC compacts. While they are not recyclable, Marc suggested using a refill system which in essence, made it possible to have both luxury and sustainability. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life working with him on this project because he is truly a genius.
Today, sustainability is more important than ever, with brands becoming more and more concerned about their carbon footprint. What role does the beauty industry play in the effort to minimise our environmental impact as a species?
I think it falls on every brand to do their part. I can only speak for us, but I do think that brands have a responsibility when creating products. We take that responsibility very seriously and we want to create as minimal waste as possible, which our refill system allows. All of our refill packaging comes from recyclables. Our compacts are meant as a one-time purchase that you keep refilling as needed. The beauty that comes with the compact and the patina makes it just like a piece of jewellery that you can keep forever.
As consumers, how can we make a difference in protecting the future of our planet?
It’s the small everyday things that can really make a big difference. I think we need to begin questioning our decisions and taking more of a stance for the environment. When it comes to food we can minimise meat consumption, which definitely has a huge effect on the planet. Rather than mindlessly accepting things like plastic bags, utensils, straws, and other wasteful items, we can try to be conscious of these day-to-day decisions and say no to excess plastic. All these things add up and make a difference, even if it doesn’t feel like that in the moment.
Interview by Hannah Tan-Gillies