Erika Geraerts isn’t afraid to go against the grain. Having cut her teeth working for big beauty brands (she was one of the co-founders of Frank Body), she decided to go it alone and, in 2018, she founded a brand with an unusual aim: producing less. Based in Collingwood, Melbourne, Geraerts, 34, sees Fluff as an antidote to the overconsumption most makeup brands peddle. It’s known for three products — a refillable bronzer, lip oil and retractable brush — and occasionally offers skincare, such as a cleanser and mask.
The less-is-more approach extends to her distribution model: about a year ago, Fluff moved to quarterly releases, selling products online for just one week, four times a year. “Consumers were becoming confused and disheartened,” Geraerts says, referring to sales strategies common in the industry, such as aggressive advertising campaigns. “So we thought, ‘What if we pull back and restrict the supply to increase the demand?’ ” The main advantage, she says, is that she now sets the pace of her business.
According to the company, annual revenue bounced back within a year and, with reduced costs, Fluff is now more profitable and easier to manage. “It also allows us to focus on different markets, each time in a more efficient way,” Geraerts adds.
Bread's founder Maeva Heim. Photograph courtesy of Bread.
Growing up in Perth, Maeva Heim spent much of her chilhood at her mother’s “tiny, hole-in-the-wall” salon, a place that specialised in textured hair, braids, weaves and cornrows.“As any first-generation immigrant child knows, if your parent owns a business, you’re there for the weekend, school holidays. …” says Heim with a laugh (her mother hails from the Ivory Coast and her father comes from France). But it was those salon days that ultimately inspired Bread, Heim’s globally stocked haircare brand, which enjoyed a spectacular debut, in 2020, at Sephora in the US.
Still based in Perth, Heim, 33, describes the products as “haircare basics for not-so-basic hair”. Having previously held marketing roles at major brands such as L’Oréal and Procter & Gamble, Heim had the business acumen to realise there was a gap in the market. The companies she worked for, Heim says, “were never really speaking to me as a consumer, [or] to my peers or to people who look like me.”
Among her many goals, Heim wants to challenge the idea that curly hair is difficult hair. At Bread,she emphasises education over marketing and, with its strong online presence, she says it is as much a media company as it is a beauty brand. “We celebrate shampoo and conditioner,” she says. “But we want people to feel like they can come to Bread for more than that.”
Lesse founder Neada Deters. Photograph courtesy of Lesse.
She might be firmly entrenched in the hustle and bustle of New York City, but the Sydney-raised editor-turned-beauty-entrepreneur Neada Deters, 33, puts her Australian roots and love of nature at the centre of her sustainable skincare brand, Lesse. “The power of active botanicals are so underutilised, especially Australian natives,” says Deters. “They’re ingredients that we useagain and again, because Australian plants have adapted to deal with a very harsh environment and have incredible reparative and regenerative properties that are not at all common in the broader landscape of skincare.”
On a more holistic level, Deters, who founded the brand in 2018, was keen to create a small range of products that utilised organic ingredients and would change the mindset around skincare, turning a chore into a meditative process. “We wanted this to be a ritual, something that they can look forward to,” she says.
The brand’s Bioactive Mask, which contains antioxidant-rich flame tree extract, has acquired a cult following since its launch and perfectly encapsulates Deters’ ethos. “You cleanse your face, you apply the mask, you sit in that mask — it’s an intentional practice,” she says. “In the actual formula itself and in the practice of it, you are getting this internal and external renewal.”
The co-founder of Emma Lewisham, Emma Lewisham. Photograph courtesy of the brand.
Frustrated by a lack of pregnancy-safe natural skincare products — ones as luxurious as those she’d religiously purchased prior to falling pregnant — Emma Lewisham set about creating her own. Not only would her eponymous line use science-backed, naturally derived ingredients, it would also be carbon-positive, with offsets outweighing emissions.
Since the brand’s launch in 2019, the 38-year-old New Zealand native has made significant inroads both in terms of company growth and environmental impact. Her sustainable Circular Beauty initiative has helped Emma Lewisham earn B Corp certification (almost all containers can be returned to the company and either refilled or recycled), and in the past financial year, sales in Australia increased by 99 per cent. In part, that’s due to the brand’s Mecca debut — it was one of the beauty retailer’s most successful skincare launches of 2022. All of which suggests that customers appreciate the founder’s focus, which, Lewisham says, is always about skin, not “ingredients or what’s trending”.
So what’s next? The former corporate executive says she wants to help set more realistic beauty standards. “Beautiful skin isn’t about perfection,” she says. “It’s having confidence and the skin being as healthy as it can be — for you. That’s the message that we champion and I feel really passionate about.”
Rone's work “Time” (2022-23) at Flinders Street Station. Image courtesy of the artist.
Not quite a painter, not quite an installation artist, Tyrone Wright struggles with applying language to his profession. But, he says, “it feels like I’m doing something unique if I can’t be easily categorised”. Semantics aside, Wright has garnered a cult following with the immersive art experiences he stages under the moniker Rone. Recent projects include “RONE in Geelong” (2021), featuring works he created in response to the architecture at Geelong Gallery, and “Time” (2022–2023), a love letter to the city of Melbourne, three years in the making, staged on Flinders Street Station’s abandoned third floor.
Wright is more confident verbalising his enduring source of inspiration, which he sums up in just three words: “beauty and decay”. From the texture of an old wall to a broken vase or a delicate cobweb clinging to the corner of a shelf, Wright draws artistic fuel from the exquisitely broken. “Something in a fragile state always seems more beautiful because you realise that they might not be there tomorrow,” he says. “It causes you to appreciate it now.”
When conceptualising his large-scale works, Wright begins with the location’s confines, rather than a concept. “It’s structure first,” he says, noting that his fascination with decay is not without obstacles (“I can’t just destroy the building and walk away from it.”) Wright wrestles with depicting damage while maintaining a site’s aesthetic and conditional integrity. For “RONE”, this necessitated laying a brand-new “ancient”-looking custom-printed floor over the gallery’s fresh floorboards.
As for what’s next? “My immediate next project is a holiday,” he jokes. “It’s quite an exciting time, to be completely flexible with time and ideas and concepts. And I’m feeling pretty lucky about it.”
Located in Brunswick, Melbourne, Nightingale 1 by Breathe is an affordable, sustainable and easily replicated housing solution. Photograph by Tom Ross.
Jeremy McLeod channels his connection with the natural world into his work at Breathe, a Melbourne-based architecture firm that uses “design as a weapon for good”, creating residential, commercial and work spaces that merge aesthetic excellence with decarbonisation.
“We exist and operate in a time of climate crisis; in a time of carbon as the ever-present enemy,” says McLeod, Breathe’s design director and co-founder, who splits his time between the city and the Dandenong Ranges. “We have to follow global leaders like California and New York. We have to exit gas, and we have to do it now. Everything, every time, has to be 100 per cent electric if we are going to have any chance of combating climate change.”
The energy grid, he adds, must transformfrom fossil fuels to renewables and to speed up the process, individuals should choose an electricity retailer that offers 100 per cent GreenPower, a way to ensure their electricity comes from renewable sources.
McLeod’s team is behind the conversion of the Sydney warehouse that is now the Paramount House Hotel in Surry Hills, a build that utilises chevron screens made of copper and ironbark columns to not only provide structural support, but also to nod to the history of the building and the surrounding area. The project has garnered a slew of honours, including a 2019 National Architecture Award.
The studio took a similar approach in its collaboration with Four Pillars Gin. Tasked with conjuring a distillery that would accommodate increased production, be carbon neutral in operation and respond to the brand’s Healesville legacy, Breathe created a renewable-energy-powered distillery equipped for hospitality and retail that blends natural materials with raw copper tubing and large sliding windows.
McLeod says Breathe chooses its clients carefully, seeking businesses and individuals that share its goals. “Our ethics are one of our key design ingredients,” says McLeod.