Why Cliftonville? I guess to promote this side of Margate drag people up the hill to Cliftonville, sell the natural beauty & health benefits of living on the English coast. Strangely this very shop was one of the reasons why we moved here in the first place, we came for a drink here one night at Moonbow Jakes, nothing else seemed open for miles it felt like a beacon & I had to have it to further the legacy of change in Cliftonville.
What was your starting point as you embarked on creating Haeckels? It was lots of things we said we would only move here if we injected something into the community & made a living here, moving here wasn’t about house prices it was about a life change, I guess locals always discussing the smell of rotting seaweed became the catalyst of the idea, from there I figured that there were other ways it could be used, I made some soap for friends as Xmas present’s & I was hooked, then I got a commercial license from the council so I could make money from my harvested seaweed & I was off, from there the development of the perfumes began as I became obsessed with distilling natural smells from the local area. Its such a departure & a sense of freedom from what I used to do!
What is natural perfume? Natural perfume is getting back to the way perfume was always made with real ingredients. As the world chases the buck the perfume world has chased synthetic smells, as they are cheaper to produce in large global quantities, Haeckels is the opposite of this, I make small unique local perfumes indigenous to our fascinating environment. I bottle a specific location it might be Reculver, the smell of wet rock, grass, sea air & salt, or the inside of the Margate museum dust, old books etc or even a cave at botany bay. I gather the ingredients in that specific location take them back to the lab & distill them, this is then blended with alcohol, oil & water to produce an Eau de parfum which is a 7 to 15% concentrate used through an atomiser
What are the benefits of seaweed? Seaweed is packed with vitamins, minerals, trace elements, & amino acids that are essential in maintaining healthy & youthful skin. This natural marine wonder helps slow the ageing skin process while protecting it from the harsh environmental elements in the air & water. Essential vitamins include: A1, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, E, K, pantothenic acid, folic acid, & niacin. As well as being rich with antioxidants such as beta-carotene & over 60 trace elements that include potassium, calcium, iodine, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc & manganese, seaweed is a major source of B12. Selenium & ascorbic acid protects the skin from damaging free radicals. Organic Iodine found in seaweed increases metabolism. Seaweed also contains fatty acids to combat skin irritation & inflammation. It also tastes amazing & we are currently developing a range of local edibles!
What products do you make? We make soap bars, body wash, hand soaps, seaweed baths, sea bath salts, candles, eau de perfumes, beard oil, face oils, shampoos & conditioners, but we are expanding our range all the time & trying new things particularly as the shift is made towards oil based moisturisers & our range of GPS perfumes.
Why do you think we should use the seaweed here in Margate? Haeckels was set up to promote the forgotten side of our towns heritage, we have hedonism & the invention of fun, deck chairs, fun fair rides etc, we have The Turner Gallery & fine art, but people also came to our town for the health benefits of the sea, as science educates us on the benefits of sea vegetables it makes sense as a coastal town to capitalise on our seaweed as an asset & make it the new focus of the sea’s health giving properties.
Is everything you make made with natural ingredients? Haeckels stands for creating a purely plant-based 100% natural skincare line, free of toxins or synthetic compounds, I think you should never put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t put in your mouth & all products are tested on my pregnant wife! We are made of Margate.
How do you know a perfume / product is finished? When are you ready to send it into the world? Firstly its about exploring finding the place that smells amazing or has a unique quality to it. I know its ready when the bottle takes you right back to the very spot, the exciting thing about perfume is its transportory nature, its our forgotten sense usually everything I do is visual or sonic, I make a film & its very one dimensional perfume operates on a far more intense & sophisticated level one sniff & you can literally time travel that’s when you know its ready!
What is your first memory of a smell? The smell of wood in my dads shed & also the smell of my star wars figures that I kept in an ice cream box to preserve their smell.
What are your favourite smells? Its has to be freshly wet pavements after a thunderstorm & the smell of a freshly dead body dragged through damp leaves……. I am currently working on capturing the perfect smell of the ocean.
What are your favourite perfumes amongst those you composed? I can’t really say as I want people to find them for themselves but the first one I made, the one that gave me the idea is probably my personal fav & is also the location of where I harvest the seaweed.
Who do you admire in the perfume world? I admire a lot of the old school originators the true perfumers, the renegades who were making it up as they went along, real artisans rather than the front of house showmen that so many brands have now, but I also have a lot of respect for Christopher Brosius he famously created the smell of snow.
You are a beach warden in Cliftonville as well, why are you so passionate about the coast here? Our coast line is like no other & its globally recognised for the unique species found here due to the 14 mile 300 million-year-old chalk reef, people laugh & joke about the state of the place & claim people prefer holidays abroad, but I want to play a part in changing that not just for Margate but for the sake of all coastal towns. I feel passionate that in order to survive & re ignite trade in our towns we need to repackage what we have & capitalise on our assets, our coastlines are amazing all we need to do is rethink how we use them.
Has you vision for the shop been fulfilled? It’s very close, I’d like to get the cellar sorted as a larger lab & stock room & also develop the shack out back as a dehydrating room.
Describe a perfect day at the Haeckels lab. Radio 6 on full blast & the sweet aroma of intoxicating aromatic snapshots wafting out onto the streets of Cliftonville making passers by smile & have a better day.
If you were Mayor of Margate for a day what would you do? If I were Mayor for the day I would make sure that Cliftonville got treated the same way the rest of the town does.
If you could change one thing about the Haeckels lab what would it be? I would make the windows giant magnifying lenses so that when I looked through them all I could see was the sea in microscopic detail.
Favourite part of the Haeckels lab interiors wise? I love my roll top desk that is laid out like a perfumers scent organ. Sitting there mixing smells is total bliss compared with my other job.
How would you like to see Haeckels develop in the future? I would love Haeckels to become a local brand that provides jobs that people actually want, I want those people to feel a sense of pride in the fact that we make something from our own local ingredients & it gets sent around the world.
ROUND-UP: The interior vision for Haeckels has been a slow process to complete – finding the right mix of functional yet interesting & beautiful furniture aswell as interesting ways of displaying products. It has a very raw feel which compliments the ethos of Haeckels. The Haeckels Lab will soon be open for business.
INFO: HAECKELS, 18 Cliff Terrace, Cliftonville.
All images ©Jo Willis