If you’re a beauty buff, you’ll know Syrene, the luxe Kiwi-made skincare range inspired by the sea. The brand has just become the first New Zealand line to be stocked in beauty powerhouse Mecca – a huge achievement! We spoke to the founders, Karen Yang and Jo Gilberd – about their journey to greatness and the secret to their winning formula.
Tell us a little about Syrene and your journey to founding the business?
We both immigrated to New Zealand [from the UK] 20 years ago and fell in love with the beautiful clean New Zealand beaches. It was like finding treasure seeing the unique spectrum of colours in the water and on the shorelines to the incredible marine life. We’ve both always loved and worked in the health and beauty industry and felt New Zealand was missing a luxury skincare brand that catered to all skin types, especially being such a diverse country. Everyone’s skin is different and Karen especially found the brands that were in the market were too rich and heavy for her skin, so we talked about the possibility of creating a skincare range which was light on the skin but still nourishing and hydrating to suit all skin types.
Becoming the first Kiwi brand to be stocked in Mecca is a massive achievement – was this always a goal?
From the moment we started Syrene in 2016, we wanted to grow our brand to a point where if anyone asked you what New Zealand’s national skincare brand is, without hesitation they’d say Syrene. Just like how everyone knows our national rugby team and airline, we feel there is a gap for beauty to be recognised like this globally too. By MECCA choosing us as their first NZ brand to sit alongside other premium international brands, has given us a great sense of pride.
What makes Syrene different?
We were inspired by the book ‘Gift From the Sea’ by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, when developing the brand. Anne uses seashell shapes and patterns to define a pathway for women towards calmness from the pressures of time and responsibility. Syrene embraces the tales within this memoir and forms an essence for women to live by through each products, by reminding women to find moments to relax, be mindful and look after their skin. We feel that we all need to lead calmer and more contemplative lives and so developed our range with that in mind. Syrene is also an oceanic brand. From this story, our key marine ingredients, our aqua packaging, our calming seabreeze fragrance and even the meaning of our name – it’s a combination between the words serene, meaning calm, and siren, meaning mermaid. We think Syrene is unique and customers definitely notice this.
You have some amazing Kiwi ingredients in your formula – manuka honey, kawakawa and pohutukawa being among them – how important is it to you that you use local botanicals such as these, and do you think it gives your product an edge, especially in the international market?
We have a highly effective skincare range which combines science and nature, and we use incredible NZ ingredients which all add to the efficacy. These high-quality NZ ingredients combined with Internationally sourced active ingredients, give Syrene an edge and make our brand one-of-a-kind. From 2016 we have seen extremely strong customer loyalty in our brand. Consumers try the range, start using it daily and see the amazing benefits to their skin. We then have converted customers for life.
New Zealand has a beautiful environment with special flora, like manuka honey its antibacterial properties are very unique compared to other honey around the world. Manuka honey is well-known in the food and skincare industry internationally, which helps us stand out. Black fern is another NZ ingredient that’s starting to gain international attention. It helps tighten the skin and has a natural lifting effect.
Do you have a favourite, or signature, product?
Karen – My personal favourite is the Aqualight Moisture Gel Lotion. It is light, but packed with long-lasting hydrating properties, which leaves my skin super soft.
Jo – If I had to choose, it would have to be the Intense Cream as it has the richest formula, which my skin loves to soak in. Its unique ingredient L22, is naturally derived from jojoba oil, macadamia and olive oil, and is designed to deliver the balanced lipid profile of a healthy 22-year old’s skin. It helps with skin elasticity, hydration and firmness.
[Interview edited for clarity/length]