Horticulture, herbalism and good taste are in the blood of skincare range creator Kati Kasza.
It’s no wonder evolu founder Kati Kasza was always making potions as a child. When her Hungarian immigrant parents moved to Hawkes Bay in the 1950s, her father set up as a winemaker and her mother as a herbalist and horticulturalist.
“I was always helping with herbal remedies if we were sick or injured. I vividly remember having a terrible bicycle accident and my mother made this incredible tincture with thyme. I didn’t have any scarring.”
Kasza founded evolu skincare in 1997, and now, with a staff of just nine, the brand has grown to the point where it is stocked in 100 stores around the country. Their botanical products are also sold online and are poised to go into Amcal Unichem pharmacies. Evolu is already in Singapore and Kasza hopes to expand into Korea and Taiwan.
Formerly an English and French teacher, Kasza later became an international flight attendant – a lifestyle that was great for her French but not so good for her skin. “I just couldn’t find any skincare products that were sophisticated like a lot of the synthetic brands with that lovely silky feel, but I didn’t want to put chemicals on my skin.”
So she threw herself into studying the benefits of plant-based extracts. At the time her mother was the President of the Auckland Herbs Society so she attended the meetings, read as much as she could about bioactive ingredients and eventually enlisted the help of scientists to come up with the evolu formulas. The idea was to create a natural range that could be suited to an individual’s skincare needs.
It might seem a brave move competing with the plethora of expensive anti-ageing products on the market but evolu’s popularity and high-end positioning (guests at the five-star Kauri Cliffs are privy to evolu facials) is proof there’s a demand for locally-made products with decipherable ingredients. The evolu range contains no parabens, petrochemicals, minerals, phthalates, sulfates, artificial colours or fragrances, and no animal products other than beeswax and lanolin. And while the packaging is sourced offshore, it is recyclable.
The key message behind the brand is that of maintaining skin’s natural balance. Perhaps it’s partly to do with Kasza’s appreciation for her father’s wine, but each evolu product also has a distinct aroma.
So can basic plant ingredients such as mandarin and manuka honey fight the signs of ageing as effectively as all those fancy science-based compounds? Yes, says Kasza, whose less-is-more approach to her formulas means the potency is higher.
“It’s a bit like cooking. The fewer fresh herbs you use the better because you can actually taste those ingredients. Our formulas are surprisingly straightforward, there’s a lot that we avoid. That’s what people love about evolu. We take away all the mystery.”
Kati Kasza Photo: Ted Baghurst