[7 MINUTE READ]
Happy Friday and welcome to this week’s Friday Founder interview! With the promise of Spring in the air, we could all do with a bit of a product spring clean to make room for the new.
Spring is the time for new beginnings, reinvention and blossoming, and that is why we are delighted to welcome this week’s interviewee Romy to our virtual sofa.
Romy Kowalewski is the Founder and Creative Director of 27 87, a perfume company that focuses on the present and the “unadorned now” that is ours to create. So, grab yourself a morning brew, get cosy and let’s get into it...
"Ultimately, the idea of creating something unique, long-lasting and thoughtful is what triggered me to enter this industry."
Morning Romy! Thanks so much for joining us. Let’s start at the beginning! Could you start by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel it has influenced you today?
Morning! Thank you for having me. I am very lucky as I had the most wonderful childhood which I am extremely grateful for. I was born in Berlin on the 27th in ‘87, hence the name of my perfume brand: 27 87. It is a really intimate and private piece of information but I wanted to use it for my brand name because I wanted to show that I am transparent in the creation process of all my perfumes. Plus, the process of picking a perfume is an extremely intimate one.
That is so cool! So how did you get started in the beauty industry?
Ever since I can remember, I have taken great pride in being different. I believe perfumes connect directly to our emotions, so I always paid attention to perfumes that had a signature style. I was always searching for rare perfumes, ones that no one else would have. I hated the idea that my boyfriend could associate my perfume with an ex-girlfriend. So subconsciously, I was already very detail-oriented when it came to my personal care and that is how I ended up loving and sourcing artistic perfumes.
Artistic perfumes are perfumes made by small perfume houses that put all their expertise into the creation of scents. They are handmade, use the highest quality ingredients and do not replicate the common taste. Ultimately, the idea of creating something unique, long-lasting and thoughtful is what triggered me to enter this industry.
I resonate with so much of what you have said! I really like my style and look to be different from what everyone else is doing. So when did you actually decide to start up 27 87 and was the timing important?
Artistic perfumery sees perfume-making as an art. Each perfume represents a concept, just like art. At that time, most existing brands used concepts based on their founders’ personal memories, specific locations or historical events. I always wondered why I had to put their memories on my skin. I thought it was time to create perfumes that weren’t based on nostalgia and the past. I envisioned perfumes that capture the here and now, that everyone can connect to and create their own memories with. It all started while visiting one of the big perfume houses during a university visit to Barcelona in 2010. Once I set foot inside, it hit me: this was what I wanted to do with my life. 27 87 finally launched in 2016.
It sounds like a real calling for you. Moving onto the business side of things, how does sustainability factor into 27 87?
I think that modern brands need to keep up with the changing landscape in all aspects of their business. Sustainability is a major factor that is not only important in my private life, but throughout every process in the creation of my perfumes. It starts by working with manufacturers who source sustainable ingredients, pay fair wages to local farmers and do not exploit the ecosystem. Our packaging is recyclable but is also intended to have a second life as a jewellery box, makeup storage or as a little piggy bank. We avoid plastic wherever we can and try to keep the packaging as simple and low-key as possible. What should stand out above everything else are our scents! Sustainability, to me, also means giving back to my community. This is why I produce everything locally here in Barcelona, my home for the last 10 years and the home of my brand.
That is so inspiring! Sustainability is clearly a huge priority for you! Do you think people are more conscious of the ingredients in their products and fragrances nowadays?
Yes, absolutely. Due to easy access to information people are becoming more and more conscious of healthy living. When it comes to perfume, people always tend to think that natural ingredients are the best way to go. However, we must keep in mind that sourcing natural ingredients can do a lot of harm to our environment and ecosystems. Therefore, 27 87 uses a mix of natural ingredients (that give the scents depth and richness) and synthetics (that give the extra spark and modern touch). This also makes 27 87 scents very unique in the market. By the way, it is a myth that synthetics are less high quality than natural ingredients. Both work extremely well, depending on your fragrance concept!
How interesting! And what were your biggest challenges in starting up 27 87?
Oh, there were a lot of challenges but starting up a business in a foreign country, in a foreign language, with different bureaucracy and work cultures made things a little harder for me. However, the most time-consuming and challenging parts were raising the initial financial resources and convincing the world’s most renown perfumers to join my project. I was very persistent and refused to settle for anyone less; it was crucial for the 27 87 brand to use the best talents in the industry. Looking back at all the ups and downs, I am extremely proud of having pushed through. I have learnt so much in so little time.
It sounds like it! So what strategies do you think have been key to the success of 27 87?
Personally, I believe the key to the success of 27 87 is passion and 100% dedication. I was and still am involved in every aspect of the business and make sure to keep in direct contact with my customers, suppliers and retailers throughout the world. I have a multitasking and multi-functioning role in the business which I would not change for anything in the world.
That is so lovely to hear! What would you say is your absolute favourite thing about your job?
The favourite thing about my job is that it does not feel like a job. I am doing exactly what I love and what I am passionate about. I have creative freedom in all aspects of what I do; I get to travel the world and meet new and interesting people on a daily basis. I also get to be my own boss and allocate my own time which is something that I consider an extreme privilege.
Absolutely! Could you describe what an average day looks like for you?
I try to keep to the same routine from Monday to Friday when I am not travelling. Usually, I will be in the office early in the morning to take all my conference calls and get the day-to-day business running. Lunches are always a great mental break. I try to use the time to explore all the new places that Barcelona has to offer with friends. I dedicate my afternoons to creative projects and exercise.
"27 87 co-creates - rather than dictates - the here and now. It is not about memories or focusing on the past, because there is no scent like the present."
Sounds like a wonderful and creative day! Would you say you have a work/life balance?
Absolutely! However, there are also times where I feel like I have no time at all. I am sure that this must be the same for any entrepreneur, but as I said previously, I would not change a thing. I love what I do.
And which is your favourite product that you’ve created so far?
To be honest I do not have a favourite product. All my scents have been carefully created by myself so they are like my babies; I can’t pick a favourite!
Aw, that is understandable! What do you think makes 27 87 stand out?
The scents are the focus of 27 87, and they make us stand out. 27 87 co-creates - rather than dictates - the here and now. It is not about memories or focusing on the past, because there is no scent like the present. Our bottles use a predominately white design to symbolise a blank canvas that will be painted on with our customer’s own memories.
I love your bottles! They are so gorgeous! And could you describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment since starting 27 87?
The biggest moment for me was seeing my perfumes displayed in my favourite artistic perfumery store that I have visited for years in Barcelona. When I saw our perfumes there I could not believe it! All the hard work and years of preparation were suddenly forgotten.
Wow, what a special moment. What inspires you?
The here and now. Our digital lifestyle, travel, and the freedom that our generation is so lucky to have inspires me. These concepts play a pivotal role in each of my perfumes.
The modern world! What words do you live by?
“Just do it”; my friends and family know that I live by this. Sometimes we just have to go for it and not overthink things.
I completely agree with you! So, what’s next for 27 87?
There is a new perfume launch coming up soon. I cannot reveal all the details just yet, but it is an exciting project that came up during lockdown and that state of mind is reflected in this new scent. Stay tuned for more insight on my Instagram @27_87!