duross & langel: A Conversation About Natural Skincare, Sustainability and Micro-Business
words by Dhivyaa Chelvan
Set foot into duross & langel on the 13th street in Philadelphia, and you’ll feel as though you have stepped into your neighborhood soap shop where you connected and built a community around. The friendly vibe and the warm welcoming scent will bring you a homey feel. You’ll find Steve or Sarah around, happy to answer your questions, put together a special gift for your loved ones, or just proudly share their passion with you.
As a brand that is driven by the need to create clean skincare products for themselves, the duross & langel experience is highly curated. Steve co-founded the business in 2004 and had a simple dream to create a natural skin care line that contained all the things he loved most. Sarah became a partner when she walked into the store one day and had a conversation with Steve (and the rest is history!). The brand has become a canvas where Steve and Sarah can express their personal style, so the collection has evolved and morphed over the years as they have matured. From the hand-cut soap bars to the anti-aging line, there is a rich story behind every product and evoke a sense of artistic luxury and simplicity.
Steve and Sarah both have drastically different skill-sets. Steve is a maker and builds up recipes. Sarah, on the other hand connects with people- she’d rather be on the store floor and listen to clients and build relationship.
"Depending on comfort level, people talk about their personal skincare. Most of the times it is not about selling our products, but just giving sound advice on the way they eat, drink or their everyday skincare routine. It’s really about the experience people can have here and we want to create a space for them to come in and talk to us"
-Steve and Sarah
Have natural skincare products always been a part of your life?
Steve: I was always interested in products as a child (wouldn’t say natural, although they probably were). My mom used to have the Yardley of London … I have used it, I have used shampoo, I got into the hype of everything- I didn’t know how organic or natural it was, but I liked it. It wasn’t until I was older, when I was introduced to Kiehl’s (back before they became part of Loreal)- their ingredients were different, and with their age-old family recipes, the way they ran the company was different. I looked up to them and realized that’s where I want to go. It was a great way for me to be introduced to premium skincare.
Sarah: Definitely something I always had an interest as a little girl, and as I got older I kind of fell into it.
Do you think of a product you would like to make and then choose key ingredients, or do you find an ingredient you love and create the product to suit it?
(Both): It is a free flow. There are times when the trends like Matcha green tea or activated charcoal that people ask for, pushes us in certain direction. What matters is the efficacy of the products- if the benefits outweigh trends, they become incorporated into who we are (like the sulfate-free technology).
What was the biggest challenge you encountered as you brought your business idea to reality?
Steve: Money. We are the kind of business that offer something for everyone. As a micro business, and in order for us to sustain and maintain what we believe in, balance is important and extremely challenging- we need to value and pay people who are talented and for what they are worth. At the end of the day, Sarah and I have to ask ourselves, if this is all we ever get, is it worth it? - and so far, so good.
Maybe a tough one, but what is your favorite duross & langel product?
Steve: Retinol Cream. I started using this all over my body because you hit a certain point in 50's (especially for someone like me who spends a lot of time outdoors and start to see the signs of ageing) I would say my face and body looks 10 years younger. It deeply moisturizes, rejuvenate the skin and gives a lift. I get excited about this because it makes me feel more confident, feel younger and I feel good.
Sarah: Ah, that’s a really hard question! This time of the year, probably the Hair mask. My hair can be quite unruly as you can tell, and the mask really helps to tame it a little bit.
What kind of impact do you hope to make for a better tomorrow?
(Both): We feel that the level of integrity around sustainability and better environment is low today, and very few people are actually making a difference- and we treasure those people. So, every day we are striving to make the decision that our clients make easier, because of the decision we make (like sulfate-free technology, cleaner ingredients, and recycled packaging). Our employees are also passionate about making sure that imprints are low. If we had the resources and voice, we can create a better life for everyone and the environment through better information. At duross & langel, we preach our clients to consumes less. If you use less and buy less, but you use good stuff and use less, the world will be a better place.
What advice do you have for micro-businesses?
Steve: Don’t risk everything you have. If this is all you are ever going to get, what you are doing is all ever going to happen with your business, then that’s all you ever got. That’s why we do what we do and love what we do.