By BR Kellie
It’s funny the things you don’t know that you don’t know until someone makes you realise you don’t know them... Recently Merilyn returned to the office absolutely buzzing. When we asked what was up she told us she’d met Kati Kasza, the founder of the divine New Zealand skincare brand Evolu, and that Kati was ‘a nose’.
“A nose?” Lips were quirked. Brows were wrinkled in confusion. “You mean she has a nose? Because that’s kind of the norm…”
At that point Merilyn looked at us as if we’d had a collective bump to our heads and then very patiently explained to us that a Nose is a very rare person who can compose scents and that Kati was one of these talented folk.
So the questions flowed. When did she know she was a Nose? How did she figure it out? How does being a Nose influence the products she produces for the beautiful New Zealand beauty brand, Evolu?
There was one thing for it… we had to ask the woman herself.
Kati, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Tell us a bit about yourself... What is your background? How long have you been in the Beauty Industry?
I’m of hungarian descent – my father was a winemaker, my mother a herbalist and horticulturalist. I grew up only knowing natural – home made bread, cheese, fruit juices, herbal remedies – think organic foodstores but when there weren’t any! How lucky was I!
I wasn’t in the beauty industry when I first started out – I was a French and English teacher and then transitioned into being an international flight attendant. Great for my french, but terrible for my skin!
Since then during my time at Evolu (yikes is it really almost 20 years??!!), I’ve upskilled and become a trained facial therapist and perfumier.
How did the idea to launch Evolu come about?
Actually, it came about while I was a flight attendant. I was spending good money after bad on expensive skincare which was totally synthetic. And you guessed it…it didn’t deliver the results I was hoping for. I loved the initial feel and look of the products, but I didn’t like all the chemicals that were in the products, nor how it sat on the skin instead of soaking in with no oily after feel.
With my family background, having developed an active passion into the benefits of plants due to my herbalist mother being the president of the Auckland Herb Society at the time, along with me always having wanted to wear a ‘white coat’, the idea to make make own too shape.
So that’s what I did and it worked! You would have laughed seeing me at my kitchen sink into the wee small hours of the morning….I became totally passionate about what I was doing and creating. My colleagues at Air New Zealand were fascintated with what I was creating. They wanted more and more of my home made “Kotti’s Kreams” which led to the creation of Evolu!
What is the philosophy behind Evolu? What does it stand for?
The word Evolu comes from the word Evolution and the french word for ‘evolved”. And the Latin word ‘evolvere’ means to unroll. So when something is unrolling, unraveling, or unfurling, it is doing so gradually, not all at once.
This meaning is very relevant, as we see Evolu skincare as a long term solution to healthy skin. It’s not a quick fix, but you do notice very early on how the skin has a healthy glow about it. I love seeing this radiance eminating from the skin!!
We’re so intrigued by you being a Nose. How did you come to realise you had the ability to create beautifully scented products?
I have loved fragrance from a very early age. I’d beg my father to take me to the lab so I could inhale the fragrance of fermenting grapes! I’d respond to herbal remedies my mother would make and found I could often discern what herbs were in the remedy.
When I first started making my skincare “concoctions” I’d never be happy until the product had the right balance of fragrance to it.
When people started to react positively to the products by saying how beautiful they felt and what amazing fragrances they had, I started to realise that my gut feel was a secret ingredient in itself.
With the recent training I’ve done to become a perfumier, I found it easy to relate to the technical side of blending. We started the course with copying a fragrance that we liked. We used artificial fragrance to do this and it was easy! When we got to natural essential oil blending, it was a completely different story. Often the products can smell too earthy or too acidic – it’s not necessarily attractive!! So to create a blend of 100% natural that has some legs to it, and smell beautiful can be quite a long process. It certainly involves patience!
Does being a Nose impact the way you develop products for Evolu?
Most definitely. Evolu products are very much about the sensorial aspect AND the performance. I want every product to have their unique signature Evolu fragrance. I liken it to a blind testing – if you were blindfolded, you would be able to recognise the products not just by their feel, but also by their unique fragrance.
When I first start developing a product, the function of the product will determine the fragrance blend I will create. What will it do? Who will use it? How often? What message will it need to convey?
Then once it’s created, I’ll rework it. If there’s that niggly feeling in the back of my mind, I know it needs more work. It can be very time consuming, but I need to be 100% satisfied.
What is Evolu’s best selling product?
It would have to be our Relaxing Crème Cleanser.
What is it about this product that makes it so popular?
Well firstly, it feels and smells amazing! AND it is the most incredible facial cleansing product! When applied to the skin, its texture is silky, and when water is added, it turns deliciously creamy. A small amount goes a long way – I often show people how to use it on the back of the hand. With just a small amount the size of a 20c piece, once the water is added, it takes off! I recommend using a hot compress/face cloth to remove it. This brings the blood to the surface to activate the skin, and it removes make-up, including eye make-up. So no need for a make-up remover!
The other things about this product is that it doesn’t strip the skin. With Calendula and St John’s Wort to soothe the skin and Geranium to hydrate and soften, the skin is left gleaming and feels beautiful. Plus it’s excellent for sensitive skin.
I like how it turns what can often be a routine, into a ritual, as it’s just sooo beautiful to use.
What’s your favourite product from the Evolu range?
First up, it’s definitely the Relaxing Cream Cleanser. I can’t start or end the day without using it.
And my absolute desert island product is the Facial Serum. This oil based serum is pure liquid gold. Only a few drops is required and it soaks in quickly. It’s loaded with Vitamins A, C and E – all from botanicals – jojoba, evening primrose, rosehip and apricot kernel oils, along with rose absolute, neroli and vanilla. Oh and did I mention the fragrance?.....You’ll have to try it to believe how heavenly it is.
If you could give one piece of advice to people about how to maintain beautiful skin, what would it be?
Cleanse the skin, exfoliate, tone and hydrate. AND make sure you are protected in the sun. This can be with a product and clothing/hats and also avoid being in the sun when it’s at its hottest. I have a hot tip on this – always have a scarf in your handbag that you can wrap around your neck and decolletage if you are outside. It’s so handy if you are enjoying sitting outside at a café for example.
To many people, you would have the dream job. What is the best thing about owning and creating such a gorgeous beauty brand?
It would have to be moments we get feedback from people about how Evolu has helped them with their skin.
I recall a phone call from a customer a few years back who rang to thank us for helping her with her skin. She had severe eczema and literally didn’t want to leave her house because of how self-conscious she felt. Evolu remedied this and she felt as if she had her life back.
It was such a rewarding moment.
I also love walking into a pharmacy or department store and seeing Evolu beautifully presented on shelf. I feel as if Evolu is a person and feel very proud of her!
What advice would you give to someone reading this who would like to do what you’ve done?
Seek professional advice! It may appear costly, but it’s invaluable.
What’s been the biggest highlight of your career so far?
Gosh, there are so many! Clearly getting new business is always a buzz and having people rave about the products gives me warm fuzzies. We also love the culture we’ve created at Evolu – it gives me a kick when someone says how much they love selling Evolu!
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced?
There are lots of those too!! Running a business is always full of challenges. Funnily enough, I’m finding it hard to hink of the biggest one I’ve faced. Maybe it’s how one copes with the challenges that is really important. Tackling them head on is very important. I remember someone saying to me that if you wake up with a challenging thought, it will need addressing. I do my best to follow this and also face up to my weaknesses.
What does a normal day for you look like?
I love to start the day with a 6.30am hatha yoga class – I’ve just got back into this and feel more energised and balanced as a result.
Then it’s checking emails, social media posts and writing my list for the day before I head out the door. I like to offically start my work day at 8am.
Each day is different. It’s always peppered with meetings – this could be strategic, marketing, production, product development, or a presentation to beauty editors.
My brain doesn’t function well after 5.30pm, so that’s when it’s time to shut up shop, take the dog for a walk and get shopping done. Sometimes there’s a function to attend, so it can make for a long day.
We don’t eat out much – we prefer cooking at home. If I’m cooking it’s often fresh fish bought on the way home, with salad and brown rice. Our garden is prolific at the moment, with rocket, perpetual spinach, mustard leaves and kale. So we are fortunate enough to be able to eat these fresh.
Then it’s time to watch a bit of Netflix with a herbal tea, before heading to bed to read. Lights out at 11pm at the latest.
How do you relax?
Yoga, spending time by the sea, walking the dog, reading, cooking, spending time with my family, and drinking good red wine!
Can you give us a hint about what is next for Evolu?
We are very excited about a new product hitting the shelves mid August. It’s going to be one of those products that everyone will be able to use, anywhere, anytime. It’s likely one of those products you pop in your handbag and use whenever the need arises and it’ll smell simply yummy!! Watch this space :)
Kati, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us and answer our questions. It's so good to now be in the know as to what a 'Nose' is... and your tip for keeping the sun off our skin is wonderful, as is your refreshing attitude to facing challenges.
Want to learn more about Evolu and its beautiful products? Visit www.evolu.com.