I don’t think I ever fully understood the Danish concept of “hygge” until I walked into the Kjaer Weis offices in the Financial District. It’s a strange place to feel this idea dedicated to all things cozy and comfortable, surrounded by the concrete buildings and suited bankers that are perhaps its antithesis. But in a slim building on Maiden Lane, the organic beauty brand has managed to create a snuggly yet stylish atmosphere in its workspace. Soft gray walls are accented with a stack of magazines and a velvet blush pink sofa dotted with plush pillows. The brand’s founder, Kirsten Kjaer Weis, is herself Danish, so I don’t know why I would expect anything less. “Hygge” is associated with relaxation, gratitude, and an appreciation of simple pleasures. It’s a fitting style choice for a beauty brand using only natural ingredients: no artificiality needed here.
When Weis herself enters, her skin glows with an inner warmth that shimmers on her cheeks, her wheat-colored blonde hair run through with dark roots hanging in curls around her face. She wears velvet-esque wide-legged pants, an oversized sweater, white sneakers. Her voice is the sound of steam gently rising from a cup of hot tea on a cold day, smooth and warm and flecked with an accent from her native Denmark.
A makeup artist for over two decades, Weis launched her own collection in 2010 after seeing a regular demand for natural skincare from runway models and celebrities she worked with at magazines like Vogue, ELLE, and Marie Claire. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to have an organic beauty line that also appealed to a luxury sensibility? “Back in the day when I was out on jobs all the time, the first thing the models would always say was, ‘Get me a makeup remover, get this off,’” Weis says. Not to mention the irritation their faces would show after being covered in chemical-laden cosmetics on and off all day. “By the time I started bringing my own stuff, [they were] like, ‘No, I’ll just keep it [on]’ because it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing anything.” Once people saw that her organic collection performed on par, if not in some cases better, than other cosmetics, the switch to organic makeup became easier for them.
The Kjaer Weis brand was in development for seven years, with Weis constantly working to make sure the products were both high performing, curated, and certified organic. A luxury organic mascara couldn’t smudge, a luxury organic foundation couldn’t budge, as many of its previous organic counterparts had. “It was always this perception that if you wanted to go green, you had to sacrifice definitely on luxury but also on performance,” Weis says. But she didn’t think it had to be that way. “There was an open space almost for a new category where you really didn’t compromise on the ingredients list but definitely [had] the performance and also the luxury.”
So Kjaer Weis was born. There are currently full face, cheek, eye, lip, and tool collections, but the brand also recently launched its first skincare product, The Beautiful Oil, a facial oil infused with dioscorea batatas, or Chinese yam, to soothe thirsty skin; its first unisex product, a lip balm; and its first palettes. Lip glosses launch this month and will be followed by body oil, makeup remover and cleanser, and creamy eyeshadows, with new colors in existing products as well. The Kjaer Weis collection is currently sold at Barneys, Net-a-Porter, Violet Grey, and more independent retailers throughout the country.
Weis’s signature less-is-more aesthetic is alive in the collection. “It’s really taking that super heavy layer of foundation off and allowing the skin to be seen while you’re still covered,” she says. “A lot of times when I think about ‘less is more,’ it’s really on the skin.” Even though the collection is definitely makeup, because of its natural products that can also heal skin, Weis sees it functioning as skincare, too.
The collection also has a curated selection of colors, all with a makeup artist’s stamp of approval. If you’re a person who doesn’t work in makeup, Weis says, and you stumble upon a brand that has 10 brown eyeshadows, you might wonder where you should even begin. But with Weis’s selection, assembled with her knowledge of myriad skin tones based on years in the industry, you’ll have all the colors she believes you’ll need. There are currently only 13 eyeshadows, and the company just recently launched its second brown. “I’m more into colors that are beautifying as opposed to editorial,” Weis says, though the colors in the brand also come from what natural pigments are possible. In that way, the brand exemplifies both Weis’s aesthetic and the company’s dedication to organics.
Weis’s own aesthetic is influenced by her background in architecture, a field she thought she would take up before enrolling in the famed Christian Chaveau School of Artistic Makeup in Paris, the Ivy League of makeup schools. She is especially drawn to midcentury architecture with its clean, simple lines, as well as old Parisian architecture with its ornate balconies. Her interest in clean design is visible in her packaging and logo as well. And while simplicity is often at the heart of Weis’s aesthetic, she is also influenced by the color and texture that appears in the work of painters like Matisse and Picasso and filmmakers like John Cassavetes and Ingmar Bergman, not to mention the lushness of the flower district in New York.
And the brand is environmentally friendly down to its packaging, dreamed up by designer Marc Atlan who also developed packaging for Comme des Garçons, Dior, and Helmut Lang. Each metal container is an exercise in both luxury and sustainability, meant to be kept and stocked with refills whose packaging is made of recycled materials.
Even using a Kjaer Weis product is an experience. Its foundation compact flicks open like a Zippo lighter but with more gravitas, its ingredients reading like a mystical, natural witchcraft spell that includes sweet almond seed oil, coconut oil, jojoba seed oil, sunflower seed oil, and more. There’s something about using it that makes you feel like you’re doing something important and good for yourself, your skin, your soul. Another simple pleasure. “Luxury, design, all of these things, I feel they matter,” Weis says. “They have an importance in our lives in everything that’s around us.”
Purchase Kjaer Weis products here.