If you’re anything like me, using your partner’s moisturizer is something you do regularly, with more glee than guilt. Covert skincare scrounging goes on in bathrooms across Switzerland, and beyond. It was the realization that this was led Julien Halnaut and Jan-Torben Girault to start Qaveman.
Halnaut and Girault met at ETH in Zurich, studying engineering. Discussing how Halnaut would borrow his girlfriend’s products, they came to the conclusion that there were few natural, local skincare options for men in Switzerland.
Men, they realized, did not talk about skincare.
To prove this hypothesis, they conducted a survey. They discovered that while 60% of men used skincare products regularly, they didn’t think their friends did. The pair did the math and realized that men simply weren’t proud enough of their skin care regimes to talk about it with their friends.
So, they set about creating a brand that men could be proud of. That meant a quality product and a quality brand. Girault used his experience working at Red Bull to lead on creating the branding, and hit upon Qaveman.
“It’s a good concept because it means we can play with the idea of the ‘evolution of man’: how from a taboo subject, using skincare products became a mainstream, normal thing for men.”
The pair launched the brand in 2017, alongside their existing engineering jobs. They focused on selling online, but also quickly secured distribution through Manor department stores, who were trying to focus on more Swiss products.
The Swissness is an important aspect of the production, says Girault. “To be able to talk about something you have to be proud of it. We had to have the same basis to build a brand upon. And that meant local production, and natural ingredients.”
Girault found the process of setting up a business in Switzerland fairly pain free: “You can start easily without administrative hassle. In France there are a lot of papers to fill out, but in Switzerland it was pretty simple. And then you can build up the business quickly.”
As to the barriers in Switzerland, they’re ones many of us can identify with. “Language and cultural differences are a challenge. I would recommend having employees from each of the different language regions.” This approach has led to Qaveman’s success across Switzerland's French, German and Italian speaking regions.
In 2020, Qaveman have released a face cream
featuring sun-blocking SPF.
Bringing it to market has been a long process; the idea for this product was originally touted in 2018. “Our main focus is to understand what customers want in Switzerland.” says Girault. “To create the platform and product that match our clientele’s expectation.”
But what do those customers want? “A Swiss German will go for quality, but maybe keep it to himself. In the French part, we see people are proud brand lovers, or people who are dismissive of skincare. It’s more polarized.”
For the purpose of my research, I hydrate my skin with Qaveman’s face cream moisturizer. I also use their shaving cream and the after shave, before finally applying the Stone Age Beard Oil.
After two months in lockdown, this makes me feel like a new man.
The Coronavirus crisis has seen an increase in online sales, as people are unable to buy their products in shops. “We’ve been proud of our community,” explains Girault, pointing out that mailing times have been slowed by the virus. But customers have been “reactive and understanding.”
The final product to test is the Hangover face mask. So, I bid goodbye to Girault and settle down on my balcony with a bottle of wine.
All in the name of research, of course.