This Month’s Featured Article

Bold Beauty

By Published On: May 28th, 2019

By Regina Molaro |

Style, color, and an entrepreneurial spirit has long been a part of Gun Nowak’s lifestyle and livelihood. In the early 1980s, she had a trio of chic fashion boutiques in Sweden. In 1982, the visionary rechanneled her creativity and founded FACE Stockholm – a cosmetics company born in Sweden. The collection includes makeup and skin care. True to Swedish roots, it’s “naturally-based,” trend-forward, and offers a fun palette of colors.

As is often the case, necessity inspired the brand’s creation. With years of fashion experience, Nowak was attuned to style and color trends, and recognized a void in the market for cosmetics available in a bold palette – one that that would correspond with the neon fashions that were prevalent at the time.

“I didn’t set out to do makeup, but I wanted so many colors and I couldn’t find them anywhere,” reveals Nowak. After lots of hard work, she unveiled her first shop in Stockholm in 1982.

The FACE Stockholm brand reflects Swedish sensibilities such as simplicity and cleanliness. It embraces a fondness of nature, design, and culture. Nearly four decades after the brand’s debut, the company remains true to its origins. The eco-conscious company uses minimal packaging and never tests on animals. Its motto: “Beauty, Wit and Grace since 1982.”

Brand building

In 1990, FACE Stockholm made its move to the US market. The seeds were planted when Nowak was in New York City visiting her daughter Martina Arfwidson. As Nowak and Arfwidson strolled around the city, they discovered an empty storefront and both agreed that it would be an ideal location for the brand.

Nowak recruited Arfwidson to assist her with managing the brand. Sharing a passion for color and design, and a playful sense of humor, the duo fostered a partnership and carved a niche in the industry.

Their shared values and Swedish ideologies are reflected in all aspects of the brand. This is evident in the airy, eclectic boutiques, the quality ingredients and products, and in the attentive service.

The collection spans several key categories – from skincare to body care, cosmetic bags, beauty tools, and vibrant nail polish hues. Renowned for its cool hues, FACE Stockholm lures a wide range of customers including women and men. Fans flaunt an extensive range of looks from the classic reds associated with the Golden Age of Hollywood to the New Age blue lipsticks donned by expressive beauty buffs from Generation Z.

Best-selling items include the extensive collection of lipsticks, as well as the Perfect Primer foundation prep, Cream Blushes, and Precision Eyeliner, which enables users to create precision looks with the ease of a pen.

Some of Nowak’s faves include Desire – a bold red lipstick and the Impressionist collection of pearl shadows from the Legacy Palette. For Arfwidson, it’s the G. Garbo lipstick and Mineral Powder Foundation.

Both art enthusiasts, Nowak and Arfwidson believe makeup is an integral part of the art industry. A variety of art movements have inspired their palettes. The Fall/Winter 2018 eye shadow palette drew inspiration from the Realist, Renaissance, Baroque, Impressionist, and Arts & Crafts movements.

Sustainability also drives decisions. FACE Stockholm teamed up with Swedish paperboard company Iggesund. Its paper, which is used in the packaging, is sourced from sustainably managed forests in Sweden.

Through FACE Stockholm’s Local Makeup Academy, it’s experts teach makeup application to new generations of artists and innovators. “Applying makeup to a woman’s face is such an intimate experience,” admits Arfwidson. “It’s a beautiful interaction. I think it’s the essence of what FACE Stockholm is about – making women feel good about themselves. That is the part of our work that we both love.”

Currently available worldwide, FACE Stockholm has six shops in Sweden and is available in various salons and stores worldwide, including select Anthropologie shops in the US. The items can be purchased via FACE Stockholm’s website; a small collection is offered through Amazon.

Country digs

Thousands of miles away from the mountains and lakes of Sweden, the Hudson Valley is home to two FACE Stockholm shops – one in the charming town of Rhinebeck and the other in the chic enclave of Hudson.

Many may speculate how the brand came to settle in the region. The brand’s foray into the Hudson Valley occurred in 1995 when Arfwidson purchased a weekend home in the area. Although her intention was to keep New York City as her primary residence, she ended up spending more time enjoying her country quarters. In 1998, she decided to make the leap and designated the Hudson Valley her permanent home. At the time, she and Nowak also decided to relocate the company’s operations from the New York City area to the country.

Nowak and Arfwidson recognized Hudson’s potential as a buzzing retail destination and purchased the charming building on Warren Street – the one that now houses the FACE Stockholm flagship store.

“Nowak has such a strong passion for interior design and eclectic furniture, so coming up to Hudson with its wealth of antiques, was a great experience for her,” says Ebba Long, head of communication, FACE Stockholm. Soon after, they set their sights on Rhinebeck and unveiled another locale.

The inviting Rhinebeck shop is intimate, airy, and filled with the brand’s beauty items, but the Hudson locale often switches things up and brings in small collections that extend beyond beauty and are marketed under other labels.
“Sometimes we have different pop-up brands in our Hudson store, which makes that location more of a concept shop,” reveals Long. Local pop-ups debut enticing candles and niche fragrances from local designers. Nowak and Arfwidson also sell vintage clothing and jewelry from their worldwide travels.

When initially conceptualizing for the brand, Nowak envisioned a concept shop that would enable every type of customer to feel attended to. “She deliberately puts more mature seasoned salespeople and younger new sales advisers in each store to ensure comfortability and accessibility regardless of the background or age of the customer,” says Arfwidson.

Supporting local talent is another area of interest. The Fall/Winter 2018 advertising campaign featured model Lilianna Ruger – a former resident of Rhinebeck. “We fell in love with her look and did four styles with her. It was an instant success,” says Long.
Lilianna Ruger says, “I approached the brand because I’d grown up walking past the store, and when I started modeling, I knew I’d be a good fit because of my unique look. It was amazing to start off my career by seeing my face in the window of such an impressive company. Friends in Stockholm sent pictures of the advertisements displayed in their stores. It was a dream come true. Everyone at FACE Stockholm loves what they’re doing and puts so much time and creativity into every look.”

Others looking to be scouted out should be aware that FACE Stockholm occasionally holds casting calls in the Hudson location.
Still owned and operated by Nowak and Arfwidson, FACE Stockholm is a thriving brand that continues to be managed as a family business. “We’re a small team. Our employees are tightly knit together. Gun and Martina have such a lovely relationship and it’s special to know that we’re a part of their family – their extended FACE Stockholm family,” concludes Long.