Marion O'Leary is shaking up the skincare world right here in Fremantle. She's the brains behind Mokosh, a brand that makes skincare products from 100% certified organic plants. No extra stuff like emulsifiers, preservatives, or synthetic ingredients that you usually find in skincare products.
I love talking to people who start businesses to make a positive impact, change how we think, and move things forward. Running a small business isn't always easy, especially when you don't have the resources of big companies. But it does offer a chance to be flexible, adapt fast, and challenge the usual ways of doing things.
Hi Marion! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got to be doing what you’re doing.
About 100 years ago I graduated from veterinary school and worked as a vet in Australia and then the UK. I then moved into science research, getting my PhD in Cambridge and doing post-grad work in Oxford, before moving back to Oz when my children were little.
The kids were not so happy with me continuing the scientific life so I looked for something to do from home so I could hang out with them more. That’s when I started tinkering with making soap and skin care. I soon discovered that skin care was made with a lot of ingredients that I considered concerning - some that are absorbed through the skin with potentially harmful effects on the body, and others that can upset skin health.
I read a lot of scientific literature about what our skin needs, as well as the Ayurvedic approach to health. The result was Mokosh - a skin care range made using only organic botanical ingredients, completely free of synthetics, and without the toxins and skin disruptors. It’s pretty amazing stuff.
Are there any projects at Mokosh that you're particularly excited about?
Last year we were chosen to be included in an album commemorating 20 years of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood. We are one of the lucky few brands selected to showcase the ‘best in class’ of sustainable luxury. We’ve just returned from London for the launch!
Any hints about what we can expect to see in the future?
A new product is a rare event for us because we deliberately keep the range minimal and streamlined. Any new product has to serve a unique purpose. So for now, we’re working on making improvements to what we already have rather than introducing something new. That might be tweaking a formula to improve nutrient value, or switching to a container that is more readily recycled.
What are some challenges you've encountered while building Mokosh, and how did you overcome them?
Our biggest challenge has been to help people understand what’s special about our way of making skin care - without the preservatives, emulsifiers and other synthetic ingredients that everyone is used to.
In short, the reason we can leave out all those synthetic ingredients is because we don’t include water. But getting people to understand why we should remove water from the equation can be tricky… in most facets of our lives water is a good thing. But it serves no benefit in skin care: it creates an environment for bugs to grow (thus why preservatives are needed), dilutes the beneficial ingredients, requires the addition of an emulsifier, and evaporates moments after application.
Because of our process, our formulas are undiluted and highly concentrated, can be used sparingly, last around 5 times longer, and are far more potent than other skin care.
What is a simple pleasure or daily ritual that brings you joy?
I love having an early morning coffee with my partner Phil, every day. We’re early risers and love watching the light gradually appear and light up the garden. It’s our time to talk and sort out each other’s problems as well as feel gratitude for where we’re at right now.
What's on the menu when you invite friends for dinner?
That’s when I run to the Ottolenghi cook books and select something that includes in-season veggies, preferably with contributions from our veggie garden. As a long-term vegetarian and more recently vegan, I’m conscious that meat-eating friends must not be disappointed. I love Ottolenghi’s strong, clean flavours and his clever ways with vegetables. My latest favourite is the greens and chermoula potato pie served with lime and poppy seed slaw with curry leaf oil.
Have you got a fave song we can add to our Sunday afternoon playlist?
Currently I have ‘Pull Up’ by Gabzy on endless loop.
What’s your favourite Winterwares product and why do you love it?
Name three things you can’t live without.
Family, friends and free time.