With the natural cosmetics brand “shiro” from Sunagawa, you do not have to wear make-up anymore
Gagome kelp, sake lees, Rawanbuki, red beans, ginger… those food sound very healthy. Did you know that there are skin lotion and moisturizer made from these ingredients? The skin care line is made by the cosmetics company LAUREL Co.,Ltd. from Sunagawa in Hokkaido. They changed the brand name from “LAUREL” to “shiro” last year and have 20 stores throughout Japan. In addition, they are going to open the first London branch in early summer this year.
The beginning was Gagome kelpLAUREL, who had been producing other company’s household goods such as bath bubble or bath powders, established their own brand and opened the first company store at Sapporo Stellar Place in 2009. At the beginning, they mainly sold body care lines such as soap and bath salts. They started to handle skin care lines from 2011. They produced skin lotion, bath facial pack, and soap made from Gagome kelp.
“We had thoughts to make the maximum use of natural ingredients, and use its component fully to the products from the beginning. We went abroad to seek for natural ingredients such as laurel and shea butter. However, we discovered that there are lots of “excellent natural ingredients” in Hokkaido. Gagome kelp from Hakodate made us realize that”. Akiko Mochizuki who works at Sunagawa headquarters told us.
▲Gagome kelp from Hakodate, sake lees from Kobayashi Brewing from Kuriyama-cho, and gingers which were taken extra care by the farmers from Kochi. Hokkaido of course but also excellent food from all over Japan used fully for skin lotions and moisturizers.
Ingredients existed within arm’s reachThe characteristics of Gagome kelp is its strong stickiness and thickness. “When we actually cut the kelp and soaked into the water, it became amazingly thicken. We came up with the idea to use Gagome kelp as an ingredient to our cosmetic line. So we started experiments to make the product”, says Ms. Mochizuki. The seaweed expert professor Yasui from Faculty of Fisheries in Hokkaido University had been already revealed Gagome kelp’s affect on health and beauty, which backed up LAUREL’s experiments to produce original skin lines to use the thickness of Gagome kelp.
After that, they produced skin care products with simple recipes using delicious ingredients from Hokkaido one after another; sake lees from Kobayashi Brewing from Kuriyama-cho, Rawanbuki from Ashoro-cho, rhubarb from Memuro-cho, Hamanasu from Okoppe-cho, and red bean from Tokachi. “Delicious ingredients contain love of the producers. When I see them actually, I can feel that they are producing products with honesty. I strongly felt that I should put those thoughts of producers to something customers can touch and feel”.
▲The 4 basic skin care items to moisturize skin. From the left, sake lees skin lotion, Gagome kelp moisturizer, sake lees face cream, Gagome kelp eye cream. Especially the skin lotion and the moisturizer have lots of repeat customers.
Staffs’ skin became healthy enough to walk without wearing makeups.The reviews from customers are splendid, such as; “skin color became brighter”, “skin troubles between seasons are solved”. The number of repeater customers is pretty much. I heard that female staff working at LAUREL become to wear less and less make-up. “My skin became healthier than before and I do not need to hide with make-up anymore. I wear full make-up only when there is a wedding party or something”, says Ms. Mochizuki. Also, “staffs of Sunagawa headquarters including me can remove make-up anytime, so we can try prototypes from the lab instantly. I tried so many facial packs contain so much cosmetic components, so to tell the truth, I have no idea which one particularly worked for me.”
From “LAUREL” to “shiro”, and From Sunagawa to abroadTheir search for ingredients had spread to all over Japan, such as gingers from Kochi Prefecture, ice plant from Saga Prefecture, or sesame from Kagoshima Prefecture. In 2014, which was their original brand’s 5th anniversary year, the number of their stores has doubled from 8 to 16. Then, they changed the brand name from “LAUREL” to “shiro” in October last year, to proceed their brand to next stage. Changing their precious brand name…. The reason was their store roll-out plan to outside Japan. To challenge their brand power in Europe, where herb skin care has developed fully, they changed the brand name to something available for the trademark registration outside of Japan, which was “shiro”.
Will Japanese ingredients such as Gagome kelp and sake lees be accepted to people in Europe? Let’s keep a close watch on their London branch, which will be opening soon.
▲The scenery of Sunagawa, the starting point of “shiro”. Their products are still produced in this town.
There is a cozy cafe in Sunagawa flagship storeThe number of stores increased, Tokyo office has opened, and they changed the brand name. The change of situations in LAUREL made local people in Sunagawa, who has been watching the change and development of LAUREL, feeling restless. They got to hear local peoples’ voices saying “is LAUREL going away from Sunagawa?”. “We could not develop without the support of local people… we wanted to show that we are sticking to Sunagawa, by renovating the Sunagawa flagship store”. As if Ms. Mochizuki’s words are proved, the experiment lab which is the center of production and the factories are staying in Sunagawa. Sunagawa flagship store reopened in October last year. The store is with full of love to locals. The large white building with triangular roof catches people’s attention, with the strong contrast to blue sky.
▲“shiro” Sunagawa flagship store by Japan National Route 12. Of 20 stores from Hokkaido to Kyushu, this is the only store with a cafe.
The store uses old warehouse’s joist and has cafe built together on the first floor, where you can enjoy original menus such as pancake and pasta. The skin care ingredients are used for cafe menus, too; ginger ale with ginger syrup or rhubarb jam on the side of pancakes. You will feel that those ingredients are not only good for your skin but also “delicious to eat” as well.
The second floor, connected openly with a stairwell, is a shop that all the items from “shiro” can be purchased, from skin care lines to fragrance. This shop also sells food products used for skin care lines, such as jam, syrup, or raw ginger with soil.
The comfortable place where you can enjoy shopping, lunch, and tea. Lots of people visit here from Sapporo and Asahikawa on weekends. By the way, if you want to spend some calm and quiet time here, better to visit at weekdays afternoon.
▲Sunagawa flagship store reuses old materials of former glass warehouse. The thick joist on the ceiling is amazing. The first floor is a cafe space, the original menu is very popular. The second floor is a shop with all items from “shiro” and “shiro LIFE”, skin care lines to food products.
Fun workshops are available and “shiro” is preparing the new products made from new Hokkaido ingredientsIn Sunagawa flagship store, they run workshops which guests can participate to make skin care items and food menu by their hands. The schedule after April will be posted on “shiro” website so if you are interested, check it out. Also, new products and limited products are going to be available one after another! Such as toners made from rhubarb and Hamanasu, or fabric mists and hair oils with gardenia scent, and new skin care items made from oats produced in Hokkaido.
Snow in Hokkaido has melted finally and here comes the season that is fun to go out. Why don’t you visit “shiro” Sunagawa flagship store on the next holiday?
▲The various lineup of “shiro” products, hair care products are added.
Hokkaido Likers Writer Tamaki Mifune
Photograph by / shiro