Projects at Poepke: Leif

August 29th, 2012


Leif is a highly evolved range of skincare products. Drawing literally and conceptually on our unique Australian native environment, the range is cleanly formulated and bio-active, and centres around daily basics.

We interviewed Jonnie Vigar, one of Leif’s creators, about the range that will be our next Project at Poepke.


Leif has grown out of your Sydney-based design studio, Container. Could you tell us a little bit about who you are? What has Container’s previous experience with beauty products been?

Over the past decade as Container, we’ve designed custom packaging for local beauty brands. The studio was formed when Brenan (product design) and I (graphic design) worked together on a haircare range that local session stylist Kevin Murphy was developing. A few years ago, we opened a production office in Shanghai so now we manufacture everything that we design.

For some clients we provide custom packaging but for others, like KM, Korner Skincare and Original & Mineral, we deliver both the package and the brand identity. Our work to date has been more haircare than skin because the types of packaging that skincare demands (such as jars) tend to demand a higher investment in terms of tooling, which can get expensive.

The Leif range began a little unusually – with a bottle before its contents. What was the process that has resulted in these products.

Generally we design the package once the formulation has been confirmed but often both the product and the package are developed at the same time. Leif initially began as a simple design study of a single package for no client in particular. For many years, a model of the fine necked bottle sat on a shelf in our studio and visitors always seemed to be drawn to it. The task for any cosmetic package is that it attracts someone’s eye, hopefully leading them to testing the product within, so the interest that the bottle generated gave us confidence to develop a family of packages based on the original and think about what sort of formula might fill them.


Very early on, Wallpaper* magazine singled out one of your products as the ‘Best New Grooming Product’ in their annual Design Awards. What was that like?

It was amazing but a little too early! Late in 2010, soon after finalising the formulations, we sent a couple of pre-production samples over to Wallpaper. The beauty department decided to enter them into their Design Awards for 2011 and by January Leif had been shortlisted. At that stage, we hadn’t yet run production of the packaging and Lief finally went on sale a week before Christmas, so we just managed to launch in the same year as receiving the award.

Leif is distinctly Australian, particularly in its ingredients. What kinds of extracts and essential oils can we expect to find in the range?

For us, the formulations were the final part of the package but we knew they had to deliver. The brief was that they be naturally derived, ‘clean’ (avoiding ingredients that have specific health concerns) and that Australian natives be central to all. We imagined that Leif would be of particular interest overseas, as our native ingredients seem exotic, but it has also been really well received locally. In cosmetics, we often look elsewhere for innovation but for naturals, Australia has some of the most potent plants on the planet – particularly in terms of anti-oxidant properties. Kakadu plum, lillypilly and desert lime all feature within the range, as does Eucalyptus (in the hand wash for its anti-bacterial qualities). Rather than being an overpowering smell, the blend of essential oils delivers something more subtle.

It’s been a steep learning curve and committing to natural formulations throws up its own challenges. Global brands use synthetics so that production runs are consistent (and cheap) but, by their nature, natural, raw ingredients vary due to the season and the supplier. Knowing that the fragrance of each Leif product comes only from the natural extracts and oils that they contain is the payback.


The Leif Project begins on Wednesday 12 September. If you’d like to stay in the loop with Projects at Poepke and our other events, please email us at

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