Natural skincare warrior takes on Japan

Last updated 05:00 14/07/2012

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Kareen Holland's skincare products from Tawa have pampered the skin of warrior princesses and demi-gods and are now available in Tokyo.

Holland conceived of her natural skincare product company Earth 174 while working as a makeup artist in the film industry on television shows such as The Strip, Hercules and Xena.

"I used to work with Lucy Lawless [on Xena] and if you remember her costume there was lots of body exposure and every part of the skin would be totally made up with colour and thick foundation," Holland said.

"About 40 per cent of what you put on your skin goes into your body so it's quite important for those actors to have natural skin care. That's why I developed it."

Earth 174, named for New Zealand's location on the map in longitude, began commercially with five products including a lip balm and soothing balm for conditions such as eczema and nappy rash being stocked in health stores.

Products are made from all-natural ingredients such as almond oil and lemongrass sourced from New Zealand suppliers.

Signing a distribution deal with Japanese online retail giant Mariri, Earth 174 is in the process of having its products rigorously tested by Japanese authorities. Several have already been approved.

`One good thing about going through Japan is that because their regulations are so tough, once we've done that we can go anywhere," Holland said.

After a stint living in Australia where Holland started developing the products in earnest, on her return home she had help from economic agency Grow Wellington to develop the business.

She began by selling at markets, then at her Victoria St store in Wellington's CBD that opened in early 2010, online and now also a Tawa shop opened in December. She branched out into mineral makeup about 18 months ago.

Markets still make up a big part of the business with around 30 per cent of sales coming from Frank Kitts and Chaffers Marina markets, although dependent on the weather and tourist volumes. Last year when the World of WearableArt show was on, its market sales quadrupled.

Holland hopes to open a store in Auckland, then a retail site in Sydney within the next two years, having had investment from a business partner she met networking in Wellington.

"Everybody is very helpful, even compared to Australia people are a lot more willing to help and give their advice. That's the fantastic thing about Wellington."

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