Hibernicis (‘hi-ber-ni-kis’) are a boutique Irish brand from Catherine Logue, formulating ritualistic products using seaweed from surrounding Atlantic coasts. Based on the Irish tradition of coastal bathing for holistic health, the brand honours a rich cultural and linguistic heritage. Travel across Ireland and you will come across pillars of stone with lines etched along their edges – each row of notches is part of an ancient system of runes known as Ogham. Hibernicis’ products offer an ode to this Celtic characteristic, and each one is also given a Gaelic name complete with its translation and approximate pronunciation.
An Irish Identity
Could you tell us a little more about your background and how you came to be interested in mind-body wellbeing?
With a great love of form and function, I studied to be a ceramicist. I soon realised that it took a great deal of talent, commitment and sacrifice to pursue this dream and pragmatically decided it was not for me.
Before I knew it, my retail job from my student years morphed into cosmetics supervisor role in a department store and I knew straight away I was in a dynamic, creative and exciting industry. At 25 I became a cosmetic buyer in Australia, then Asia. Fast forward, I worked with Sylvie Chantecaille setting up her company Chantecaille, specifically developing Asia and Europe markets.
After 14 years I was exhausted and needed to reset and find a way back to my dream of developing a natural bath and body range with essential oils – using my design background, commercial experience and love for all things naturally fragrant. All throughout my life in the beauty industry, even as far back as in the 80s, I’ve always been attracted to products containing natural ingredients and fragrance. So my journey with Hibernicis started in 2015.
The brand is inspired by the wild and untouched Connemara on the West Coast of Ireland, how did you come to be so fully immersed in such a unique ecosystem?
It truly was primeval. I was travelling up the Old Bog road with my Irish husband and the beauty, vastness and rawness literally hit me in a profound way. I knew right then that this would be the basis of my then un-named brand creation.
Tell us a little more about the Ogham script and Gaelic name that each product bears.
The inclusion of Latin, Ogham and Gaelic is a nod towards the layers of language that are part of Irish history. Hibernicis in Latin simply means ‘from Ireland’.
I had been reading books that touched on Ogham and I found it intriguing. Not only was this script engraved on standing stones, it was also engraved on sticks, stakes and trees. Being a visual person I found this very inspiring. Of course, Ogham has only survived inscribed in stone from about the 4th to the 6th century AD.
I decided to translate Hibernicis into Ogham and it appears on the front of each product. Hibernicis when expressed vertically is written from the bottom up. The ‘H’ symbol is then reflected throughout as an iconic symbol.
Each product has a Gaelic name that reflects its function. For Example ‘Glan’ means clean: appropriate for our Bath and Shower Gel, ‘Athlíon’ means Abundance: wonderful for a nourishing Body Lotion. The whimsical name of our Hand Cream is ‘Cara’ meaning friend, and it’s also an Irish girls name.
As the Gaelic accent is as varying in its expression as Irish English, we have given a broad guideline as to its pronunciation. All in the hope that people worldwide can have a sliver of an insight into the broad beauty of Irish culture and language.
Tell us a little more about the ethos behind Hibernicis
I wanted a brand that paid homage to Ireland, its allure, complexity, its many layers of history and its abundance of natural beauty. Behind the brand, several key pillars form the foundation.
It must be as natural as possible, effective, have sublime texture and skin-feel, be practical, suitable for all skin types, ages, tones and for all genders. It must be inclusive in its communication but also inspirational.
Fragrance must be 100% natural and I personally blend them myself and match the fragrance with the intent of each product . For Example Úr Exfoliating Gel (‘New’ in Irish), is blended with Spearmint and Peppermint echoing the active nature of applying an exfoliating gel.
What are your some of your favourite products from the range right now, and what’s yet to come?
I have launched with 5 products – they are all unique in their own way and where possible I have tried to put a twist on each one.
I would say the most accessible product for anyone to try for the first time would be my Hand Cream, Cara. It has just the right balance of moisture and comfort without being sticky and has the most divine herbaceous fragrance.
Síoda Body Serum (‘Silk’ in Irish), is designed to be layered under a body lotion when needed, or in warm humid weather can be worn alone. With its absorbent nature, the intent is for you to be able to slip on a silk shirt just one minute after application.
What are your top holistic skincare tips or myth busters?
Surprisingly, it is always best to apply product on damp skin.
Whilst moisturising or exfoliating, take the opportunity to stretch and move – we simply do not take time out to appreciate this enough. And start with the hard bits, like your back.
Building A Brand
How was the business fundraising process for you?
This is a personal endeavour and like all small businesses its important to keep tabs and control on spending. Creativity across product and brand development, communication and business is vital. This process is ongoing!
What unforeseen challenges and opportunities have arisen?
Manufacturing. With the of best intentions Hibernicis was developed in Ireland and was to be manufactured in Ireland but many years of development conditions outside of my control thwarted this, so I turned to the UK for the final manufacturing. Further products are under development which will be manufactured in Ireland.
Covid – ahh yes covid! It choked supply chains, compromised workforces and dramatically slowed down the manufacturing of Hibernicis. Thankfully the primary packaging was produced pre-covid.
Shipping costs have gone through the roof and that all adds to the cost of production. Sea freight used to be the cost effective alternative to Air freight, so long as you planned ahead. Sea freight costs have sky rocketed and delivery times can be challenging to say the least.
Brexit has delivered its fair share of problems from a bureaucratic perspective which of course adds to costs.
Global warming and Covid have created a shift in attitudes and policies throughout the world. With this comes some promising opportunities.
Packaging policy is changing which means the availability of PCR (post-consumer resin) is available in workable volumes for tubes and bottles. This was not the case when I started developing my packaging. As a result of this, my focus on plastic has been how we can use our tubes and bottles in a second life before recycling. This is being explored on our social media sites and should apply to all plastic we use in our life. All future packaging will contain a high PCR content.
When I started some 7 years ago my plan was to launch online and organically grow from there. Covid has fast tracked this, with the world changing dramatically in its online purchasing habits.
People are working differently. In a small growing business this is a fantastic opportunity. We can grow the business organically and with flexibility. Older people with a wealth of knowledge are considering extending their work life which can create a richer mix of energy as well.
How does running your own brand compare to your background in the cosmetics industry working for other international clients?
I started my working life in more of a corporate set up within a very large department store and stayed there for many years, I learned a lot from that experience and of course it gave me a very good insight into global department stores in years to come.
In 1997 I moved to a smaller but very chic retail group in Hong Kong and Asia and started a new beauty format in retail and buying. Once trust was given, the ability to forge new ground and make decisions to see positive returns was invigorating. I then moved to a family company (Chantecaille) which was in its infancy, and even more trust and decision making was handed over.
I think working through all of these types of business’ has set me in good stead for Hibernicis. Rehearsal is over, I’m in the midst of drawing on the diverse experience of my past and it’s now time to take centre stage!
What’s the smallest change that’s given the biggest return?
Probably tweaking the packaging presentation. When I first started working on the brand design, it looked completely different than it does now. It is probably not the smallest change, but certainly the most dramatic.
Do any customers use or benefit from the products in ways you didn’t expect?
It is probably too early to answer this – but people do seem to comment on the tactile and olfactory nature of Hibernicis a lot.
What motivates you?
Scent, nature, animals, plants, good design, good food and music.
What has been your biggest lesson, fear, or failure?
Starting a new venture later in life than I had anticipated and catching up on all of the changes in recent years. Thankfully I still have plenty of energy!
Do you have a mentor or people you ask for advice?
I don’t have a mentor but I surround myself with wonderful creative and practical people. I like to work with my group.
If you did not have your own company, what would you be doing?
Probably enjoying life a bit too much, getting lazy and ageing way too quickly!
Where is your happy place?
See my motivation list – and oh yes, being around my dogs!
How has what you do changed you as a person?
I don’t know if it has changed me as such, but it has probably re-focused me.
What is your opinion on plant medicines such as psilocybin or cannabis as tools for living in alignment?
Using plants as ingredients is the foundation of Hibernicis.
There are so many natural ingredients available and for me, my aim is to use as many as I can in the most effective way possible. I also believe it is important not to rest your laurels on your last product, but to challenge ways to improve a formula. The first person I have employed is a scientist and our drive is to create the best most natural products we can.
I honestly have not explored the area of psilocybin or cannabis but who knows, in the future we may include CBD and the like.
What does spirituality mean to you?
Simply, raw nature. It grounds me yet allows me to dream.
If time and money were no object – what would be on your to do and to see list?
Without trying to sound like a 1980s Miss Universe winner my answer is as follows:
First of all I would like to see a society that functions harmoniously given the earthly gifts we have been provided with…that takes intelligence, more than time and money!
In the meantime, reflecting on the above, I would like my company to function in a way where we can be global, but source that delicate balance between flourishing, and enriching our surroundings.
And yes, there are a few places on my to do or to see list, which I may or may not see!