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Skincare with UX is child’s play for Alva Organics

Sophie la girafe Cosmetics weave together various important elements: sustainability, children’s wellbeing, ecological values and a much-loved toy brand.Sophie la girafe Cosmetics

How can a skin cream for babies be like a Swiss army knife? What does it mean for a cosmetics product to be future-proof? Finland’s Alva Organics has the answers.

For a lot of parents, the toy giraffe Sophie la girafe is a quintessential memento of their baby’s early years. The 60-year-old French toy, made of natural rubber, is chewed on by infants all over the globe.

Sophie la girafe Cosmetics products are designed by Jonna Jalkanen and manufactured by a subcontractor in Latvia. Image: Sophie la girafe Cosmetics

Jonna Jalkanen is the co-owner of a company that imports the toy to the Nordics. At some point, her partner mentioned that the brand was looking for licensees to come up with products that could carry the name of the iconic giraffe.

With a background in luxury cosmetics, Jalkanen realised this could be her way of creating something that’s her own – exactly the way she likes it.

“Back then, natural cosmetics brands weren’t as good as I wanted them to be,” she explains. “Sometimes, the smell could be very strong, they didn’t absorb very well, and the texture could be very thick. When it comes to children’s products, a lot of the packaging and visual elements don’t seem well thought through to me.”

Jalkanen rolled up her sleeves and started developing a cosmetics concept based on Sophie la girafe. She had everything ready, from paper bags to press materials, when she presented the idea. All was designed to respect the decades-old brand of the internationally loved toy.

The rest is history – or well, future. Although Sophie la girafe Cosmetics products by Jalkanen’s company Alva Organics were launched in 2013, it’s only early days for what Jalkanen plans for the brand.

User experience at the core

User experience, UX, is one of the buzzwords in the technology world. Jalkanen, who is responsible for all Sophie la girafe recipes, wanted to make the products as usable and pleasant as possible every step of the way – essentially bringing UX to the heart of the matter.

The product range will soon grow with a hand soap and lip balm and later sunscreen. Image: Sophie la girafe Cosmetics

“For example, our creams and lotions absorb very well and quickly, and a single bottle or tube lasts for a long time,” she tells.

Another thing that’s very important to Alva Organics is to not have any allergens on its ingredients list (INCI), ever. Jalkanen deems it crucial to stay on top and ahead of what’s bubbling under in raw materials and ingredients to be sure that even as recommendations for children’s skincare products change, Sophie la girafe Cosmetics remains future-proof.

The driving force is making products for babies that are good enough for adults that tend to go for luxury cosmetics brands, the likes of Dior or Chanel. For this reason, there are no generic tubes with stickers on; each Sophie la girafe item is in bespoke packaging, designed to add to the elegant feel.

Hence, it’s probably unsurprising that Sophie la girafe is, despite its branding, not used only by babies.

“About a half of the users are adults,” Jalkanen says. “For example, many people with atopic skin and other skin conditions find relief with our products. Some even have said that they’ve been able to reduce their use of cortisone creams significantly with our SOS cream, which we like to call the Swiss army knife of skin care.”

It’s not about the money

Wanting to please the customers of Dior and Chanel sounds like something that comes with a hefty price tag. Jalkanen doesn’t think so; in general, the cost per Sophie la girafe Cosmetics product is around 20 euros.

“We really want to make the best possible products for all families, and that means the cost can’t be too high,” she notes. “For a lot of people, 20 euros is a lot of money.”

Sophie la girafe Cosmetics products have received a range of international awards. Image: Sophie la girafe Cosmetics

Some resellers have, according to Jalkanen, said that the products offer the best value for money in their whole selection. Jalkanen acknowledges that this might, in a way, be a problem.

“I’ve been told that not everyone expects Sophie la girafe Cosmetics to be of such high quality, because they’re not very pricey,” she says.

The good news is that international juries can’t be fooled with money. Last year, the army-knife-kind SOS cream was awarded a cosmetics Oscar prize by CosmétiqueMag.

At the moment, Sophie la girafe Cosmetics products are available in about 35 countries, including in the UK through Harrods in London and the department store chain Selfridges. The biggest markets are Sweden and Finland, but other regions are catching up.

“For example, the Middle East is a very interesting area for us, as well as Japan, Hong Kong and the US,” Jalkanen lists.

There are plans for a maternal product series too, and some other companies have asked for Alva Organics to provide them with turnkey cosmetics solutions. Jalkanen assures that at this stage, the door is open to all possible options.

However, first she wants to see the giraffe fly – even if not as high as its original namesake.

“I know of a man walking into a department store desperately asking for ‘that toy giraffe’, because it had been lost and the baby just wouldn’t stop crying for it,” she tells laughingly. “Some parents say that their baby would probably choose Sophie over their mother!”

By: Anne Salomäki