Get to know the people behind the brands you see at Kommune Penang Hill and kommune.store. The Artisan Sessions give you a sneak peak into the world of the artisans as they share from their two-cents to worldly wisdoms. We're proud to have them join us in bringing out the message of sustainability in environment, wellness and culture.
In our very first series of The Artisan Sessions, we bring you a small business that's innovative, forward thinking and sustainable. To add on...they even smell great! Alwis & Xavier consists of the dynamic duo of Niegel and Kimberly (their brand name is a combination of their surnames). Here, we talk to them about how they started their business, how they approach the sustainability mindset in their products, and much more.
KK: Tell us a little bit about who you are and how you started.
AX: Basically we started our journey into solid grooming products with what started as a pain point - we love smelling good but we couldn't take the colognes and perfumes we loved around with us as easily as we wanted to. We experienced the occasional bottle breaking in our gym bags, the airport confiscations due to liquid limits, and the basic fact that conventionally, bottles are big and bulky and not convenient to take around. So upon brainstorming we decided to come up with a solid form of a cologne, something small and portable that could be slipped into a pocket or bag and used anytime and anywhere. We decided to make it for ourselves but got the frequent enquiry of what we were using, that then grew to orders between family and friends. Upon realising that others around us appreciated the same conveniences, we decided to share it with others after 1 year of R&D. From here, we moved into other products with the intention of keeping the convenience and portability at the forefront of everything we make. We are proud to say that our products are made with natural ingredients which is crucial to us as a lot of similar products out there contain a lot of harmful additives and chemicals that get absorbed into the body, and in addition, we work as best we can for our packaging to be sustainable and eco-friendly.
KK: Describe your brand in two sentences
AX: Alwis & Xavier specialises in proven solid grooming products that enable convenience, ease and portability to users, while maintaining high quality, and natural ingredients.
KK: Where are your products made?
AX: Products are made locally by us, handcrafted, hand-poured and packed.
KK: What's your most favourite part about the work?
AX: What we enjoy is the creative aspect of what we do (designing, drawing, and formulating our products and packaging), having that creative outlet of design that we never got to do in our working careers in the corporate field. On top of this, creating products that people find useful is something we really love and take pride in, and that shows through our products that we make on a daily basis
KK: What kind of initiatives do you have in place for your work to protect the environment?
AX: We use sustainable packaging, and we use recycled materials to wrap and package our items - whether its sent to our business partners or customers. We also offer rebates for returned vessels, in which we sterilize and reuse again.
KK: What does eco and ethical practices in your work mean to you?
AX: For us, we try our best to employ eco-friendly practices- be it sourcing for eco-friendly packaging or offering rebates to encourage recycling from our customers. Its something we feel businesses should be moving towards already, given the well-known effects it has had on our planet. I think a lot of awareness has been brought about it globally and its not an excuse to be ignorant about these issues any longer.
KK: What are the sources of creation for your work?
AX: Just thoughts or inspirations that we take from everyday things, experiences that we've collected over our lives that we use to fuel our creative juices!
KK: What is your advice for someone who wants to be an artisan?
AX: I would say just go for it. Whether you start small or plan for something on a larger scale - start somewhere and take that step forward. Dreams without action, will stay dreams. For us, we did it on the side as it was an interest for us and grew it slowly from there. Whether it's done in your spare time, on the weekends, or you decide to jump in all the way and fully concentrate on it - just do it, be bold and take that step. We would never have realised we could be here if it wasn't for that initial step.
KK: What was your biggest hurdle as an artisan and how did you manage to overcome it.
AX: Our biggest hurdle to date was the lockdown period where covid was starting to affect the country and where traveling was severely restricted. During this period, in general all businesses were affected for the worst, and we were no exception. People weren't purchasing colognes as its mainly used as an on-the-go product, and everyone was staying home majority of the time. We not only had to be resilient and positive, but stick through it and didn't give up despite very low cash flow. On top of that we adjusted and innovated - immediately developing our range of items that could be used at home.
KK: Any grand plans for the future?
AX: We continue to grow the range of products we have, coming up with innovative ways and takes on solid grooming. Our aim is to develop products that ultimately make life easier for people. We've branched out from solid colognes, to solid deodorants and solid shampoos - and we're excited to launch another solid product soon, so stay tuned!
And there you have it..from the team of Alwis & Xavier. You can purchase their delectable products here or at Kommune Penang Hill.
If you like this series, do watch out for upcoming ones.