It started out as a small project, just for the two of them. A few years ago, Grace Lim and her husband Martin Kwaskowski decided to take a closer look at the ingredients that went into the skincare and beauty products they used. And they were surprised at what they found.
Many contained unsustainable ingredients – some that could irritate sensitive skin, which Lim has struggled with from a young age. “We went on the hunt to find good-quality alternatives to conventional skincare,” she says.
But they soon discovered that natural products without irritating components were relatively hard to find. Most could only be bought online – meaning wait times, delivery fees and environmentally irresponsible packaging – or buried at the back of health-food stores, which didn’t make the switch to natural products an attractive choice. “[It] didn’t give the products value, or justice in being able to tell their story,” Lim says.
So the duo, who also run interior-design studio Milligram Office, decided to do something about it, opening Saint Francis Place, a Fitzroy shop and online store specialising in skincare and make-up that’s both good for the environment and sensitive to the needs of particular skin types.
“We’re committed to featuring brands that use organic, wild-harvested and natural ingredients that are high quality,” says Lim.
The couple has a hard no-go ingredient list, meaning you won’t find any acetone, petrochemicals, sodium lauryl sulfate or parabens here. Instead, Saint Francis Place stocks products that are made using cold-pressed or steam-distilled components (as opposed to applying heat to extract ingredients, which can alter their composition), or produced in small batches, meaning active elements stay fresh.
All packaging is recycled and reused where possible, and Lim and Kwaskowski have met the founders of all the Australian products they stock (and have carefully researched the international labels) so they can tailor their recommendations for in-store shoppers.
“We make sure that we get proper training from each of the brands because a lot of them do have specific products for different concerns,” says Lim.
If you can’t make it into the store, you can shop by concern online. Categories include dry and mature; oily and congested; sensitive; pregnant and baby; and vegan.
There are masks, serums, moisturisers and balms available, as well as haircare and make-up, all from labels such as Maison Made, a skincare company based on a biodynamic family-run farm in Bordeaux, France; Everyday Oil, from North Carolina in the US, which makes organic moisturising body oils; and Akhal Beauty, vegan skincare made by indigenous women in regional Morocco.
Lim also loves multi-use products such as All Over Colour (a lip balm, blush and eyeshadow in one) and Skin Enhancer (a concealer, eye primer, foundation and highlighter), which can help you cut down your make-up bag clutter. Both products are by organic make-up company Manasi 7, which is based in Stockholm. “A lot of the colours can be used on the lips, the cheeks and eyes,” Lim says. “And it’s all customisable.”
Traditionally, Lim says, the beauty and skincare industry has been “mostly for feminine audiences, mostly tailoring towards insecurities – and so when we thought about Saint Francis Place we really wanted it to be gender neutral, make it feel a bit more like you’re in a gallery space.”
The couple drew on their retail-design background to best show off their products, but also to make the Smith Street space feel lived-in and welcoming. Across two levels, the tan, ivory and sepia-toned shop is dotted with marble and bronze touches, and the occasional vintage artwork or small sculpture, all lit softly by statement light fittings.
Saint Francis Place
63 Smith Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9416 0265
Wed to Fri 10am–6pm