As restaurants continue to struggle with COVID restrictions, one local general manager seized the unexpected hiatus last spring to answer a different calling. And as Miguel Quezada discovered, the restaurant and beauty industries have a lot in common.
While Quezada’s day job may be general manager at the Kitsilano seafood restaurant Oddfish, he’s now also the co-founder of Kōv Skincare along with his partner, Alicia Munro.
“When COVID hit, I took the opportunity to take online courses in photography so I could take studio shots myself,” he says. “It’s similar to when you need a food shot at a restaurant—you just problem solve with that can-do spirit and figure it out.”
That can-do spirit had long been incubating, but it was the pandemic that afforded the duo the opportunity to realize their secret beauty dream.
Quezada worked as operations manager at Savio Volpe before arriving at Oddfish, but he grew up in Alberta and spent his summers visiting Vancouver. “I have a childhood nostalgia of smelling the sea—whenever I’m buying mussels, I can smell the ocean and am instantly transported.” Meanwhile, Munro grew up in Whistler playing in the forest and eating Pemberton potatoes and other local produce before going to school for visual art, then landing at UBC.
So they pooled their talents and interests and started researching. “Miguel and I are huge farmers market people,” says Munro. “We’re always buying local, quality, and organic, which tastes better and is better for the environment.”
“The more we started to learn about chemicals in beauty products,” adds Quezada, “the more we thought, ‘We can make this, made better.”
“The thing that shocked me was how similar beauty ingredients can be to food,” he continues. As at a good restaurant that consistently uses the best ingredients, you’re going to taste a better product; Quezada saw parallels in the skin-care industry. “If you use the best possible ingredients and don’t overprocess, you’re going to get a great product.”
They soon realized that some of the best ingredients in the world were right at their doorstep, which also captured the sense of place the pair was striving to evoke. “Kōv is where the ocean meets the land,” says Munro. “It’s about highlighting ingredients in B.C. that don’t get talked about that much.”
When the pair dug deep on kelp, they found its climate-fighting properties (it deacidifies the ocean) happened to be amazing for skin, too. When mechanically cold-pressed, kelp retains its antioxidants (it’s similar to using raw vegetables to keep nutrients intact as opposed to cooked).
Made in small batches on Vancouver Island, Kōv Skincare’s line now includes an all-natural hand wash and a moisturizing lotion, each with locally harvested wild black spruce and giant kelp. There are no synthetic preservatives or surfactants, just mainly wild and organic ingredients harvested without harm. A glacial clay mask with just one ingredient—dried clay—and no preservatives launches in January.
And it’s no surprise the ingredient lists for the hand wash and lotion practically read like a restaurant menu: purified rainwater, west coast giant kelp extract, certified biodynamic avocado oil, oatmeal, sweet fennel oil.
Each recyclable glass bottle has a handwritten number, as well. “This goes back to the food connection,” explains Munro. “We wanted people to have a connection to that particular batch.” Like fresh food, the products’ shelf life isn’t in years but 12 months.
Each pretty blue bottle evokes the sea and with compostable refill pouches, you can reuse the container, rather than recycle it. Through 1% for the Planet, Kōv gives back to environmental organizations—such as Raincoast Conservation—that conserve ocean habitats.
And Kōv smells like Vancouver in a bottle. “It seems people are connecting the scent of our products with the experience of being in B.C.,” says Quezada. One client told him they dispatched a set to expat friends in the U.K.—who reported feeling instantly transported back to the West Coast, back to nature, back to their connections.
“Our whole spark for this was a connection to nature,” says Munro.
And right now, connections are all we have.
Find Kōv Skincare at Sunja Link Body Shoppe on Main Street and Gatley lifestyle shop on Commercial Drive. Or order online at Kovskincare.com (free contactless delivery in Vancouver). Read more stories from Beauty.