Protect What You Love


An international project with its roots very much planted back here in New Zealand – Activist Manuka is a new Manuka honey brand founded by LA-based New Zealand couple Luke Harwood and Gabrielle Mirkin.

It’s the visual identity that first caught my eye, but I then discovered Luke and Gabrielle’s story is a very inspiring one…

They’ve each traded their individual fast-paced fashion careers in New York (Gabrielle as a senior designer at Vogue, and Luke managing US market development for Stolen Girlfriend’s Club, a brand he co-founded) for a much more chill existence in California. Gabrielle became very very sick with Lyme disease, and the couple moved home to New Zealand for a year, putting everything aside for rest and healing, which they did from a piece of land they own in Coromandel. Friends asked if they could put some hives on the property, and the couple fell in love with bees…

Returning to America, the couple settled in beachside California, and began work on starting their own honey company.

The name – Activist – not only derives from the active natural antibacterial properties of the Manuka, but is also nod to New Zealand’s proud history of activism, paying respect to those who dedicate their lives standing for something they believe in.

Activist works more in partnership with their New Zealand bee-keepers and land owners, to give Americans access to potent, A-grade NZ Manuka honey (raw, unprocessed and from small batches), not the mass-distributed and mass-white-labelled commodity the country has traditionally had presented to them: “We believe it’s important that New Zealand and its resources are represented authentically on a global scale, rather than sold off to international companies to be rebranded and diluted. If that means building a slower growing, sustainable business, that’s cool with us.”

(Doing good by doing good – you guys know that’s one of my fave things).

They enlisted the branding prowess of their friend and fellow Cali-based New Zealand, Art Director Fred L’Ami. The brand also features beautiful New Zealand imagery from another friend, fine art and documentary photographer Derek Henderson.

My US readers (I see you there on Google Analytics!) – contact Luke and Gabrielle at Activist to find the closest stockist in your area. New Zealanders, Activist is available here exclusively from Simon James Design at this stage.


Activist   online store  /  Instagram


The Alchemy of Giving

I got a lovely surprise this week when one of the beautiful Sans [ceuticals] Alchemy of Giving kits arrived at my house… but I would’ve shared them with you even if I hadn’t, because I love everything about this local-gone-global brand: its incredible soft-minimalist packaging; its realistic, woman-celebrating, self-nourishing representation of beauty; its founder (inspiring New Zealand beauty industry pioneer and businesswoman Lucy Marr); and most importantly its results-focused formulations, each one developed in collaboration with NZ’s best scientists to be superbly effective and multi-functional, while still being sans (it’s French for without) harmful, non-sustainable ingredients.

Lucy has created five special Alchemy of Giving kits (in the most delicious colour palette – russet and blush pink) with the concept that you can offer more than presents, but presence with a loved one. Each one is accompanied by a step by step ritual that invites you to give them (or yourself!) the gift of your time and touch – a head massage, reflexology or hair treatment.

I also wanted to mention Sans’ new 48-hr Reset Kit too… because the best gift you can give all year is a little time-out for yourself to reset and restore. This kit gives you all the tools for two days of gentle, joyous self-care and rejuvenation, including a range of Sans products, a guide to specific daily rituals and pamper rituals, beautiful recipes to make during your 48 hour reset, and a list of inspirational documentaries, podcasts, books, films, and Sans music playlists.

You can buy someone you love (that includes you, you’re amazing) a Sans Kit here.


First-Rate from Fuman


Superb branding and collateral by NZ design practice Fuman (website | insta) for The Collective Force, a New Zealand agency representing some of New Zealand’s finest photographers, videographers and content producers.

Little details noticed and appreciated: the emphatic full stop at the end of the logo/wordmark; the exploded letterforms used as graphic elements (and die cut frames for the photography behind); the fact that they developed a full typeface for the client (and a custom type treatment for each photographer in their stable); and the purposeful use of monochrome colours, blind embossing and uncoated stock – so the photography really shines in contrast.  Overall a strong, polished and somewhat enigmatic feel – love it.




More Than a Pretty Face

Come for the pretty pictures, stay for the story. Allow me to introduce you to the all style, all substance Girl Undiscovered. Yet another new New Zealand business that’s beautiful inside and out – from the contemporary-feminine packaging and photography, to the proven-powerful ingredients inside, to the socially conscious business practises.

Behind the brand are three lifelong girlfriends, Auckland’s Charlotte Devereux, Philly Gebbie and Sara Orme. The trio are working with small communities to source the best of what nature can make for your skin, grown in the purest environments. Beyond organic – the ingredients are wild and raw.

The girls say it best, actually: “For us, it’s about supporting pure and natural foraged ingredients with no pesticides, chemicals or herbicides and these come to us via small communities and villages that could never afford the prohibitive costs of organic certification… Many organic products are plantation farmed. Our products are handpicked from the backyards of local villages and family dwellings and we know everyone in our production chain intimately, so we feel really passionate about how honest it is.”

One of the hero ingredients in Girl Undiscovered products is thanaka, a tree bark that’s been used by the women of Myanmar for over 2000 years. Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-ageing and an antioxidant, it also enables the skin to actively produce collagen and elastin. Joining thanaka in the roster of key ingredients is virgin organic coconut oil, sourced from the foothills of rural Bali. Philly adopted four of her six children in Bali, and wanted to create a business that could be a true partnership with the local village families and communities, developing sustainable income from free-range farming. A third hero ingredient is Kanuka honey, sourced from 5000 acres of native kanuka bush on New Zealand’s Kawau Island. The honey produced in this pocket of land is unfiltered, raw and never heated, so the delicate nature of the enzymes are preserved and the potent medicinal properties are maximised.

The boutique range features three products – a face mask, cleansing water and a face elixir – all made in New Zealand (developed  alongside a NZ laboratory with over 30 years’ experience) and all with nothing but wild natural ingredients. New products will also join the range soon…

Design studio Inhouse are responsible for the overall brand identity, packaging etc and all imagery has been styled and shot by Sara, who is actually a noted NZ fashion photographer in her own right.


You can buy Girl Undiscovered products online at the Girl Undiscovered website, here.




© The New