It's always butterfly-in-your-belly exciting for us to be welcomed into the arms of a new store. Especially if they turn out to be experts in the sacred trinity of Frankincense, Myrrh and Gold, create such an artful space and eclectic collection, are fluent in the language of wholistic luxury, and ask us questions we can talk about for hours.
Bow + Arrow is a collective space that merges art, curious objects, clothing, skincare, perfume and designers from around the world, all discovered and sourced on Tash's many travels and adventures. A very special concept store and gallery space indeed, one that feels warm and alive, and so vividly reflects Tash and Gem's passion for slow-made, hand-crafted and soul-filled pieces that boast rich and vibrant stories. Just our kind of people, through and through.
BOW + ARROW: What inspired you to start Lepaar?
JOHANNA: 100% Christo.
He fell in love not only with me and my then 6 year old daughter Sienna, but also with the rudimentary face oils, waters, balms and ointments I’ve been making pretty much all my life, just like my mum did. They were very simple at that stage: sun-infused Calendula extract with a bit of Seabucktorn Seed oil my mum sends me from Germany, with or without beeswax, a body oil that kept changing depending on Season, and if I could get my hand on cold pressed, organic wheat germ oil, which I swear by for preventing and treating stretch marks.
Christo is an incredible refiner, a connoisseur of exquisite things, and follows what excites him. My skincare really excited him, and at that time I saw a niche for natural skincare that is not just about beauty, anti-aging, and self care, but based on a wholistic ethos that surpasses label like 'organic', 'biodynamic', 'green' 'clean', and truly considers everything to be One Whole, rather than the sum of all parts (which is basically the definition of 'holistic', and the reason why we use the word 'wholistic').
A skincare that uses Natural resources mindfully, with minimal essential oils. One that encompasses that truly natural processes and methods, uses whole plant extracts and zero preservatives (not even organic ones), and works with biodynamic principles, essentially a practice of harmony and balance where all of Nature is synergistically connected.
So I started working with different textures, complex scents and extracts to create our first line. Once our friends started ordering the oils, we gently and softly launched Lepaar with a PRECIOUS FACE ELIXIR - which will always be my face hero, the SACRED TRINITY ANOINTMENT SERUM, and the LUXURIOUS BODY FIRMING OIL.
Christo and I always wanted to work with our love, be part of something bigger than ourselves. We’re both passionate Nature lovers, avid gardeners, and explicit environmentalists, and feel that eco activism is the rent we must pay to live on this beautiful, yet tortured planet of ours. I guess Lepaar is our way of helping, defending, and saving Nature.
Hence the two swords in our logo, symbols of our spirit, one for Christo, one for myself, peacefully crossed, but ready to come out when needed.
BOW + ARROW: We noticed that you use frankincense, gold and myrrh in almost all your products, what’s the reason behind this?
JOHANNA: Frankincense, Myrrh and Gold are important substances in homeopathic medicine, an alternative healing practice that’s part of mainstream medicine in Germany, where you can buy homeopathic remedies at every apothecary. Historically, they play a major part in almost every ancient civilisation, from perfumery, to healing rituals, and religious ceremonies, long before the Catholic Church appropriated them for their rites.
I grew up with Frankincense, Myrrh and Gold, burned every Xmas, in stories and legends, and it came out as a homeopathic remedy to dry tears of inexplainable sadness, calm my brother's rages, and help concentrate in exams.
Each of these three substances is powerful in it’s own right: Essentially, Frankincense firms the skin and comforts the soul. Myrrh protects the skin and heightens awareness. Gold restores the skin and grounds our earthly being.
When combined, these ancient substances enhance each other’s effects, help us grow older gracefully, and activate ‘Qi’ movement, our life force.
I had the honour of bearing witness to the spiritual powers of Frankincense, Myrrh and Gold first hand 2.5 years ago when my father died very quickly of pancreatic cancer.
My sister, youngest brother and I basically abducted him from hospital, and drove him home across the Berlin cobble stone streets, my sister joking that this was his last chance for McDonalds drive through, just once in his life;-).
His homeopathic doctor gave us an oil that contained Frankincense, Myrrh and Gold to rub onto his heart and feet (and our own hearts as well for coping), and administered intravenous shots off the same, whenever his pain got unbearable. Because while the physical pain of last stage cancer may be astronomical, I believe it’s nothing compared with the pain of having to let go of life and become just spirit.
As soon as he received his shots and was massaged with the oil, his whole body relaxed, his breathing softened, his eyes lost the fear. He needed no opiates in the end, and died at home on a mild Berlin Summer day within 3 days of being diagnosed, surrounded by his 7 children and wife.
I came back home to Sydney so deeply moved and inspired, I had seen, felt, and comprehended why we use the word 'passing' when someone dies. It really is a transition to something other, not an ending. And that’s how the SACRED TRINITY SIGNATURE BLEND came to life. A spirit charge beyond the proven physical benefits, a gentle yet powerful psychoactive potion that helps anchor us in this life, helps us deal with life’s ups and downs, and connects us to the spiritual beings we also are.
All our compositions are charged with the SACRED TRINITY BLEND to make them WHOLE.
BOW + ARROW: Where are you guys from and where is the product made?
CHRISTO: We divide our life between our 100 acre property in Kangaroo Valley and Vaucluse, Sydney.
Because we grow a lot of our herbs for the skincare, we have to be down in the country pretty much every other week, mostly followed by a big group of friends, who bring their kids and mountains of food and natural wine;-) We are one of those people who don’t lock their front door, everyone’s always welcome.
Johanna makes everything herself, either in the Valley or in her lab in Vaucluse on Full Moon and New Moon. Because we use a biodynamic method of ‘rhythmic stirring’ we can’t use machines such a blenders etc, it’s all done slowly by hand in small batches. Besides, that way we don’t use electricity.
BOW + ARROW: What’s your favourite essential oil and why?
JOHANNA: I don’t really have one beyond Frankincense + Myrrh. If pressed, I’d pick Myrrh for it’s smokey depths, it’s mystical promise of far away lands, and yin/yang complexity, and Frankincense for it's resinous wood, so fresh yet warm, so lifting, yet cocooning. It too sings of the middle East Christo and I are both drawn to: exotic, spicy, strangely familiar, and oh so ancient.
Christo travelled the Middle East extensively in his 20s (much to his parents shock and worry) and connected deeply with that part of the world. I cry every time he says 'the middle East broke my heart'. Of course, now a lot of these ancient places he visited have been destroyed, the culture dispersed and mutilated. But I can imagine them in their fragrant, noisy, colourful vibrance, they're alive and relevant to me.
Personally, I am not a fan of essential oils. They are too powerful to feature as prominently in skincare as they currently do, often doing more harm than good and are totally overused. It takes tonnes of plant material to gain just a little bit of oil, so sustainability is an issue.
For me, whole plant extracts are the way in skincare, with essential oils used in minute homeopathic quantities (under 0.1%) as a psychoactive spirit charge.
BOW + ARROW: Best piece of advice you have been given?
CHRISTO + JOHANNA: “What’s the rush?”