Growing up in Switzerland, Martina always had a strong interest in design. She quickly discovered the world of packaging design. She started working with big companies, such as P&G and Unilever, to develop their brands globally. Through this experience she decided she could do more to reduce packaging waste, taking a more radical approach to sustainability and innovation.

In 2020, Martina created Blackmarket, to challenge how we deliver and consume personal care products. Since then Blackmarket has won the 2021 UAL creative enterprise award in innovation and successfully launched a crowdfunding campaign reaching 123% of the target.

Blackmarket Refillable Soap Bottle and Lavender Refill

We spoke with Martina about Blackmarket. She what she had to say below!

What attracted you to your craft?

The desire to make a difference in my industry, by challenging how we make, use and dispose of personal care and beauty products, to reduce waste and the impact on the environment.

What does your typical day look like?

Office based work in the morning, working with suppliers, longer term planning, following up on leads. In the afternoon I focus on operations. This includes: customer service, making handwash and filling sachets, bringing deliveries to the post office and R&D product development.

When you’re not working / studying what do you enjoy doing?

Ha! I try to look after myself, spend time with friends and family. I’ve recently gotten into gardening, watercoloring and paper marbling.

Does your product have an environmental focus/does it support the circular economy?

The development of Blackmarket is entirely focused on the circular economy. Our refill method is known as a “refill at home” system (report here). We wanted to avoid developing a product which needed to be returned to a shop/organisation in order to be cleaned, refilled, recycled or refurbished. This is to reduce the impact of transporting the packaging when returned, and instead motivate the consumer to keep the packaging and refill it at home.

Beyond the focus on the circular economy from a materials perspective, Blackmarket is designed to encourage more sustainable action without a radical behavioural change. It is easier to redesign a product, rather than nudge someone into doing something which doesn’t come naturally to them. Through behavioural research we found that although consumers believe climate change is important and have a desire to reduce plastic packaging, the majority still prefers handwash in a pump bottle, rather than a solid bar of soap. I’m personally a big fan of bars of soap, but understand it doesn’t work for everyone. We saw this as an opportunity to develop a liquid product, in a convenient format, but without any single-use plastic packaging. This way more people can take steps to reduce their impact on the environment.

Most personal care products are made of 70-90% water. We are all very lucky to have safe drinking water at home, so it doesn’t make sense to ship it around the world. Our delivery method requires consumers to mix the handwash themselves at home with tap water. Since Blackmarket doesn’t ship water, our refills weigh 95% less than competitors, reducing carbon emissions from transport.

Blackmarket x4 Lavender Soap Refills

What is the USP (unique selling point) for your products?

Blackmarket makes refillable liquid handwash, without single-use plastic packaging.

Where do you find / source your inspiration for designs?

We take inspiration from industry experience and reports on the impact of packaging on the environment, from a data perspective and to help us make decisions. From a creative perspective we take inspiration from exhibitions, design history, other makers and artists in parallel industries, innovative retail and concept stores (earl of east, goodhood, the Conran shop), and nature.

Please can you provide a little more info on how your interest in design started and developed?

I am very lucky to have been born into a very creative and entrepreneurial family. I was exposed to design from a young age. My father is an architect, but also the founder of Neumarkt 17, a designer furniture shop in Zurich. My mother ran a small independent shop in Virginia (USA) selling fragrances she made, as well as wild ginseng. She would travel to remote areas to buy ginseng from the diggers, and carried a hand gun for protection.

Do you have any favourite items in the collection?

It would have to be the refillable bottle, it took several months to develop. I’m just a total packaging geek.

How would you summarise your collection in a few sentences, words?

An easy way to start your journey to live a more sustainable life, with handwash that smells so good that your guests will ask you what it is.

What are your hopes for the future/ where would you like to take your design career/ collection?

We would like Blackmarket to completely change how we make, use and dispose of personal care and beauty products. We want to be the Aesop of the future!