Fresh but old school

A new skincare brand has arrived in Thailand, with customers swearing by its Russian folk recipes

When naming their beauty store, Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg spontaneously came up with Fresh, whose debut product was scented, vegetable-based soap beautifully hand-wrapped in ornate paper, tied with delicate string and decorated with a semi-precious stone.

Alina Roytberg and Lev Glazman at the Bangkok flagship store, on the ground floor of EmQuartier.

"Back in 1993, selling soap at US$5 (about 167 baht) was almost impossible because soap wasn't so important to people, who would normally buy a 90 cent bar at the supermarket,'' said Glazman. "But paying attention to the detail in offering artisan soaps, I knew we were doing something special as nothing like that was on the market."

The Oval Soap collection was first sold at their humble store in Boston, and later at Barneys in New York City, followed by other stores across the US.

Today, Fresh has firmly established itself as a global beauty brand, with the recently-opened Bangkok store at EmQuartier another milestone.

"Next year, we will be 25 years in the business. But as the brand name suggests, there will always be something new about Fresh," said Glazman, who heads the R&D while serving as the "nose" for the naturally-scented products.

His wife and business partner, Roytberg, with a background in fashion design, oversees the aesthetic aspect of product development.

She hails from the Ukraine and Glazman from St Petersburg — both of them believing in how Russian folk remedies can help soothe the skin. 

"We grew up in the Soviet Union, where our grandmothers and mothers have a lot of beauty secrets, drawing inspiration from them and taking their ideas into the modern day," said Roytberg. "We also wanted to create skincare products from a consumer point of view. We knew what we didn't have, what we couldn't find. Fresh simply started from our personal needs."

She noted that at cosmetic counters, women had to listen to scientific explanations about products that they couldn't understand. Fresh began offering formulas featuring ingredients such as milk, chocolate, natural brown sugar and soy that consumers could easily relate to.

At the turn of the millennium, the couple took Fresh's R&D to the next level by joining LVMH, the world's leading luxury goods company.

A chemist showed them a recipe of the world's first emulsion cream, which inspired the artisan Creme Ancienne, launched in 2003. With a delicate texture, the luxurious cream continues to be handmade in small batches by monks at a monastery in the Czech Republic.

"We took the 2,000-year-old recipe and improved it with different ingredients, such as camomile, hazel seed, lemon peel and meadowfoam seed oils. But the melting of the wax and the oils has to be carried out at a certain temperature, which industrial production couldn't achieve. The only way to do it is by hand," said Glazman. 

The monks also make the Elixir Ancien, applied before the cream as an anti-ageing face treatment for mature skin. For the younger age group, he recommends Lotus Youth Preserve or Rose collection for hydrating and radiance-boosting effects. 

The iconic Rose collection features skin-soothing rosewater and rose flower oil — sourced from Isparta, Turkey — notable for its 200-year-old harvest of Damascus rose. Real rose petals are also used for making a unique gel cooling mask.

"Ensuring the stability and product performance, it's difficult to incorporate rose petals into the mask. All Fresh formulas are powerful because they are not only about natural ingredients but modern technologies that allow us to make the rose petal-infused mask," said Glazman.

As important is the scent and texture, he added, defining Fresh formulas as affordable luxury for users to take pleasure when applying them on the skin.

"The beauty ritual is not only about putting cream on the face, but it should give a luxurious experience," he said. "Our products have a natural scent, which is a part of our signature, to enhance the whole experience of using Fresh products."

Over 24 years, the entrepreneurs have always welcomed feedback from users.

"Knowing that our products make our customers look and feel better about themselves is rewarding," said Roytberg. 

Petal-infused Rose Face Mask.

Handmade Elixir Ancien and Creme Ancienne for mature skin.

The brand's iconic Oval Soap collection.

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