You may know of Form Us With Love from their collaborations with Canadian furniture favourite Keilhauer or Scandinavian brands +Halle and Hem. The personal care space, however, might be the last place you would expect to find the Swedish design studio. But in addition to their success in the furnishings industry, the team has also gained recognition as an incubator for design-minded and sustainable start-ups. Forgo, a personal and home care brand, founded by Allon Libermann and Samuel Chevalier, has been in the works since 2018, and was launched at Stockholm Design Week in 2020. Its mission is simple: to lower the environmental impact of daily consumables, while retaining the convenience of products shoppers already know and love.
Forgo debuted on Kickstarter, where their powder-to-liquid hand soap, packaged in compostable plastic-free paper refills, became an instant hit. The first of its kind, the brand realized how wasteful it was to ship traditional hand soap, which is comprised of 60 to 90 per cent water — a commodity that most consumers have ready access to at home. Coupled with single-use plastic bottles and harmful chemicals, this everyday product typically has a significant environmental impact.
With Forgo’s version, a starter kit includes a premium refillable glass bottle and powder sachets — simply add the powder to the bottle with hot water and shake. The product requires a fraction of the packaging, as the refills can be shipped in a standard envelope. Available as a subscription service, it can be just as or even more convenient to use Forgo products, rather than running to the store each time your bottle runs out.
The real challenge, the designers explained, was finding manufacturers that make high-quality, durable pumps. In our age of rampant consumerism and, by extension, planned obsolescence, most conventional pumps are designed to break down — particularly their smallest components. Forgo, however, needed to create a product that would outlast the wear and tear of long-term use. To do so, the brand worked with a number of small, ethical suppliers — from a Canadian lab specializing in natural cosmetics to a glass bottle maker in Portugal. While the final product is designed to last decades, the bottle comes with a five-year guarantee — Forgo will even replace the pump if anything goes awry.
Forgo attests that each refill contributes 85% fewer emissions than a typical bottle of soap. Not to mention, the company can ship 30 sachets in the place of one standard bottle. Even their ingredient sourcing seeks to minimize waste: both their natural scents — timber and citrus — are derived from scraps from other supply chains. But this impact comes at a price. Increased packaging and ingredient costs mean that Forgo’s margins are 20% lower than conventional brands. And, coming in at nearly $50 USD for the starter kit, widespread adoption of this household essential may be a challenge, especially given the rising cost of living due to inflation.
Still, Forgo continues to look optimistically toward the future. The brand’s body wash formula is slated to be released later this year and is currently available for pre-order. And there are plenty of other personal care goods in the pipeline. Form Us With Love’s Future Proof exhibition at last month’s Stockholm Creative Edition festival demonstrated endless possibilities for a line extension, from toilet paper and razors to shampoo and toothpaste. In a refreshing move, the studio eschewed the “designer knows best” ethos, and instead actively sought feedback on the prototypes from industry experts and the public.
Forgo’s upcoming innovations include a dish sponge that combines bar soap with cellulose fibre. Equally brilliant is their design for a shampoo bar, packaged in a twist-up stick similar to deodorant, conceptualized to address the all too familiar — and wasteful — problem of the unusable end of a bar of soap. Another playful prototype proposes toothpaste tablets packaged in a metal dispenser that resembles the traditional tube-shaped format, designed to increase ease of adoption. It’s not the only prototype that references the past: the studio also suggests a return to the safety razor, which is no less convenient than the single-use plastic versions that have replaced them.
The prototypes show immense promise. But the lengthy and stringent regulatory process to approve beauty and home care products is currently a barrier to implementing these products in a timely way, which is especially necessary as we continue to see the impact of climate change. For Form Us With Love, these challenges serve as the fuel for their design work: “We see problems in industry and culture as opportunities for design to come in and show a better way forward,” explains CEO Jonas Pettersson.
While it’s important to note that spending $50 USD on soap is a privilege that many simply can’t afford, Forgo is helping to change the mindset that living a low-waste lifestyle has to be inconvenient. Making small, simple changes can have a big impact, and as demand increases, these changes will hopefully become more accessible to all.
Incubated by Swedish studio Form Us With Love, the personal and home care start-up’s recent exhibition at Stockholm Creative Edition showcased a compelling vision for the circular economy.