Face_Stockholm_8 (1)
Face_Stockholm_n15
Face_Stockholm_5
Face_Stockholm_23
Face_Stockholm_17
Face_Stockholm_n16
Face_Stockholm_n17
Face_Stockholm_20
Face_Stockholm_11
Face_Stockholm_3

Face Stockholm

Gun Nowak and her daughter, Martina Arfwidson own FACE Stockholm, a Swedish cosmetics company Nowak established in 1982. Theirs is one of the only Swedish cosmetic companies recognized and adored all over the world by customers and makeup artists alike. Nowak owned three of Sweden’s hippest fashion boutiques when she started FACE Stockholm and it was there, between neon and brightly colored clothing that she realized that the makeup to complement such vibrant clothing hadn’t been invented yet.

“I didn’t set out to do makeup,” said Nowak, “but I wanted every color and I couldn’t find them anywhere. I saw the opportunity.” Her first “baby store”, as Nowak lovingly calls the birthplace of FACE Stockholm, was was an immediate success. Soon enough, she needed all hands on deck and Arfwidson joined the family business fueled by the same passion her mother had to start it.  “I can find Mom on a Sunday morning sitting with fifty lipstick color swatches up her arm, comparing reds. If it’s not passion, I don’t know what is,” said Arfwidson.

View from Nowak’s home, upstate New York.

Sharing this passion for color and design as well as a playful sense of humor, Nowak and Arfwidson have formed a symbiotic partnership and carved a unique niche for themselves in the competitive business. Today, FACE Stockholm brings the Swedish beauty ideal to women globally through makeup and skincare products that are natural, on trend, clean, fun and full of color. Their spectrum of shades is unparalleled as is their service.  Customers can expect the same level of intimacy, knowledge and comfort in each of the over-100-family-run stores worldwide.

“Putting makeup on a woman is such an intimate experience,” said Arfwidson. “Rarely do you get so close to someone — maybe with your doctor or your family — but it’s a beautiful interaction. It allows you to see who people really are. And I think this interaction is the essence of what FACE Stockholm is all about: making women feel good about themselves. That is the part of our work that we both love. Women are just so fantastic when they get the confidence to express who they truly are.”

Nowak’s home, upstate New York.

Discovering the deeper meaning in their work is what has kept mother and daughter devoted to their brand for over 30 years. “I don’t think we would enjoy the work as much if it weren’t for a deeper purpose,” contemplates Gun. “I think makeup is wonderful and fun because it can be like theater — it allows you to play and to act out whatever you want to be. But the most the important thing that we want to express to our customers is that we are all beautiful, in one way or the other.” 

FACE Stockholm

Names: Gun Nowak | Martina Arfwidson

MoL: Where is your hometown?

Gun Nowak: Stockholm, Sweden / Germantown, NY.

Martina Arfwidson: Germantown, NY.

MoL: Where did you go to school?

GN: In a small town in the southern part of Sweden called Växjö.

MA: I went to school in Stockholm.

Nowak’s home, upstate New York.

MoL: Where are you currently located?

GN:  I split my time between Stockholm and Germantown NY.

MA:  At home in Germantown, NY.

MoL: What is your current occupation?

GN:  CEO/Founder FACE Stockholm.

MA:  President FACE Stockholm.

MoL: What did you do before FACE Stockholm?

GN: Well, I have always been an entrepreneur.  I started my career with fashion boutiques in Stockholm.

MA: I came to New York to pursue a singing career and little did I know that I would end up joining mom in the beauty industry.

MoL: What inspired you to create FACE Stockholm? What inspired the name?

GN: I became friends with a manufacturer and saw the opportunity. Sweden is our home, the country where we were born so I felt that connection should be reflected in the brand.The beauty of the Swedish people inspired the name.

MoL: How did art, music and your love of color influence your business?

GN: Art, music and colors have always been part of our lives. It is the foundation of our company.  For me makeup should be fun and creative.  I am passionate about color and driven to have them all, so that definitely influences the extensive range and variety we offer as a brand.

MA: Mom is a 100 percent artist. Beauty, style and color affect everything she does every moment of her day.

Nowak’s home, upstate New York.

MoL: Where did you first sell your products?

GN: In a friend’s store in Stockholm.

MoL: What challenges from your past led to your current success?

GN: I’m inspired by challenge, and some might say stubborn!  So from an early age I learned to turn problems into opportunities.

MA: My amazing teacher at musical theater school in New York City in the 80’s taught me the harsh lesson that “good is not good enough”… You always have to strive for better! I think this mindset has shaped who I am and in every situation. I think about how can I make it better, how can I raise the bar?

“Art, music and colors have always been part of our lives. It is the foundation of our company.”–Gun Nowak 

MoL: Where do you look for inspiration?

GN: Everywhere, even in the most remote places I can see beauty and be inspired.  People, places, art, nature, grandchildren!  If you’re open to ideas and take the time you’ll find endless inspiration in every day activities.

MA: I echo mom. Inspiration can be found everywhere if you allow your eye to see it.

MoL: What are your values, and how are they represented in the brand?

GN: Honesty and quality, those are the values I want reflected in all that I do, from the products to the people.

MA: To me, the most important thing is our customers!  It is my goal and mission to make every woman and man that comes across our brand feel the love, joy and humor that goes into the work we do every day.

Portrait of Martina Arfwidson taken at Nowak’s home in upstate New York.

MoL: You have been working as a mother/daughter team from the beginning of your company. What are the challenges and rewards?

GN: For me, I would not have been able to do this without Martina. She is my mentor in many ways.

MA:  It is indescribably cool to work with mom!  We share so much and most of all we really care about each other as people. Occasionally we have different opinions on something, but generally speaking working together is nothing but a huge blessing!

MoL: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you could really do this?

GN: I am extremely selfish. I always think I can do anything!

MA: Haha! I am still trying!

MoL: It’s important to you that the FACE Stockholm products make women feel good about themselves. What inspired this idea, and what aspects of your daily life make YOU feel good about yourself?

GN: If you do not have self esteem no product in the world can help you, but it is our hope that the combination of our amazing staff and the products we offer can help you feel your very best.

MA: We all know that makeup is not important or really makes no difference when it comes to beauty! It is acknowledging this and putting forth the message that makeup is an art form, it’s fun and creative, one of the many mediums people have used to express themselves since the beginning of time. For me, I feel good when I take care of my body and have peace in my mind. If I can add some lipstick to that it’s even better!

Arfwidson’s home, upstate New York.

MoL: In building this company, have you seen any changes in yourself along the way? If so, what kind?

GN: I trust my intuition more than ever now and it’s easier to make tough decisions.

MA: I always say that FACE Stockholm is my life journey. It is much easier running a company when you have experience behind you. I am much smarter and more efficient in the way I work; I’ve learned how to prioritize both at work and at home.

MoL: Tell us about FACE Stockholm Makeup School? What inspired you to create this school and when was it first established?

GN: The school was established in Stockholm. It has become increasingly popular over the years, both for novices and professionals, which has allowed us to offer a variety of classes to meet everyone’s needs and interests.

MoL: Can you give us your favorite, quick and easy makeup tip?

GN: Concealer and a red lipstick do the trick for me!

MA: Our tinted moisturizer is brilliant!  Start with that and all you need is a little blush and lipstick and you’re good to go.

MoL: Do you have any hobbies?

GN: Gardening, skiing, interior design, traveling, hiking.

MA: Running, friends, interiors, garden, taking photographs, fiddling at home, bonfires, Salsa dancing, vacationing (I am especially good at this!).

MoL: What is your favorite inspiring quote?

GN: God is in the details.

MA:   What you think you become.  –Buddha

Nowak’s home, upstate New York.

MoL: Who is an influential figure in your life, and why?

GN: Besides Martina and my husband, the Tibetan monks I’ve come to know. I see them every year!

MA: 100 percent my family….Mom, kids and my lovely husband. They shape me, inspire me and motivate me every day!

MoL: Do you have a style icon?

GN: Greta Garbo, the Swedish born actress and Audrey Hepburn.

MA: The classic – Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy of course.

MoL: What is the best advice you’ve ever received? From whom?

GN: Take a chill pill! Advice from Martina.

MA: Follow your gut. Advice from mom.

MoL: What is something you know now that you wish you knew before?

GN: That everything is possible! You are your own obstacle.

MA: To live in the moment, take time to celebrate and take in all the amazing things. Time flies by so fast.

MoL: Words of wisdom/advice for those interested in starting his or her own business?

GN: Do not ever start if you do not love what you are doing and learn how to follow your intuition. Passion is the key!

MA: Be passionate about what you get into because you will be giving all you have and then some and when you think you have to give up and you are exhausted you just pull through again! It is amazing! Do it!!

MoL: We find that people who make beautiful things are more likely to lead an artistic lifestyle. Do you spend much time creating a beautiful home? Do you entertain? Do you cook? If so, do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share?

GN: My house is my curated environment where I live. My home is sort of my hobby. I love to have old and new friends over and mostly, of course my grandchildren! Their favorite recipe is my Swedish spaghetti and meat sauce!

MA: I love my home and never have enough time there to even sit down. Between the children, their friends, grandparents and my friends it is more like Grand Central Station…!!! Thank goodness my husband cooks because we have a full table every night!

Nowak’s home, upstate New York.

Social Media:

Instagram: @FACEStockholm

Twitter: @FACEStockholm

Facebook: FACEStockholm

Pinterest: FACE Stockholm

Blog: Face Stockholm

All photography by: Christina von Messling