We had a pleasure speaking with Liene Drāzniece, the Art Director and co-founder of MÁDARA, natural skincare&makeup brand from Latvia. 

It is MÁDARA’s 15th birthday this year! How do you feel?

I’m still very excited. It’s fantastic to see how one nice idea can grow when like-minded people put their love and energy into it. 

Let’s go back to the beginning. Where did it all start?

It began a little while before 2006 when I met Lotte (Lotte Tisenkopfa-Iltnere, co-founder and creative director of MÁDARA) who showed her first samples of handmade soap and asked me to draw the logo. Our discussion expanded much further than that – we talked about the traditional folk knowledge of plants, our roots, culture and vision. I can see those ideas materialized now. But it took some time.

Where does the name MÁDARA come from?

Madara is the Latvian name for bedstraw (galium), a fine, fragrant meadow flower that blossoms just before Midsummer and fills the air with a deep, bittersweet aroma. It might have a fragile structure, but it’s also pretty resilient and always tends upwards. Due to the high levels of antioxidants, we use the extract of bedstraw in several MÁDARA formulas. Also, it’s a popular person’s name here (Madara is a female name, and Madars is a male name). What’s interesting (and I realised it just recently), we don’t have too many names which can be given to both boys and girls… Which beautifully underlines our strong belief in acceptance and equality here at MÁDARA.

Could you tell me more about the roots/values of the brand?

Everything starts with a spark, which gives us a drive to explore the world and create beautiful things, breaking new paths for nature to reach contemporary people. Our products are the shortcut to nature’s power and sensuality for so many.

Human is at the center of our attention, but not in a classic anthropocentric sense. Seeking our place in this world, we learn a sense of self-worth and humbleness, too.

How would you define the Latvian sense of being?

We have a very strong connection with nature. We don’t have high hills or rocks, but we have our moody sea and fertile soil that nurtures the plants during the damn short, but sunny and warm Latvian summers. Here we can fully witness all 4 seasons, which are radically different from one another. This, I feel, strongly impacts our mood and attitude towards life and things and unleashes such an energy and even a little bit of madness. However, we are still trying to define our taste and identity, and the things that would be specifically ours. 

What does freedom mean to you?

Many angles come to my mind when I think about this topic, since we have only relatively recently regained our independence as a country. And we are learning freedom from anew. 

My wish is to see people more loving towards one another. It takes an open heart and open mind to turn to others without bias, ready to listen and get to know them – genuinely.

You are one of the co-founders of MÁDARA. What is your background?

I come from artist family. Art school was my perfect escape. But soon I realised that all my enthusiasm was devoted to serving graphic design, if I can say so. I studied in Latvia and Italy. I have agency experience in the position of art director at leading advertising agencies in Riga, Latvia, for almost 10 years. Besides that, I always took on some projects for my soul, and that’s how MÁDARA started. 

You also have been the art director for MÁDARA since its inception, shaping everything from the packaging to the logo. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Our concept was to create an identity that has a clear link to the Latvian ancient symbol system but also has its own totally new approach which follows our historical approach towards the search for the Latvian identity, which is a neverending process and started in the 1920’s–1930’s with the Latvian modernist movement. We were inspired from the graphic symbols of this time and connected them to the Latvian knowledge of herbs and to the sense of being in nature. This resulted in a visual story, which we used for the first years to establish communication and recognition in the market. 

In the following years, the product range and distribution was growing so fast and we faced two choices – one was to create a heavy brandbook with guidelines, the other was to expand our creative team – we chose the second because it seemed to be much more fun and worthwhile.

You have always created all your visual communication in-house. That is impressive. How do you work normally?

We work in a strong unison with all departments and we are truly passionate about what we are doing. Our attitude towards our brand is as if it was towards a real character who is constantly developing and changing in reaction to various and unpredictable changes. We do what needs to be done for the brand to express it.

Nature is at the core of MÁDARA’s being. What does nature mean to you?

It’s a limitless source of inspiration and a place to escape. 

What does a sustainable future look like for you?

I hope there comes a time when sustainability, responsible consumption and future-forward thinking comes to one naturally, and everyone just practices it, so we won’t need to communicate it all that much anymore. 

When you launched the brand in 2006, the line consisted of 4 skincare products. This month you released your 164thproduct, your first mascara. Could you tell me more about that?

Mascara is such an iconic product that tells a lot about the brand and its expertise. Deep Matter was a challenging product our team was working on for nearly 2 years, I think. I must admit I’m very choosey, but Deep Matter completely overturns my skepticism, just like many other MÁDARA products do.

You worked as the art director for the mascara’s campaign. What was your process for this shoot?

While going through countless mascara ads, I noticed a certain pattern or code, usually revolving around a depiction of a captivating, seductive woman’s gaze. A promise always comes along, as if mascara was a tool or weapon to achieve success. However, our aim was to place the spotlight on the personality, confidence and self-esteem. 

We were trying to untwine the psychological, anthropological and philosophical motifs beyond the non-verbal communication though eyes alone, as well as the urge to emphasize one’s gaze using a mascara. It was an extremely interesting yet intimate topic to experience, especially through the silver plate analog photography technique. 

We looked deeper into what mascara means to each of us, individually. In the end, we realized that it was more about feeling good in your own skin. When you don’t need anyone or anything, when you don’t even feel the need to be beautiful, only then mascara comes in and does its job – makes you feel even better.  

If you had to pick one favourite product from your brand, which would it be?

I couldn’t live without the Infinity Dropsserum. It just gets everything in order. I keep it in the fridge, and for me it feels and works even better when it’s cool. 

You have been very outspoken about your brand’s commitment of collaborating with (local) artists. What has been your favourite collaboration to date?

The one with Arturs Analts. His Matter to Matter installation got the first prize at the London Design Biennale in 2018. The work reflects on the Latvian relationship with nature, a key pillar for MÁDARA as well. We developed the ambient fragrance for the installation to enrich the visual and tactile experience.

And now, together with artists Katrina Neiburga and Evelina Deicmane, we are working on a very interesting project, called MÉTAMORPHOSE, trying to rediscover and reinterpret our ancient masking traditions in a contemporary way. 

Any words of inspiration you would like to share with our readers?

Saglabā dzirksti. Make sure to not lose your spark.

Wout Philippo