Oscar Knaust: ”Scandi-minimalism is dead”
The co-founder of men’s beauty brand Narcyss: ”We’re doing something completely different — maximalistic and pattern on pattern and pattern. That’s our vision and our idea of how to create expressions in the stores.”
20 Feb 2024

In the shadows of the pandemic, a new generation of men is the hope for the future and growth of male skincare. One of the brands leading the development here is Narcyss, whose philosophy is ”a life well lived”, as the brand focuses on interlacing mental and physical well-being into modern masculinity. The founders, brothers Gustav Töring and Oscar Knaust, took their experiences from fashion, technology, and luxury into the world of beauty to create something they felt was missing, everyday self-care which speaks to them. 

The debut product line, Regime No.1, is formulated in Paris with adaptogens among the active ingredients. It embodies the concepts of keeping it simple with a routine consisting of a cleanser, serum, face cream, and eye cream suitable for both day and night. The additional cell-renewing mask aims to give that extra touch of well-being.

— Beauty for the modern man is growing, Oscar Knaust shares. Today men are conscious, evolved, and redefined. They love to care about themselves and tend to spend a lot of money on good wines, and restaurants. Beauty has never been an interest, but I think it’s changing now. 10 years ago, men didn’t do yoga. I think we are in the epicentre right now with male beauty.

— We need to drive this evolution, which is exciting, and super fun, but also challenging because the modern man doesn’t have a certain routine. He doesn’t know why he should have it. Previously, we’ve seen that women are buying all that the man uses, and feed him with female products — the Diptyque candles and the Byredo body soaps — in the bathrooms. The men’s products are always tucked down somewhere else in the bathroom where you can’t see them. I believe that the bathroom furniture aspect is as important as the formulations to create this new buying behaviour; to make it a statement.

Which also makes the visual interpretation important.

— Yes, that’s why our branding is maximalistic. Because once you’ve seen it, you remember it — not necessarily the name but hopefully when you try it. The man in general is pretty ’stupid’; you buy a deodorant and you keep buying it because it works. But once you have them on board, we see that they rebuy all the time. It usually starts with the basic line, a day cream and a cleanser, and then they keep coming back for maybe a night mask for cell renewal.

What’s the reason for all this?

— Historically, I think it’s been a stigma, that you’re not a ’real man’ if you’re into skincare. But I think that’s shifting towards also being about well-being. The goal is that when going into a restaurant and putting the bag on the table after buying a serum, you should feel proud of it and of taking care of yourself.

And if this modern man goes to yoga, it might not be such a big step. 

— There are trend leaders, and you see them at the running clubs and the wellness groups. It’s great because it leads men to try new things. And that’s what we need to see in the grooming aspect section as well, that men need to try it. Once you start trying it, you will be stuck — it’s very fun to be part of this new movement.

And Generation Z has a different behaviour?

— Yes, Gen-Z is our hope for the future. Just going on the bus, you can see guys wearing nail polish and makeup. It is genderless and so is our packaging. It doesn’t say it’s for men but gives a male feeling. There are guys out there who don’t know what to buy and they don’t want to go into the pharmacy to buy the entire line. They want something that talks to them, just like when buying a new pair of jeans. We are lacking that kind of brand in this industry, a brand that you understand, Knaust claims. He continues:

— I think Scandi-minimalism is dead — it’s been around for so many years. People buy a white bottle, put a black and gray font on it and say, ’we got a brand’. It’s been super strong with that branding in Asia for 5, 6, 7 years but even over there now they want something new because it’s so hard to see the difference among the brands. Byredo are pioneers. They own that style. And it’s been very convenient to make that kind of boxes because it sells in stores.

— We’re doing something completely different — maximalistic and pattern on pattern and pattern. That’s our vision and our idea of how to create expressions in the stores. When you pass this, you will definitely stop. When we went to exhibit at CIFF in Copenhagen, we had END, Bergdorf Goodman, and Brown’s and all of them stopped — because it’s something new. I’m not saying everybody will buy it, but people will stop.

But isn’t it more difficult with this visual interpretation to attract the bigger mass?

— 100%. I think the price point is key. We work with ’masstige’ (mass-market/prestige, Ed’s note). When we went into this industry after many, many years in tech and fashion, we wanted to create a masstige brand that was priced between $35 and $70 just like all the female indie brands you see globally, that are doing so well. But I realised when I started that 90% of all products to men are below 20 dollars. That’s where we see the ’mass’.

— I wanted to create something different. I wanted to put a lot of money into a sustainable packaging, working with glass and Fairtrade paper, and that cost a lot of money.  But if you create a brand just for the mass market, it’s hard to survive for many years. I want my brand to be a legacy brand that will survive when I’m not around anymore. People have such a short time frame of building brands because they read about brands that explode in one or two seasons with really high turnovers — but it can go very fast the other way as well. So, we start slow with curated selected retailers globally to build brand awareness.


To take the next step, Narcyss is now also adding an entry line, for the mentioned customers who historically have looked at men’s skincare as something connected with a stigma.

— They maybe don’t want to spend $40 on a product but $15. So we make a good looking packaging in aluminium tubes and we’ll price it around $19. As a new brand, you need a cash flow to survive unless you’re venture capital backed. We’re going into Matas in Denmark, the pharmacies in Sweden, and some other chains globally to get the volume.

— When you get started with a product, let’s say a cleanser, you might want to add up the next time to something better, just like in every industry. You maybe start with a T-shirt from a brand, then you buy the blazer. So you get the buying behaviour and the brand awareness. We will have both lines in every store, because I think it’s important to have a wide portfolio. If you only have 3, 4, 5 products, it’s hard to say if you’re a good brand — you need to have a curated selection in store. 

— It’s really exciting to try this out. We’ve had a great first 18 months. We sold 40,000 pieces in the first six months globally, which is pretty good for a new brand. It’s not good enough. We’re obviously aiming for much, much more but good things take time. I want more brands in the segment — we can help each other to build this new vertical. It’s hard when it’s only a few brands. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, if you want to build a sustainable business, Knaust concludes.

The new entry line.