Meet our Friday Muse Steph Davies, co-founder of TWYG

16 November 2023
By Fashion Quarterly

Armed with an entrepreneurial spirit and love for sustainability, meet just one half of the dream duo behind Aotearoa’s newest (and chicest) skincare brand, TWYG.

Ryan and Steph Davies. Image: supplied.

If you’ve got a keen interest in the beauty world, it’s likely that you might have spied a chic new brand across your Instagram feed this week. TWYG –a line of modern luxury skincare made from Bioactive Totarol™— is the latest brainchild from husband-and-wife duo Steph and Ryan Davies, who launched their accessible personal care brand byebyebad only a few months ago. Being partners in life and business isn’t for everyone, but it certainly works for this pair. Hailing from a business-savvy family, Steph first met Ryan while they were working for global advertising agency DDB, a stepping stone to what would later become a full-blown working partnership. With the highly-anticipated launch of TWYG this week, it seemed like the perfect time for FQ to sit down with Steph Davies to discover more about her life, her brands, and her affinity for sustainability. 

In conversation with Steph Davies, co-founder of TWYG:

Where did you grow up and where are you currently based?

I grew up in Takapuna, on the North Shore of Auckland and now live in Point Chevalier with my husband Ryan, seven year old daughter Rafferty, Vaeda the dog and Tilda the cat.

Tell us about your career to date:

After travelling and then finishing my studies, the last 14 years has been growing global and local brands at some of New Zealand’s biggest advertising agencies. From burgers, beers and airlines to telcos, cars and government bodies. It’s been diverse!   

You’ve just launched TWYG. What can you tell us about this brand and how this brand/business and ultimately its star ingredient Totarol™ came about? 

TWYG is a world-first premium skincare range using Bioactive Totarol™ in high doses for maximum efficacy, something that has never been done before. Totarol is a highly potent active ingredient that is seven times more effective as an antioxidant than vitamin e. Antioxidants are what protect our skin from environmental damage, helping to prevent and reduce the signs of premature ageing. Totarol is sustainably sourced from fallen New Zealand Tōtara trees. What is protecting the tree for hundreds of years is what is now able to protect skin. We happen to be the manufacturers of this incredible ingredient which is why this is all possible.

Tell us about your working partnership with your husband Ryan. How does this work? 

Quite well most of the time! Ryan and I met in advertising (at global agency DDB) so we both come from this fast-paced, client service background. We also come from entrepreneurial families so it’s not surprising that we have ended up coming into my family business. I think the journey to bring such a unique and different brand like TWYG to market has brought us even closer together, literally, and figuratively.

You’ve successfully launched another brand in this space: byebyebad. What did you seek to do differently with TWYG? 

byebyebad is an FMCG, accessible, natural personal care brand that’s powered by Totarol across the range. TWYG, on the other hand, is a premium skincare range using high amounts of actives (including Totarol) to create potent antioxidant blends that work hard at tackling the signs of environmental damage, helping protect and rejuvenate skin.

How did you come up with the name TWYG, the packaging direction, and the number/edit of products available etc? 

TWYG (pronounced twig), is symbolic of the regenerative power of our skincare. Just as a twig is a new shoot that represents new life, our products are scientifically proven to regenerate and renew skin cell turnover.

The ethos of the brand is built around igniting all the senses. So, from a visual point of view that meant creating unique, distinctive packaging that linked back to the core of our story which of course is Totarol and the Tōtara tree, and the environment it is found in. So we created ‘a forest of skincare’ designed to be admired, and thoughtfully used, providing a moment to connect you back to nature.

We wanted to develop a considered range of products that could be easily slotted into existing skin care regimes but most importantly, where Totarol was best being utilised. The deeper it can penetrate into skin the more bioavailable and therefore effective it becomes. So products that were leave-on were key.

There’s a growing demand for skincare that’s powered by biology and ingredients from nature. Why do you think this is? And what are the benefits? 

For a long time, consumers struggled to believe naturally derived ingredients could be as effective as ingredients derived in a lab. Time, technology, and scientific testing has now allowed this mindset to change. We are finally enlightened to be using the gifts from mother nature, which have been successfully protecting plants, resisting environmental attacks, and thriving in the world for millennia.

What do you do when you hit a creative block? Where do you look for inspiration? 

Ryan and I do rely on each other when those creative blocks happen, as often we are working on different things and a fresh pair of eyes can often bring a different perspective. When we need to be inspired, we love a good window shop. We both love design and buying beautiful things for our home always sparks joy. Some of our favourite designers that we are inspired by are Tom Dixon, Seletti and Kartell.

What do you hope to achieve this year both professionally and personally? 

It’s been a mammoth few years developing and launching not one but two brands while also running the Totarol raw ingredient side of the business (on top of that Ryan runs another small business). We have been thrilled with the success of byebyebad so far and have high hopes TWYG will follow a similar trajectory. Our focus is to build brand awareness, and we hope once people experience TWYG they will make it part of their daily ritual. Outside of this we are looking forward to spending time with family and friends and sinking into our beach chairs with a good book over summer (and probably a few naps too!).

How do you manage a work/life balance? What are your non-negotiables?

Not going to lie, it’s a juggle! We work from home so there is no separation, but we are out and about often which helps. But some non-negotiables are sitting at the table together as a family for dinner and making the focus of that conversation around home life and our daughter. Taking time out to exercise is super important too (and gives us each some breathing room!).

Do you have a mantra/quote to live by that you return to?

‘Think different’ and ‘The harder you work, the luckier you get.’

Quick-Fire Questions:

The best book I’ve read recently… Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier – super interesting and insightful as we start a beauty brand ourselves! 

My current podcast recommendation… Radiolab, such brilliant stories.

My favourite place to dine… Onslow.

The best coffee spot near me… Daily Bread.

The item at the top of my wish list… New togs.

Three beauty products I recommend to everyone… Aleph Radiance Balm for a subtle shimmer, MCoBeauty Tubular Mascara for the best lashes, and Yves Saint Laurent Radiant Highlighter for hiding the signs of tiredness! 

This season I’m splurging on… Concert tickets – there is a good summer line up coming to NZ! 

My most cherished item in my home is… Old photo albums.

Somewhere everyone should go/attend at least once in their lifetime… Bavaria, in the south of Germany. I am half German, and this is where my father is from. I was fortunate to spend a lot of time there growing up. My grandparents lived in a small town called Traunreut. It has the most stunning scenery, delicious food, and history. It is a cultural feast and I can’t wait to take Raffy and Ryan there one day soon.


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