CHERNOBYL AND THE FAIR
It was February 1986: I had just successfully completed my architecture studies and had to make a decision: either continue to make money with my cosmetics or, as my parents wished, try to find a job in an architecture firm.
It was probably the only time in my career that I struggled with one decision: I had built up my cosmetics line as a mail order business for years - from time to time I was present at Christmas or summer markets, enthusiastic customers brought me a lot of joy and recognition. The most important thing was: I worked with my own creation. Executing other people's ideas in an architectural firm didn't seem particularly appealing to me, but it would guarantee a secure income and reassure my parents. What to do? In order to make my decision easier, I decided to present my products at a trade fair first: if I were to be successful, I would continue, if not, work as an architect.
A Munich health fair in April 1986 was the decisive factor: I had really weak knees to register for such a large exhibition, but I calmed down that it would not be much different than at one of the Christmas markets.
So there I was: with my fold-out wallpapering table and a white bed sheet over it. In the middle I draped a vase with freshly apple blossom branches. A dream of a bouquet that properly upgraded this completely unprofessional stand among all the glossy "plastic stalls". Whenever I think back to this fair today, I see this bouquet and feel that it was a sign in advance that something very special should be brought to bloom at this stand.
The fallout in Chernobyl had shaken the world three days earlier, and we in Bavaria were particularly badly affected. Announcements were heard repeatedly while the stand was being set up: a kind of special exhibition in the entrance area presented products that are said to help against radioactive radiation. It was very surprising how many exhibitors were involved, and the space was packed in no time.
The fair opened and my booth with the magical apple blossom branches attracted many visitors. Including a journalist from the magazine Natur. Actually, she just wanted to sniff the flowers, but then she got stuck on my jars.
She asked me why my ginseng products could not be found at the special exhibition. She saw ginseng tea there, which the exhibitors claimed could help. It was new to me (and also the journalist) that ginseng could have a therapeutic effect against radioactivity, we were both amazed at all the supposed knowledge - nobody had experience, this fallout was something completely new for everyone. She apparently liked my honesty, at least she took her time and I explained my products to her. She was thrilled by the fact that I do not use any preservatives and make them after the moon has passed, in order to naturally influence their durability. She promised to interview me for an article on the harmfulness of preservatives in cosmetics. And indeed: after the fair, she came with a larger order: she should test about 20 more, more conventional, but very well-known brands for preservatives.
The result was overwhelmingly good for my products, and so was their detailed article. After it was published in the summer of 1986, a flood of inquiries came to me, especially the health food shops that were springing up at the time wanted to order my products. The decision was made as to whether I would make cosmetics or architecture in the future. Later I was even able to afford my own architectural office and only had to take on the jobs that I really enjoyed - if my time allowed.