Reinventing Jeddah’s beauty industry

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Sarah Al-Wassia set out to create a brand that focuses on creating natural, handmade products.
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Nanu Body products are luxurious and environmentally-friendly.
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The brand offers its own range of natural deodorant.
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The body butter is luxurious and moisturizing.
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The shea butter soap is frothy and aromatic.
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Pretty packaging makes this brand a must-have.
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Nanu Body is known for its natural products.
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Nanu Body's products are as pretty as they are effective.
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From cream to face wash, the brand offers a variety of products.
Updated 04 January 2018
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Reinventing Jeddah’s beauty industry

By running her own brand and selling her own specially-formulated creations using high-quality natural ingredients, Sarah Al-Wassia, founder and owner of Nanu Body products, shows that a little innovation can go a long way.
The beauty entrepreneur set out to create a brand that focuses on creating natural, handmade products in Saudi Arabia in 2014, but launched it to the public in 2015 and has not looked back since.
“Skincare is my passion! I always had an interest in creating something related to it and the transition from being a graphic designer to creating natural body products was a big decision,” she told Arab News, explaining that as well as being a wife, mother and entrepreneur, she is also currently studying for a master’s degree in nutrition and herbal medicine.
The road to success was not easy, however.
“It had some level of turbulence, but as the saying goes ‘rough seas make better sailors.’ I worked hard and learned to appreciate my unique journey in the skincare industry,” she said.
“Besides being interested in nature and natural products, health and nutrition have always been a major part of my life… I wanted to take it further by focusing on what I apply on my skin. Hence, the idea of creating my very own natural handmade body products came and Nanu Body was launched.”
When asked about her inspiration, Al-Wassia said that her family and her love for nature inspired her the most. In addition to this, certain essential oils motivated her to develop products for the benefit of people’s skin.
“Every recipe starts as a vague idea, which is transformed into a prototype that undergoes several testing stages. Also, most of the time, I use them on myself for a while before it gets commercialized, in order to ensure a high quality natural products,” she said.
The first product line that Nanu Body released was the body scrub collection, which was a great success. By then, other products, including body butter, deodorant, soap, fragrance and lip balm, had completed the testing phase and were released.
“Though the formulation development process is extensive, I make sure to take notes as to what I feel is missing and then slowly add more components to the products,” Al-Wassia explained.
She advised customers wanting to transition from conventional cosmetics to natural products to be aware and attentive of natural products and keep a track of what they hear and read about natural beauty products as well as do their own research. It is important to have an understanding of particular ingredients or to have knowledge about what to avoid in order having a true conviction that natural beauty care products are right for anyone.
The beauty businesswoman is involved in every step of the process, from product concepts to sales plans. She even played a major role in sourcing raw materials from the US to ensure all her products are natural.
“I have no other go-to beauty products. I am 100% natural and this motivates me more to create natural products that are chemical free. Besides, I am obsessed with quality so I can make the best, most effective skincare. If there is something in my life that I would like to replace with a handmade alternative, it would be make-up. (I would like to introduce) natural cosmetics at Nanu Body. Thus, we are looking at possibly launching that in near future,” she revealed.
Sharing her opinion on being compared to high-end makeup brands, she said that Nanu Body is a natural, handmade body product and cannot be likened to any make-up brands on the market.
When asked what her favorite product is, she chose Nanu Body Butter due to its rich texture and the natural ingredients that moisturize the skin. She also shared news of the recent launch of Nanu Body’s latest product, a body salve that also acts as a natural mosquito repellent — perfect for the winter months when many across the region spend more and more time outdoors.
“This year, it’s been tough, we have gone through many ups and downs like any other business,” she revealed. “But the key is to accept that life will not always be perfectly balanced. The most important thing in life is to focus and not sweat the small stuff. We managed to launch our products in two shops in Jeddah and that was a goal we achieved against all odds.
“I was up for the challenges and could surpass them with hard work and effort,” she added.
Al-Wassia says she has been surprised by the number of people in the country who have shown an interest in handmade natural body products and the level of brand loyalty that has been shown to Nanu Body.
“At Nanu Body, the customer is always right and we love to hear feedback from our customers, whether it is good or bad. We take our costumers comments into consideration and use the feedback in our product development,” she said.


‘Not your habibti’: Palestinian designer seeks to empower women

Updated 31 min 24 sec ago
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‘Not your habibti’: Palestinian designer seeks to empower women

  • Designer Yasmeen Mjalli sees the clothes as helping empower Palestinian women facing unwelcome male attention in public
  • Mjalli says that her fight against harassment of women is unconnected to the #MeToo movement

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: It’s only three words on a T-shirt or embroidered on a denim jacket in Palestinian designer Yasmeen Mjalli’s collection, but they carry a powerful message: “Not your habibti,” or darling.
She sees the clothes as helping empower Palestinian women facing unwelcome male attention in public.
“When a woman is exposed to so much harassment on the street, she begins to dress to protect herself, to hide herself as opposed to expressing herself,” the 22-year-old art history graduate says, leaning against the counter of her shop in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
On fabrics of muted colors and on canvas bags from her BabyFist label, she places messages in English and Arabic inside drawings of flowers and other designs.
“Every rose has its revolution,” one says.
Mjalli grew up in the US, where she lived with her Palestinian parents.
She started painting slogans on her own clothes when the family relocated to the West Bank and she found herself facing a different reality.
“I have experienced things like comments, really uncomfortable stares, the kind that make you feel very violated,” she said.
“I have been assaulted in the streets, people touching me,” she adds, catching one tattooed arm in her other hand to mimic being grabbed.
In August 2017, she launched her first collection and a few months later opened the Ramallah shop to complement her existing online sales.
“It’s not like the T-shirt is going to stop harassment,” she says.
But it’s “a reminder that you are part of something bigger that is working to empower women and to give back in some way and that is trying to have this conversation that challenges all of these structures which we are victims of too,” she adds.
The goal, Mjalli says, is to create a community.
Using Instagram, free workshops in her shop and public places where she sometimes installs herself with a typewriter, she offers Palestinian women the freedom to express their feelings and tell stories they cannot share elsewhere.
She donates around 10 percent of her fashion earnings to a local women’s group.
One project she funds sent a doctor and volunteers into schools to teach Palestinian girls about menstruation, a subject still largely taboo.
While defining herself as a feminist, Mjalli says that her fight against harassment of women is unconnected to the #MeToo movement.
“I don’t think it’s related even though it happened at the same time,” she said, though acknowledging that the movement gave her own efforts a boost.
“It’s a very American and it’s a very white feminism, and it’s not what we are doing here.”
All BabyFist garments are made in the Palestinian territories.
Jackets are sewn in Hassan Shehada’s Gaza workshop.
Among the sewing machines humming under florescent lights, Shehada shows a denim jacket embroidered with “Not your habibti.”
“I am proud that women wear the fruits of my labors and I am also very proud that they are labeled ‘Made in Palestine’,” he says.
In the past three months, he has made 1,500 items for BabyFist.
It was a breath of fresh air for Shehada’s business in the Gaza Strip, under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade and with endemic high unemployment.
“Working with BabyFist has given me back hope,” he says, adding that it has fulfilled a dream of exporting to Europe.
But manufacturing in Gaza comes at a cost.
Israeli restrictions mean jackets have been held up for weeks when the land crossing through Israel was closed due to mass Palestinian protests and clashes along the fence, Mjalli said.
“The border was closed indefinitively and we couldn’t get anything in or out,” she said. “It’s a constant battle.”
She says that around 40 percent of her sales are made in the Ramallah store and 60 percent online, mostly to the Palestinian and broader Arab diaspora.
Not everyone, however, is a fan.
Mjalli has come under fire from conservatives, who say she draws attention to women’s bodies by designing clothes that carry provocative messages.
Her criticism of some aspects of Palestinian society has also raised the hackles of those who believe that the struggle against Israeli occupation is the only legitimate public campaign.
For her, the fight for Palestinian independence and campaigning for women’s rights are intertwined.
“The occupation robs men in our society of any sense of control, any sense of masculinity which in turn affects women’s rights,” she says.
For Mjalli, there have been “already two or three generations of women that have had to suffer while we say: ‘OK, you can wait.’”