I'm with the brand: ANIA

I'm with the brand: ANIA

Moroccan roots

Text: Renée Batchelor

Inspired by the traditional remedies and ingredients used in his native Morocco, Mehdi Elaichouni co-created ANIA, a beauty brand that is based out of Singapore and created for the needs of Asian women

Interesting fact. There's an argan oil-based beauty brand in Singapore. Created by Moroccan-born Mehdi Elaichouni and Fern Lee, the products can be purchased via its online store, with free delivery within Singapore, and boasts a variety of skin and body care including multi-purpose oils, face creams and soaps. Elaichouni is clearly passionate about traditional remedies and has used his connections in his home continent to source the best possible oils and ingredients. We find out more about the brand from him.

What was your vision for ANIA?
Our vision with ANIA is to create the best natural skincare products in the world that are inspired by time-tested traditional ingredients and remedies, with complete transparency in everything we do.

Tell us about the brand. How did you come up with the name ANIA? As a man, what inspired you to get into the skincare business?
The inspiration for ANIA came from my childhood in Africa. It is a diverse continent with an amazing variety of wildlife, habitats, climates and civilizations. By the time I was 10, I had already lived in Morocco, Sudan and Egypt — moving with my family every few years following my father's work with the United Nations.

The African continent left a huge impact on me, but it was my home country of Morocco that inspired me the most. My grandmother owns a Moroccan public hammam — which is basically a huge steam room (similar to Turkish baths) where locals habitually go to cleanse themselves. Moroccan kids (male and female) usually visit the hammam with their female elders — for me it was my mom and aunts — until they are old enough to go on their own. I grew up (and still am) very close to my mom and my aunts, so you can imagine me as a kid going to these hammams full of women and spend two or three hours there (sometimes even longer!!), listening to women's gossip and watching (and being subjected to) their elaborate rituals for cleansing their bodies until their skin glows. I was hooked for life!

Ania was a Berber princess that was known for her beauty. She lived in Morocco around 120 A.D. I chose it to be the brand name as I found the name Ania to be simple and beautiful, and it also has an African story behind it.

Ania products

Why have you chosen to work specifically with argan oil? Where do you source your ingredients?
The efficacy of argan oil has been proven by time. Moroccans have used it for many generations. Extraction of the oil is always via cold pressing of the argan nut kernels — to preserve the properties of the oil. Argan oil is a big part of Moroccan culture — it is used in food and cosmetic purpose. Culinary argan oil has the nuts roasted before cold pressing so the aroma is stronger. Cosmetic argan oil is cold pressed as it is, so it is pure and extremely beneficial for the skin and hair care.

Argan trees grow only in Morocco, and are so revered that in 1998 the Argan Forest (located in south west Morocco) was declared a Biosphere Reserve By UNESCO. After doing extensive research on Asian women and their skincare needs, we found that they have naturally a weaker skin barrier compared to their Western counterparts This means that Asian skin is easily damaged with pollution, the sun and other external factors, making it highly prone to moisture loss and dryness. In my mind I knew that I had the perfect solution to that problem: Precious and pure argan oil, packed with fatty acids, vitamin E and antioxidants. Argan oil is a luxurious beauty oil that is an all-round beauty superhero. You can use it on your hair, nails, face, hands, feet and even on a baby. We also indentified, before starting ANIA, that there was a clear trend of people trying to simplify their beauty routine. So we know we had a hero in our hands!

We bring the purest form of organic argan oil directly from the region of Agadir in Morocco. It's triple purified and cold-pressed to only its essence. All our argan oil is hand processed by all-female co-ops — which provide women of rural Morocco with a steady income, decent working conditions and education, thereby giving them more options in a male-dominated society. Giving back to the African continent is very important to us.

In your website, it says the story of ANIA starts in Africa, why did you choose to sell them all the way on the other side of the world in Singapore?
What comes to your mind when you think of Africa? Is it poverty, war and disease? That bothers me a lot because the system of stoytelling about Africa is often incomplete and stereotyped. An accurate representation of Africa depends on which part of it you are referring to and no single story can reflect that because the continent is so vast and varied. My dream with ANIA is to tell a multiplicity of stories that will expand our knowledge about the African continent, by way of exotic scents, rare raw ingredients, unique botanicals, and more importantly the place where they come from and the people making them.

Tell us about your top three products in ANIA. Why are these your personal or the customers' favourites? 
Our personal and customer favourite (and best-seller) is our 100 per cent pure and organic argan oil. Singaporeans love the fact that is a multi-purpose, fast absorbing, and non-greasy oil that provides intensive moisturisation to hair, skin and nails.

Our second favourite is our all-natural rose water mist that can be used after your daily cleaning regime to maintain the pH balance of your skin, while stimulating the regeneration process. The light scent of damascena roses also enhances your mood.

Last but not least, our third favourite is the rarest and most expensive beauty oil you can get your hands on. Prickly Pear Seed Oil is the our ultimate anti-ageing facial elixir. 1000 kilos of Prickly Pear fruit yields just one precious litre of Prickly Pear seed oil. It's fast absorbing and-non greasy and brings durable skin firmness and elasticity. 

ANIA products
How is your brand different and unique from other brands and how do you inject your personality, taste, culture or experience into it?
I firmly believe that no one has ever managed to harness the power of natural ingredients from the African continent. And we want to do that with complete transparency in everything we make. Many brands try to get a competitive advantage using proprietary formulas, the trendiest ingredients, or even harmful chemicals and cheap filler oils, that's what I call the ugly side of beauty. We believe that there is another side of beauty - holistic and natural skincare from the inside and outside.

What are your hopes for ANIA in the near future? Will there be more products in store? What are some dream creations for you?
Africa is a vast and varied continent that is home of some of the world's most powerful natural ingredients. Our first line comes exclusively from Morocco, but we are working right now on more products inspired from other African cultures, countries and traditions. Stay tuned, we're just getting started.

From $25-$129. Available at its online store