The foundation of Sasha Plavsic’s organic makeup line—ILIA—can be traced all the way back to her childhood. Her younger brother (now business partner) suffered from severe allergies and asthma, and Sasha watched as her mother eschewed traditional medicine and successfully treated him with organic, homeopathic remedies. That experience—coupled with Sasha’s background in fashion branding—led her down the path of natural beauty. Fast forward to now, ILIA is one of—if not the—the chicest, most stylish organic brands around. We sat down with Sasha to talk the evolution of organic beauty, her creative process, and learn more about the life and beauty rituals that keep her happy and healthy.
Inspiration and advice to entrepreneurs and women
You were a creative director and graphic designer for some amazing brands, and then you decided to quit your job and venture out to do your own thing. Tell us about that defining moment when you said, ok, it’s time for me to make this happen. Tell us about that game-changing chapstick and more!
The real moment was on my thirtieth birthday. I was living in California and started freelancing for a larger cosmetic company. On my actual birthday there was a huge storm outside, and I remember going and standing in the down pour, feeling the need to rinse away my twenties and start embracing my thirties, which for many woman can be a scary thing. I thought that the world would stop turning that day, but instead all it did was become crystal clear and empowered me to do what I always wanted to do, instead of doing what I thought people wanted me to do. From that point on, it was a game of risk and letting everything go I had built to date, which involved assisting other entrepreneurs in their vision and voice through product. I moved home to Vancouver and chose one product that I adored, a cherry lip balm with a tint, and gave myself the challenge to create it in an organic form with a bit of class.
What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur, especially when first starting out?
Believing in yourself and perseverance. Those are the two ingredients that will take anyone really far. Luckily I had the experience in branding which made it possible to save on costs in the beginning as I did everything. But its important to recognize where your strength is and then get help in other areas. My brother and I run the business together and we have clear roles in where are responsibilities lie. Learning to delegate effectively and keep a focus streamlined is very important for any company and for us is a constant in order to grow.
What is your #1 mentoring tip for female entrepreneurs, young girls in school, or women graduating from high school?
Women can’t have it all, so don’t be so hard on yourself – and choose things that make you happy. The expectations of women today are ridiculously high. For many, we are supposed to work and thrive in a career, be a mother, a homemaker, a nurturer and a samurai in business. Sometimes its just too much to take on, and again learning to accept where your limit is and what is important in life is what makes it all worth it. In my twenties it was easier to work around the clock, travel around the world, and have time to myself. Now as a mother, in my thirties, priorities do change and for those woman that want to balance both, believing in yourself is the first step, finding the right support around you to make it all happen is the second and most importantly keeping health in check with time to yourself because if you aren’t healthy in mind and body it will be a huge challenge to enjoy life.
What’s your superpower as a boss?
I have been told it’s my ability to persuade through communication. There is a certain way to ask for something, with respect and tact. That being said, when someone doesn’t want to give it in return or find a meeting point (which is what business is all about), then it isn’t worth the energy. There will be other opportunities available, and as tough as it is to close one door, the mental aspect of doing so will leave another one open.
Creativity and Innovation
Your products are 75-90% organic and many of your lipstick cases are made out of recycled aluminum. Tell us about how creativity and intention informs the way in which you innovate.
After nearly 5 years of doing this, we are revisiting the reason of why all of this is so important. Our first products, such as the Tinted Lip Conditioners, are really meant to be an all in one to nourish the lips, provide color that is buildable and have a ethical aspect to its packaging. Showing full transparency is a core value of ILIA and we don’t claim to be the most organic company out there, but we do aim to provide products that work and nourish the skin. With that being said we are re-working certain aspects in this area to create a stronger reflection of who we really are and what we stand for. Its an exciting year for us!
We’d love to learn your thoughts on the transformation in public opinion about natural and organic products since you first begun ILIA. Why do you think more people today are interested in organic and natural products?
There is more awareness, and that just takes time. People want to know more about what they are purchasing, where its being made and how those elements come together. A full disclosure has become attractive to consumers. It’s the same as food a couple decades ago. Nobody thought about the effects of fast food back when I was a kid, or if they did the knowledge was not readily available. The internet has really changed all of that and allowed people to decide what they put in their body and on their body.
Waxes, Butters and Oils are strong components in your formulas. Why?
Because there are so many other items we can’t use! To be fair, all that is really needed in lipstick are waxes, butters and oils. The waxes help the product stay in place, the butters moisturize and help carry the oils to the deeper epidermis of the skin. It is here that cellular repair starts, which is turn works it way back to the surface for softer, healthier skin.
How do you define beauty? What’s your “beauty philosophy?”
Beauty is not hiding yourself, its showing who you really are. The American ideal of beauty has become really skewed in the last 15 years. So many people want to look the same or perfect. I find the imperfections more beautiful as it shows personality and life.
What are the 5 life rituals you do daily to stay happy and healthy?
These have been lacking this last year with a new baby in my life. But having a shower, and putting on a bit of product to highlight the skin makes me feel great. Lately, I have been using a meditation app called Headspace, which makes me take 10 mins each day to stop, breathe and slow down the mind. Otherwise, exercise a few days a week or a walk with my baby after work in the fresh air are moments of pure happiness.
If you could have dinner and drinks with 3 female artists, icons, politicians, authors, etc., alive today or not, who would they be and why?
Joan of Arc for her courage, Coco Chanel for her innovation and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, because who doesn’t like to dream.
Who’s on your playlist right now?
It’s all over the board, but I have been listening to a lot of David Bowie the last month, as he was such an innovator and has influenced my creativity in many ways.
What blog, instagram account or Tumblr inspires you the most?
I really enjoy some of the imagery on instagram from Nat Geo and also some accounts from certain brands like Mansur Gavriel who really play with imagination and style.