Out of Africa
From the Grande Halle at the Villette to the Louis Vuitton Foundation, via the Grand Palais, Paris is home to no fewer than eight big exhibitions showcasing contemporary African art this spring. This buzz and fresh interest mark the end of many decades of ‘squeamishness’, as described by Guillaume Piens founder of the Art Paris Art Fair, l’Afrique à l’honneur (interviewed by Grazia in March 2017). He reminds us that ‘It has taken long enough for African artists to be recognized as just artists’.
In previous articles, we already wrote about the influence of Africa on young designers. This is a phenomenon that’s now impacting on the world of beauty. Far removed from clichés and product lines specialized in skin color or hair type, new brands are emphasizing new ingredients and placing the focus on ancestral rituals. With pared back visuals, updated wax patterns, luxury positioning, and a message that promotes a universal form of beauty, we take a look at four cosmetics brands that are refreshing the image of beauty coming out of Africa.
Wildly natural African plains, exotic flowers and fruits, scents and flavors as diverse as they are mouth-watering… Africa is bursting with natural ingredients with properties beneficial to the skin, hair, and body. South Africa is home to 10% of the world’s existing flower varieties, including 900 species that can only be found at Cape Town Floral Kingdom. African Botanics has decided to highlight this wealth, in a care range that includes creams, oils, and soaps. Baobab or marula oil, Kalahari melon, bushu, and the list goes on… these native flowers and fruits have been used for centuries by faith healers. The updated formulas are still 100% natural.
Lulu & Marula
This South African care brand, founded in 2013 and then relaunched in 2016, gives nature pride of place. The plants and flowers that create the diverse flora of Africa are harnessed in skin care. The natural powers of neroli, aloe vera, ginkgo biloba, or marula oil help out with dry, damaged, or more mature skin.
UPDATING RITUALS AND TRADITIONS
Malée means ‘beauty with soul’ in the Bini language. It’s also the name of the grandmother of Zeze Oriaikhi-Sao, the brand’s founder. Born in South Africa, she wanted to pass on the beauty rituals and recipes of her ancestors, updating them in the process but also getting assistance from scientific research. The skincare and fragrances alike are the result of a responsible, ethical production system. It’s a range of products created with the most natural ingredients possible and free from allergens, parabens, silicone, etc. The brand’s values can also be seen in the real respect shown for the farmers and suppliers with whom the brand works. Malée knows how to highlight its home country, and happily thinks of its faithful customers as a ‘tribe’, even to the point of using symbols from African tribal hierarchies.
Far away from Africa, on the streets of Harlem, is where the Nubian Heritage adventure began. Two young African Americans fresh out of college started selling African black soap and shea butter in 1991. Their products were made true to tradition. They sold them on the street, and little by little, the products earned a reputation. Their range of products has now expanded, with attractive packaging and press coverage. Nubian Heritage has successfully managed to make ancestral rituals from Ancient Nubia (a kingdom covering what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan) widespread.