Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed wants to change the face of beauty for good. Creating a line of luxurious scents is just the surface of what this female force has achieved, with her Sana Jardin brand a hit with Influencers and Beauty Editors alike. Underneath? The company is a driver for social change – and here she proves how it can, and more importantly should, be done”
From a more practical perspective, I’ve worked in the non-profit sector for more than 20 years and all of my degrees are in social work. The reason that I mention that is the common thread between the foundations I went on to work in, is that they were all very innovative in their approach to solving social problems – but I felt that the next stage of solving these problems was through commerce. And trying to harness the power of business to empower women. I sit on the board of an organisation in New York called Nest, which is working to make the supply chain more ethical and transparent and I saw the trend that was happening in fashion, as fashion is a hobby for me and I like to shop – so I pay attention to it. And I felt like if we could do this in fashion, then why not in beauty? Why not do it in perfume? I had lived in the Middle East for a while and like every entrepreneur, I was always looking for the perfect product but I couldn’t find it.
WHAT INTERESTED YOU IN PERFUMERY?
There were many threads that led me to perfumery and it was all very serendipitous. I grew up travelling with my grandmother and she sort of tucked me in her suitcase wherever she went. So I grew up with the heady scents of North Africa and the Middle East, and ones that are more mainstream like Orange Blossom and Jasmine, Amber. I was always fascinated by perfume so I read about it and studied it. The Scent Trail by Celia Lyttlelton was very meaningful to me and it was always on my nightstand. It talks about the different sacred rituals that were associated with floral harvesting, perfume and in different parts of the world.
I found it very enchanting and mysterious so I loved studying it from a cultural and historical perspective but also from a new-age perspective – I use such a high percentage of oils in our perfumes because I very much believe in the healing properties of flowers. The other element to it is female empowerment because as women we’ve forgotten that we used to heal people; ancient high priestesses in Iran or Egypt they would use essential oils to heal those in sickness. As women, we’ve forgotten that we have that divine feminine power and feminine qualities from nature. So that was another element that attracted me to perfume.
The reason that we identified business opportunities for them is that it’s not rocket science – they need access to economic opportunity and also only have access to seasonal work. They live in a tiny village and are illiterate, but they can make money throughout the year in this way. One of the things that I love is that they chant while they collect the flowers. Historically, the belief was that when women were collecting Orange Blossom flowers they needed to be wearing all white because they were extracting the soul of the flower – which needed a calm and pure environment. It was all a very romantic and mystical part of perfume production that I don’t think people know about.
Nest went and established the programme for three months and made a legally recognised cooperative in Morocco, so right now we are negotiating a deal with supermarket chains there to sell the Orange Blossom water. The women are happy just to be recognised for their contribution, they are happy to have increased economic benefits and opportunity. I haven’t been there for a little while but I’m going next week to meet with them and the Director of the company so I’m really looking forward to that!
SOCIAL IMPACT IS AT THE CORE OF SANA JARDIN – HOW DOES IT WORK?
Our social impact piece is in Morocco; I always wanted to do something to help Moroccan women but I didn’t know what. I learnt that a lot of the raw floral materials come from there so I thought it was perfect! We work with a floral supply company called Les Aromes du Maroc and it is owned by the King of Morocco. The natural organic waste that is created from the floral production we up-cycle that and we turn that into a product that the women then take to market and sell. So they sell a product called Orange Blossom water, which is used in the region for baking and tea – and were also creating a line of candles that comes from the scented wax waste.
WHERE DO YOU PRODUCE YOUR PERFUMES?
We produce in Paris and Carlos Benaim the master perfumer at IFF sources ingredients from around the world like any perfume. We produce in Paris because we felt it was an important luxury cue so that we can show that the business is luxurious and isn’t just an eco-friendly company – we wanted a foot in both worlds and having that was really important.
HOW DO YOU THINK THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY CAN CREATE A BETTER FUTURE?
For me, I feel very strongly and very passionate about the fact that we have opportunities in every industry to create meaningful change if we are creative about our use of waste. And if we examine the supply chain and see where that waste is. Certainly, in beauty, I also feel excited about the great potential for social impact in the packaging arena. I think there are numerous companies who are working to up-cycle waste and turn it into packaging and I look forward to seeing how these companies can also help to create jobs for low-income people. There is so much that can be done, and it’s such an inspired time to be alive and an entrepreneur!
Image credits: Sana Jardin
Written by - keithlight