Photo credit: Gisou

Photo credit: Gisou

In 2012 Negin Mirsalehi launched her Instagram account and now 4 million followers later the fashion blogger is steadily building her own empire. The first feather to her bow is the honey infused hair care brand: Gisou. A brand which harnesses a unique combination of family values (the honey used in the products is straight outta her own fathers’ bee garden) - alongside on trend/so instagrammable it hurts beauty products. We talk to Negin about how it all started, how she juggles her many projects and of course, bees. Interview by Jade Thompson.

We try to schedule the most important meetings when I am in the country in order for everything to be handled smoothly.

Where does the name Gisou come from – what does it mean?

Gisou means golden hair lock in poetic Persian. This is where my Heritage lies.

For those who are unfamiliar with Gisou could you explain the origins of your beauty brand?

Gisou believes that honey is without a doubt a magical product due to its incredible moisturising and softening properties. Beekeeping has been in my family for six generations: my father learned to keep bees from his father, who was taught by my great-grandfather and so on. My mother is a hairdresser who, unimpressed with the hair products available, experimented by making her own haircare solutions. As a beekeeper’s wife, she had discovered the health benefits of honey and how its’ moisturising and softening properties work wonders on the hair. So she developed her own formula, using as many natural ingredients as possible – with the honey from the Mirsalehi bee garden as the key component.

The story continues with me bringing together my love for beauty, nature and family with the launch of Gisou Honey Infused Hair Oil - sharing my mother’s secret formula that she has been using on her own hair for years. We launched our first product in November 2015, the Gisou Honey Infused Hair Oil, followed-up by the Propolis Infused Heat Protecting Spray.

What makes Gisou stand out amongst the influx of new natural and independent beauty companies?

I knew that the story was of a special nature - however I never thought that people would be [so] interested in bees or the bee story behind the brand [but] I definitely believe that people can resonate with the story, as it is very authentic and real. I try to share my personal story via my Instagram account and YouTube channel, where my followers can see me work in my father’s bee garden or my moments with my mom when she is doing my hair.  

I want to share an authentic and personal story, with the message: ‘Healthy hair is beautiful hair’. Taking good care of your hair is the initial step to healthier and shinier locks.

Photo credit: Gisou

Photo credit: Gisou

Has owning a beauty brand always been a long-term goal for you?

Gisou has been born naturally out of my passion for bees, the bee garden, and beauty. Four years ago, when I started on Instagram with inspirational fashion posts, I acknowledged that a lot of people were interested in my hair. After receiving so many questions about my hair, I had something to offer and I decided to share the healing powers of bee products.

Many people think of bees as a hazard but I promise you, they are not just buzzing around

Currently the extinction of bees is a topical subject, what are your thoughts on this and does Gisou have any sustainability tips for anyone who might also be concerned about this?

A lot of people underestimate the hard work of the bees on our planet. Bees are responsible for pollination. The food that we consume every day relies on pollination by bees. I would advise people to plant as many bee-friendly plants and flowers as they can. Many people think of bees as a hazard but I promise you, they are not just buzzing around, they actually have a very important purpose in our life. Without them we wouldn’t be able to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.

How easy is it to manage the demands on your time now you have to juggle both your blog and Gisou?

It is definitely not easy, I travel a lot so the contact between my team and I has to be very close and consistent in order for me to stay up-to-date about everything that is happening at the office. We try to schedule the most important meetings when I am in the country in order for everything to be handled smoothly.

Honey is a major ingredient in your products, are there any other ways that you include honey in your beauty regime?

I always use honey for different purposes, the rich taste of my father’s honey is incomparable to any other. I’d smear it on homemade bread, stir it in my lukewarm tea, or simply eat it as a treat. Honey is nature’s own sweetener and the first natural sugar to be recorded in history. My father strongly believes in the power of honey, which is why he always told me to have one teaspoon every morning - according to him, it really is the best medicine. Honey didn’t just satisfy our taste buds, my mother used it as a natural antiseptic too - it soothed our sore throats and treated our cuts and scratches. I try to use honey in my beauty regime by incorporating it in my face and hair masks for more moisture and hydration.

Photo Credit: Gisou

Photo Credit: Gisou

What advice would you give to anyone hoping to launch their own beauty brand?

I believe that success starts with passion; I was lucky enough to have found my passion during my study in Business Administration and Marketing. But without perseverance and dedication I would have never been where I am at the moment. Strive for your goals no matter what and surround yourself with people who support you in this. Planning and market research can be of essence before you start something.

What’s the next step for Gisou?

We’ve launched two products that are both based on bee products: honey and propolis. We will continue to add the benefits of bee products in more care and styling products. We’ll pursue offering more high quality bee based hair products this year, to create a globally renowned label.

This year is going to be a very exciting one for Gisou because we’ve got a lot of big plans - so keep an eye out on our social media and website!

To find out more about Gisou check out their website and follow on Instagram. Stay up-to-date with Negin via her website.

INTERVIEW: Sara Wallander

Go Fashion Organic

How badly did Sara Wallander want a conscious beauty collection? “Very much, it was time!” And it felt super natural for H&M’s concept designer to make it an organic body and hair care line. After all, the Swedish retailer already sells organic fashion.

Concept designer Sara Wallander has been working from scratch on the development of the certified organic beauty products since 2012. The Swede describes the process as really hard work. The biggest concern was finding the right suppliers and packaging, and to come up with products that customers want. Wallander: “There is nothing more unconscious than a product nobody wants, even when it’s ethically sourced.” The real challenge was to create the scents for the body line, explains Wallander. “Since you add such a small amount of essential oils to the high volume of organic content, it’s tricky to produce a good smell.”

Sara, how sustainable are you in daily life? “I try to be as conscious as possible in my choices.

"I buy organic food, don’t have a car, rarely eat meat, and don’t wash my clothes too often, so that they last longer. I also make my own scented oil and other beauty products.”

H&M already sells beauty products, how do we spot the conscious line?

“It’s totally different from the existing beauty collection which has the H&M logo in gold. The conscious line packaging is vibrant and color-coded; lilac blue for the calming products with lavender, and yellow for the energizing line with vitalizing fruity notes. The facemasks are in nice silver aluminum jars. We didn’t want to make the line look brown or green; that’s so very cliché.”

The regular H&M beauty line numbers over 700 products - a lot. This doesn’t sound very sustainable. Why not produce fewer items?

“It sounds like a lot, but the high number comes from all the color variations. In nail polish we have 200 colors. In terms of products, it’s less than it sounds. We can’t go completely conscious with the regular range but we do try to go as far as possible, and follow a chemical restriction list, which is very strict. I just want people to consume more consciously, and make things last. We do our best to be as conscious as we can. Hopefully more companies will follow.”

Sara’s favorites:

Hand cream and hand wash white tea and peppermint €7

Vitalizing all-over oil for bath, body and hair €10

Shampoo and conditioner €10

Christelle Kocher's debut show for Koché, was one of the highlights of Paris Fashion Week last October. Deep in the bowels of the busy Les Halles shopping center her show featured both models and girls scouted from the street.

Christelle Kocher, who is also the Creative Director of couture supplier Maison Lemarié, likes to mix things up. Her streetwear-meets-couture label is one to watch in 2016. Born in Strasbourg, Kocher is a fashion graduate of London’s Central Saint Martins. "I was fascinated by England at the time," she says from her office in the two story Koché studio, in a quiet back alley of the Paris Belleville neighborhood. "I loved designers like McQueen and Galliano, and I was into British contemporary art and music. London was calling me, and so I went. I stayed for almost four years, and there was always something going on. 

Creativity should also be a response to violence and terror.

Kocher went from London to Milan, where she worked for Emporio Armani, and then to Paris at Martine Sitbon, Chloé and Sonia Rykiel. In Antwerp she worked for Dries Van Noten. "Dries is one of the few independent designers today with a vision - a spirit. I adored working with Dries, but at the same time I missed my friends in Paris. I had also got used to the work pace at bigger brands. Dries only does two women's collections a year. It's a slower rhythm." Kocher, it should be noted, has no qualms about the heavy workloads in the fashion industry. And sure enough, back in Paris, she accepted two jobs, designing the women's ready to wear and pre-collections for Bottega Veneta with Tomas Maier, and heading up Maison Lemarié, a Chanel-owned haute couture supplier. Since 1880, Lemarié has produced luxury feather and flower creations, as well as smocking, pleats and ruffles, and is known for Chanel's camellias.

Taking over Lemarié may have been the bigger challenge. "It was my mission to dust off this venerable house. I brought in new techniques, a more contemporary approach, and a younger staff. I decided that you don't really need to do everything by hand when a machine does the job just as well. I've tried to mix things up, to introduce something new while maintaining the tradition and savoir-faire. Lemarié employed seventeen people when I arrived, six years ago. Now we are ninety, mostly young people between 20 and 35. It's been an incredible experience."

Last year, Kocher decided to use her various experiences to launch Koché, her own fashion venture (she has since quit Bottega Veneta, but remains Creative Director of Lemarié). "After 13 years of working for the big fashion houses, where I gained experience, maturity and a method, it felt like it was time to do things my way, without having an investor or anyone else telling me what to do. It's a challenge, but one that’s manageable. Finding ways to lead your own house, like Rei Kawakubo or Dries Van Noten have done in the past, is a creative act that I find very inspiring. You need to create clothes and your own style, but you also need a business structure that reflects your personality and your image."

"My work at Lemarié is all about revisiting the heritage of haute couture, and that was also the starting point for my own brand, where I take that heritage and mix it with streetwear and sportswear. I wanted to create this blend of genres and styles, and develop a brand that targets a younger market, while still using the savoir faire of houses like Lemarié, Lesage or Montex, that are usually associated with couture or high-end ready-to-wear. I see to it that some of the pieces, t-shirts for instance, remain affordable, but others are practically couture, and therefore more expensive. That said, I don't really make a distinction between them. The attitude is the same."

"I constructed my first show in a way that is similar to my clothes. The setting, in Les Halles, seemed obvious from the beginning, because it brings together everything I stand for. The shopping center is in the heart of Paris, and with the train station underneath, it also functions as a connection to the suburbs. It's a real place, with real people. It was important for me to have the show open to the public. I didn't want it to be elitist. It took us a lot of time and effort to get permission. I used top models, and real girls with average bodies that we found on the street. I wanted it to be real, but at the same time, I also needed it to be high fashion. Looking back, there was a lot of positive energy. We had this momentum. People got goose bumps. They were moved. I want my next show to be in the same vein, somewhere exciting, and open to everyone. It might be more difficult after the November attacks, but the people at City Hall are helping me. I am convinced that creativity can also be a response to violence and terror."

Text by Jesse Brouns