After the TSA confiscated her toiletries, Katharine Lheureux found herself in Morocco without any moisturizer. Some women might have gone into camping mode. Katharine went local, asking a guide to show her what Moroccan women used. Argan oil was the answer, and soon she’d procured a few vials of the omega-rich nourishing elixir in the Marrakech medina. Her skin gratefully drank this legendary (and increasingly trendy) oil that’s renowned for boosting hydration, minimizing fine lines, and maintaining skin elasticity. But something else about it captured her attention.
“When I learned the story behind its production—that it’s extracted by hand by the Berber women and comes from an endangered forest—I was enthralled. I went back three months later to see the argan forests myself and to begin to source the oil directly from the Berber women’s cooperatives,” says Lheureux, a former San Francisco public relations exec who now lives near the “recently transformed and inspiring” High Line in NYC.
While there are a growing number of luxury organic brands, there still aren’t many that give back. Twenty-five percent of Kahina’s profits go to the co-ops, a huge number. “I’m not in this business to sell my company to Estee Lauder. I want to help women,” says Lheureux, who’s now been to Morocco seven times since that original 2007 trip, meeting more of the women and getting to know what their economic autonomy means for them.
But she also seems to be speaking to her customers: “American women are tired of beauty-product promises,” she says. “I’m going for products that are simple and good and that work.” And people are responding to her “more meaning, less marketing” approach. For starters, ABC Home on Broadway, invited the five-piece Kahina line, all formulated with cold-pressed argan oil, into its beauty apothecary, a venue that’s nurtured many indie brands into the beauty big time.
The opportunity just moves Lheureux closer to her next goal: Helping the Berber women improve their literacy (the star featured on Kahina’s packaging is how many of the women sign their names) and obtain organic certification.
Kahina Giving Beauty, www.kahina-givingbeauty.com
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