Meet the GlowgettersSt Iris

By Glowcation
28 August '20

When beauty Queens Trinny Woodhall and Lisa Eldridge take notice of your product and it sells out then you know you have created something special. Saint Iris is a whole-body skincare brand created by Sanela Lazic and powered by pure Adriatic apothecary formulas.

It’s designed for people who crave skin wellness rituals and post-lockdown that’s many of us.

Inspired by the abundant plants, remedies and sea spas of the sun-drenched Adriatic, Saint Iris range is multi-tasking conscious skincare for face and body, made in small batches in the UK. Here she talks about how and why she launched Saint Iris.

What was your lightbulb moment for setting up the company?

I worked as a creative force behind many well-known brands and retailers and dedicated all my time to clients, and travelling relentlessly with my work. Worn out by it, I decided to take the reins and go back to my roots. The Balkan term “fjaka” is unique to the Adriatic coast and describes a blissful state of feeling relaxed, yet energised and powerfully alive.

I knew I wanted to create a brand focused on modern lifestyle stressors. I reflected on the importance of mind and body balance, the years spent researching what brings people joy, confidence and empowerment.

But also and how my own skin is a ‘mirror’ of my wellness prognosis. So in September 2018 I launched SAINT IRIS- smart whole-body skincare for people who crave pure skin wellness.

What is your company USP?

Saint Iris is about ‘empowering beauty with a sunshine soul’, and this permeates everything we do. It all connects back to Fjaka, as once we take care of ourselves (by using products that focus on body as our powerhouse and our skin wellness), then we’re ready to give back to the world and take care of others too.

What was your journey to this moment?

Saint Iris is a calling – and its journey has been enriched with the help of many smart people I’ve met along the way. These include our suppliers in the Adriatic region and here in the UK but also our engaged social community.

What the Saint Iris journey has taught me is to be brave and just start! Not one person has all the answers, and by being passionate about what you do, you can find the way. If it were easy, there would be little innovation in this world. I have to remember this myself, as I can be tough on myself and compare where my brand is versus where I’d like it to be. Considering I am personally shaping this business with my own investment, and I am doing this to bring a positive change to people’s lives – it’s a time well invested.

How has Covid affected your business?

C-19 has been a period of complete contradictions. It’s forced us to rethink everything we planned for 2020. After the initial shock of our stockists closing their stores, we experienced a huge online interest in our brand and products as people stayed at home and devoted their free time to pampering.

We’ve had challenges too, not being able to import ingredients and components from Italy, but also knowing how badly they’d been affected. We had to delay some new product plans. And as luck would have it – our Serenity Salve was selected by Vogue as one of their Natural Skincare Phenomenon products and Lisa Eldridge showcased it too during lockdown. We quickly found ourselves completely out of stock!

The pandemic also meant that I had to be even more hands on, it’s been full time – from preparing and sending out customers orders to chatting to our community on social media and offering more personalised advice – it’s been hugely rewarding.

The pandemic also brought a meaningful sense of human compassion and openness, and I hope that remains as we emerge out.

Has self-care, beauty and wellbeing seen a boost with the pandemic and why?

Simple answer is yes, but I think it’s been more about quality, and thankfully less about novelty. Products that work, add value to our health and wellbeing, and also feel good have been great companions during pandemic.

People are mindful of the environment and where this pandemic started, and that inevitably poses questions around sustainability and transparency.

Chasing trends and exotic or scarce ingredients, or constantly churning out products is becoming passé – the pandemic has sharpened customers’ minds and wallets.

What are your three beauty rituals during lockdown?

As we’ve shifted more indoors, I found a real need to prioritise my wellbeing. I switched to cycling more (whilst running errands and delivering our orders!) and spending more time by the Thames (flowing water is crucial for positive mindfulness). My indoor rituals are quite targeted as my time is short, but I have consciously been taking longer to apply my beauty products, massage deeper into skin and stimulate lymphs on body and face.

I’ve also focused more on hands to soothe over-sanitised and stressed skin. Our Purity Paste mask is super fast, it takes three minutes to achieve immediate results. It’s a sensorial feast and so creamy on skin, so I’ve been using our masking brush to apply on my sore hands – and the ritual of painting oneself and massaging product into skin is incredibly calming and indulgent.

What was the best bit of advice you were ever given for setting up your own business?

Two stick in mind, and they are really simple but key to new entrepreneurs – and particularly for someone like me: an impatient perfectionist. Firstly ‘don’t wait to have it all figured out or certain, just start and be true to your values’. Second, ’if you’re looking to grow a brand, remember it’s not a sprint, you’re in it for the long distance so keep your eye on the horizon’. In business it’s easy to lose the True North, and I try to remember to pause and reassess, learn and move forward.

What are the highs and lows of running a clean beauty business?

Highs: it’s the most dynamic area of beauty that is also where a high concentration of innovation is happening – and that is a great place to be. The green technology development is picking up speed, and we are able to bring even more sophisticated products to the market, whilst not compromising on our green credentials. It’s not often I stop to take in the highs.

Like many business owners I’m constantly striving forward, and yet there have been so many high moments for my young brand that it puts a smile on my face.

From winning numerous awards including the Best New Product of the Year 2019 (with wake-up droplets serum) to running numerous events where we pampered our guests.

Lows: it can be a lonely road, as many clean beauty brands are run by independent entrepreneurs. Also our growth trajectory is not as fast or steep as other beauty brands, our process tends to be longer as we rely on other smaller businesses (from suppliers to collaborators) and there is a higher level of compliance. Many say that green beauty is unregulated but most green beauty brands will invest much of their time and funds in ensuring the supply chain, sustainability and traceability of what we make and do meets our high ethical and quality standards.

What does the term ‘clean beauty’ mean to you and how is the beauty industry changing?

I don’t subscribe to that term, and I can see why there has been much backlash against the misuse of ‘clean’ – particularly what it means in the context of wider beauty industry.

Initially the term was used in a positive way, however as the movement gained momentum, and many capitalised on ‘clean’ in their marketing, naturally the questions are being asked.

Instead Saint Iris is part of the green beauty, as that reflects the natural formulations, cruelty free, traceable and sustainable sourcing and production that we practice.

On a positive, green beauty has had a massive impact on beauty and it’s changing the industry – for example unethical practices are being phased out, the beauty industry is looking to smarter and greener ingredients, the sustainability innovation in packaging and operational running of these large corporations is improving exponentially – but also global circumstances are impacting on the beauty industry.

The pandemic has put clean (in the antibacterial context) under the spotlight so it is my view is that we are headed to more of a lab-based green beauty which is actually where Saint Iris sits.

Our actives are extracted from natural ingredients and then improved in laboratories to increase consistency (from batch to batch) and formula efficacy – without putting a strain on our precious nature reserves.

Where are your 3 favourite organic or vegan places to eat?

I often pop into Ethos near Oxford Circus, I enjoy their seasonal menu and the space is gorgeous too.

At weekends, I like to stop by the Borough Market, the fresh produce and food-to-go is always outstanding, plus I love talking to traders – their passion is so inspiring.

For lunch meetings I drag everyone to Detox Kitchen, or Lantana – their Avocado Poke Bowl is divine.

I can’t wait until they all fully reopen.

What are your top 4 clean beauty items for travelling?

Since I started Saint Iris, it’s my range that I use. Our Vitality Spritz is such a bliss to use whist in transit, it hydrates and adds a pop of radiance, as well as leaves a natural scent that refreshes and gives an instant pick-me-up.

Also Wake-Up Droplets serum is packed with Vitamin C and Adriatic mountain daisy to naturally brighten and reduce hyperpigmentation. We now sell both in handy 30ml size bottles.

For lipcare, I really love Albus & Flora SPF 30 balms, particularly their Nude Flora – it’s a gamechanger.

There is a saying in Croatia that you don’t leave home without sunglasses and SPF, so I tend to have both with me throughout the year – yes even in London! Finding a natural SPF is a hard one and I am yet to discover a natural CC cream with SPF that works with my skin. I plan to have a consultation with Sjaniel Turrell, a natural make up artist who is a fountain of natural beauty knowledge, she is an Eco-Age contributor and runs her own wellness consultancy – to my delight she’s recently started 1-1 make up bag overhauls which I am going to do as soon as we’re allowed. Currently I am using IT Cosmetics CC matte cream SPF 40, which seems to leave my skin calm and provides me with natural looking coverage, and I also pack 14e creamy blushers – they have the perfect pigmentation plus they can be also be applied on lips.

What are your top 5 things that make you glow?

I tend to tune into podcasts when recharging batteries or just before I doze off, Women with Balls is really inspiring as is Elizabeth Day. My secret pleasure are Jane and Fi, their Fortunately podcast on BBC Radio has been a gem discovery during lockdown.

For uplifting beauty glow, I can’t get enough of Trinny Woodall and Liz Earle IGTV, I learn from them all the time and they always champion female founders.

I don’t light them too often, they’re more of a treat however when I’m looking for that extra pick me up, or a relaxing retreat, I turn to natural scents. My partner introduced the Haeckels seaweed candle to our home, it’s made with seaweed collected on the shores of Margate where they are based – and anything with a scent of sea is my kind of glow!

Yoga and Flow:
There is nothing like movement to induce a gorgeous glow. It’s amazing to see how many great teachers have switched to online during lockdown, it’s not the same as sharing the group energy in a studio environment, however I’m glad there is now no limit to when we are able to tune in and flow. I rate highly Louisa Drake for toning, and Gaia for a variety of tutorials.

I’ve been using ashwagandha supplement ever since I had a consultation with an Ayurveda practitioner, and I have noticed improvement in managing my stress levels – which can skyrocket when running a business. It seems to improve my mind clarity but also reduce inflammations – particularly in winter. A balanced mind and healthy body is a wonderful recipe for a holistic glow. I prefer to use ashwagandha tincture as it has an immediate effect, and I pick up mine in health food stores, such as As Nature Intended.

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