Back in April we were fortunate enough to interview Louisa Canham from La Eva. We thought it would be fun to get some insight into her day to day. The short and sweet interview below.
Where did the inspiration come for La Eva?
LA-EVA was inspired by a belief in, and a love for, simple things that are functional, evocative and enriching in our daily lives. LA-EVA as a brand evolved from an artisan soap studio that I set up during what was intended to be a short career break from Clinical Psychology. A few years earlier I had discovered the art of soap making as a gentle, therapeutic and creative pass-time during a challenging period when I was juggling having my own young children and working with high risk adolescents with complex mental health difficulties in the forensic sector. Soap making taught me much about slowing down and drawing upon simple pleasures as a resource for the bigger challenges of life. It taught me that beauty can be found in everyday objects of use - particularly those that form an extended part of our self-care rituals. What we look at, what we smell, what we touch, what we wash the days off with and what we nourish our skin with, all the input through our senses affects how we feel. LA-EVA nowadays is ultimately about the cross over point between wellness, beauty and simple luxuries. Our ethics, such as the commitment to using organic ingredients and refillable glass bottles, just come hand-in-hand with creating something meaningfully beautiful. I used to playfully describe the soaps I made as my ‘units of wellbeing’. It is a phrase that has stuck during the transition from artisan soap to LA-EVA and still speaks to me as a nugget of intention and inspiration for everything we create nowadays.
How many years in the making?
I opened doors in February 2017 with a wash and a lotion, a holding page, much passion and little expectation. I had been working on LA-EVA for about a year before then but it was all little more than a twinkle in the eye. Sometimes, I cannot quite believe how LA-EVA has come to exist; it has been an unlikely journey to this point and I still see myself as an unlikely candidate to be on it.
Blū lotion. The transporting, layered combination of earthy vetiver, balancing cedarwood and bright blue chamomile on skin just gets me every time.
What ingredient do you like using the most?
Ylang ylang essential oil, otherwise known as ‘flower of flowers’ in Malayan, exudes a fragrance that I find intoxicating - soft, sweet, spicy, sensual. It is a pleasure to work with not least because, dosed with discretion, it also brings out the best in other essential oils - those that evaporate quickly will often hold their scent longer when blended with ylang ylang. Three of our four current blends feature ylang ylang within their folds and I continue to come back to this beautiful raw material every time I work on fragrances.
What does a typical day look like?
What a typical day looks like at the moment is different to what it looked like a month ago! But it goes something like this:
What do you listen to when working?
Reggae to lift the spirits. Opera to work on numbers or our accounts. Classical music when writing. Psychedelic folk when I have to think. Punk for when some visceral energy is needed. Country music to pack orders to. 1950s French and Italian songs when blending scents. Perhaps not quite as rigidly matched to these tasks, but a fair summary of what is on the LA-EVA juke box much of the time. I am not really up to speed with current radio play but if I do tune in, it is to Radio 6.
What’s your ultimate self-care indulgence?
An afternoon nap.
What’s your daily beauty routine?
Morning shower - wash face and body #asone, usually starting the day with Rosēum. Apply lotion everywhere (face and body #asone). Get on with the day. In the evening, immerse self into a bath enriched with our jasmīna oil. Wash face and body #asone with Blū. Apply Blū lotion everywhere #asone. Occasionally I also enjoy a good scrub with sea salt and oil. That is pretty much it. I have never had lengthy beauty routines but that does not make my enjoyment of these rituals any less - if anything I feel that their simplicity makes them rather special, I take my time soaking everything in.
Were you always involved in the beauty industry?
If not where did you begin your working-life journey? No, the beauty industry is very new to me - as are retail and hospitality more broadly. I am still adjusting to the language and processes of the job; and as a result quite regularly have impostor feelings that I try not to over-analyse. My earlier career began after I completed my doctorate at Oxford University having trained as a clinical psychologist. With a specialist interest in children and adolescents, for a decade I worked with young people with an array of difficulties - traumatised unaccompanied children seeking asylum, kids on the autistic spectrum and with learning disabilities, young people in paediatric care, adolescents with eating disorders, young offenders in prison and many more. On a personal level it was an interesting, largely rewarding time and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet and work with some special individuals and families over the years. I still see myself as working on the continuum of wellbeing - but nowadays it is the preventative, positive psychology end of the spectrum.
What’s your favourite book?
Mandy Aftel’s Essence and Alchemy : A Natural History of Perfume. Just dipping into its pages relaxes me. I first bought my copy when I was getting into soap making. It is now bent, stained, scribbled on but above any of all these, it is loved.
What was your last feel good moment?
A couple of days ago when my children and I finished packing up another set of parcels for 6 NHS hospitals. At the moment we are working on a LA-EVA donation project for frontline NHS staff called #1000unitsofwellbeing . It means a lot to me to support the cause - I worked in the NHS for years in my previous career and have close friends and colleagues who are helping others with the psychological burden and trauma that has come with the circumstances. We decided to use a proportion of our stock to help resource and thank those for whom the Covid-19 rule book is different: doctors, nurses and other key workers who are fighting the fight against this terrible virus. So yes, it was a feel good moment sealing 12 large boxes with about 600 gifts in them, They have since been sent to 5 hospitals in Lothian and the Royal Free Hospital in London. Somehow working on this project with the children instead of the LA-EVA team has felt particularly right. I hope that they remember this time and take from it the essential life lessons that doing good, caring and being generous is happiness making.
Favourite spot to hang out?
Athens. Under the Acropolis, looking up at the stars, chatting till the early hours of the morning listening to good music, soaking up the warm air and scent of night flowers. Best holiday location in the UK? Devon. I have a soft spot for its wild, open moorlands and deep river valleys, dramatic cliffs and rocky coastlines.
If you had one superpower, what would it be?
Time travel. I am eternally late despite the best of intentions. And I have a tendency to be overoptimistic on how much is possible given the time available.
What’s your hidden talent?
I can do the splits. It is not a very useful legacy from 15 years of ballet but there we go.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read or seen this week? Anything feel good?
A lovely BBC article talking about how Ottoman-era cologne which has been synonymous with Turkish hospitality is now being used to fight coronavirus: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20200407-turkeys-unique-hand-sanitiser I found it heart-warming; this excerpt in particular: “As a deep-rooted custom of hospitality and symbol of good health, kolonya provides more than a practical disinfectant – it’s a source of comfort for many of my Turkish friends here at a time of uncertainty. In the year and a half I’ve lived in Istanbul, I’ve had my palms doused with it at countless restaurants, shops and homes. And now, even as many of us apply kolonya alone while self-quarantining, it evokes a nostalgic sense of closeness and taking care of one another.
What’s your favourite quote to live by?
Dum Spiro Spero. We Live in Hope. My father used to make up little tunes and we used to loudly - shoutily even - sing along to these words on repeat on our way to school. It was the only Latin phrase that dad knew. In recent years I keep coming back to those words which have become particularly poignant as he is now in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. It has a soft strength to it and yes, I would say that I live by this.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee. Pretty much every time.