Nuts about the Rahua nut - Fair-a-Porter

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Mario Testino © Instagram/rahuabeauty

Nuts about the Rahua nut

Founder Anna Ayers talks about her brand and her work in the Amazon forest

When I heard about the opportunity to interview Anna Ayers, the founder of Rahua Amazon Beauty, I was quite curious to see what she had to say. Rahua is a New York based brand that’s known for its high end hair care products that use the oil of a rare nut from the Amazon forest – the “Rahua nut”. I hadn’t had the opportunity to try out their products first hand but had heard about the wonderful properties of this nut that is sourced locally. Rahua was founded almost 10 years ago by Anna Ayers and her husband Fabian Lliguin who hails from Ecuador and works as a hairstylist in New York. 

Anna Ayers at the Berlin press lunch © Fair-a-porter

FAP: The production of the Rahua oil is a family affair as everyone is involved in its production. Have you been there to witness the entire process? What strikes you as most interesting about it?

Anna Ayers: I actually just came back from our last  trip with my husband Fabian a few weeks ago. Unfortunately it wasn’t the right season but I already have taken part in the process. The process itself is only done by women, men are not allowed. The men help in gathering the nuts as it involves physical strength, such as long walks and distances. The process is a ceremony and even Fabian has never been allowed to be part of it. Once the nut have been collected they get cooked and boiled in order to soften the seed and crush them. There is a purple meal that comes out of it. It is a long and beautiful process. It takes almost a month to separate the meal to the oil. 

FAP: How big is the production of the Rahua beauty line today – how many families do you work with? How often do you go to visit and what’s the most crucial part in maintaining a good working relationship with them?

Anna Ayers: When we started it was quite of a struggle to get the oil. It was a tradition that nobody was doing anymore. The elder people knew about it but the practice itself was almost disappeared and the younger generations where not familiar with it. When we started to go to the different communities and show interest, the response was quite positive as it represented the possibility of starting a new economy. They started to produce more oil and the demand and interest grew at the same time. We now have experts that go to different communities to train them and have workshops on how to make the oil. In this way the younger generations are getting involved and this ancient tradition is getting back to life again. We have 500 families working spread all over the Amazonian forest. We work with the leaders of the indigenous communities – these are relationships that Fabian has been developing for the last 10 years. They are very family orientated and friendly but at the same time very conscious on who they invite. 

Rahua Beauty © Instagram/rahuabeauty

Rahua Beauty © Instagram/rahuabeauty

Rahua Beauty © Instagram/rahuabeauty


FAP: Is the Rahua oil only used for the production of hair care within the indigenous communities or does it have different properties and uses?

Anna Ayers: The primary use of Rahua oil is for haircare.  Nonetheless, once the nuts are cooked and the seed is softened the nuts get crushed. There is a purple meal that comes out of it, which is eatable. They usually put it in a soup or a drink or they will just eat it because it’s high in proteine. It’s especially eaten by men so that when they go hunting they have enough energy for the day – especially if they have to walk for hours without food.

Combs and pots used by the indigenous communities © rahua.com

FAP: You mention that you continue to work on preserving the Amazon forest as well as help the women in the communities – can you elaborate on this? What exactly is it that you do with them?

Anna Ayers: Even before starting Rahua beauty our main priority was to preserve the forest. We are there to help and we want to help them to keep their tradition and the forest alive. We don’t buy the ingredients only at a fair price but we also set standards on how ingredients can be purchased. This is the main drive behind our business model. We give them the strength on how to deal with money. We have special projects for the communities and work closely with the local leaders for that. We also work closely with different NGO’s all over the world.

FAP: In terms of the Rahua oil – do you use it as provided by the communities or does it undergo lab treatments/ processing?

Anna Ayers: We filter and process the oil in the Amazon forest. Then we formulate it in the US in different labs across the country. We source the remaining ingredients from all over the world but they always need to meet our standards.

Rahua nut © instagram/Rahuabeauty

FAP: Rahuha is a nut – Is this a safe product for clients with a nut allergy?

Anna Ayers: Rahua is a nut but in the forest they actually call it a seed – so it is not really well defined! We usually tell people with nuts allergy to stay clear from the products. Nonetheless, we have never had any problems or complaints so far. 

FAP: How important is growth to the Rauha brand – you’re growing your portfolio of products – and how do you create a sustainable responsible growth?

Anna Ayers: Yes we plan to grow and always be conscious on the way. Hair is a big priority for us but we have also developed a body line and we have several new projects on the pot. When it comes to the sustainability it all depends form mother nature. But we, as consumers, have the biggest responsibility. Our price point is not the cheapest one and what we want is costumers to make more conscious decisions and to buy for the quality rather than a cheap price. As soon as something will start damaging the forest – such as scarcity of the Rahua nut – we will stop the production of our line. Nonetheless, more and more families are getting involved in the production and as long as we preserve the forest we are on the right path. 

FAP: Which product is your favorite, how do you use it and what do you like about it?

Anna Ayers: I don’t have a favorite one, I am a big fan of all of the Rahua products! However, at the moment I love the latest “color full” line – it gives to my hair its original brightness. What I also love about the properties of Rahua oil is that it doesn’t only nourish the hair, but it get absorbed by the hair and makes them stronger. This is why I always use the oil concentration drops and put them on the end of my hair. 

Rahua Beauty press lunch © Fair-a-porter

Rahua Beauty press lunch © Fair-a-porter

 

Tuesday March 28th 2017, Text by Margaux Lombard

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