For Sasha Plavsic, small changes can make a big difference.
The born-and-bred Canadian grew up surrounded by green outside of Vancouver. She learned early about nature’s power, when her brother, Zachary, fell ill with asthma and the family placed renewed emphasis on eating clean and organic. Ultimately, her brother was able to compete as an Olympic sailor in 2008 and 2012.
It was this formative experience—combined with an interest in color and design, which initially landed her working in the eyewear world for brands such as Oliver Peoples and Cartier—that got her interested in conscious beauty. Ultimately, in 2011, she launched ILIA, with six lip-centric skews. Today, she and Zachary—her now business partner—have a full line of natural cosmetics, available in over 20 countries globally.
Here, Plavsic explains the decision to lead with lips and why a little alone time goes a long way:
Live The Process: As a child, growing up in rural Canada, was nature an important influence?
Sasha Plavsic: Growing up in nature—and being fortunate enough to have space to play and dream as a child—definitely had an impact on how I view the world. My father was from Belgrade, in Europe, and my mother grew up outside of Toronto. They brought a certain level of awareness to our household, having grown up in busy cities, yet—in many respects—we were raised in true West Coast-style: We saw naturopath doctors and joined an organic food co-op that was run out of our neighbor’s garage, long before the era of fancy farmer’s markets and organic grocery stores. We were especially devoted to alternative eating and living because of my younger brother, who became very ill with asthma and food and dust allergies when he was 3 months old. In order to keep him alive and support his health, we had to change our way of eating and living.
LTP: Your interest in design emerged early: How did that intersect with an interest in conscious beauty?
SP: I had always had a fascination with color and how it plays such an important role in creating an impression. During my college years in London, we had access to all the screenwriting and press facilities to create our graphic design projects. It really opened my mind to mixing and blending paint together, along with textures and a story. For green beauty, I approached it like a school project and set out a brief to see if it was possible to convert a synthetic tinted lip balm into a natural tinted lipstick with lots of organic ingredients. Being naive about the industry was actually a huge plus, as it meant nothing had a ceiling and everything was achievable.
LTP: How and when did you come to found ILIA? What is the one product you could never live without?
SP: The initial idea of creating an organic tinted balm with some aesthetic ideals came about in 2009. The line launched with one product, our hero, Tinted Lip Conditioner, in six shades in 2011. My focus was lip, as I think it is something that can change an entire look instantly and provide a boost of confidence. Since then, we expanded the lip category to include lipsticks, lip crayons, lip balm and exfoliator. The range eventually became a full line offering complexion and eyes, as well. At the heart of it, we are known for our lip products and our multi-sticks, which double for lip and cheek.
LTP: In addition to your own products, what are you current wellness obsessions?
SP: I have a rotation of oils I like to use: May Linsdtrom’s The Good Stuff is a body oil, which I use as a face oil for extra glow on days when I really need the moisture. Indie Lee makes an amazing body oil that can also be used in the bath; and the scent is amazing, with a combo of lavender and chamomile. There is an app called Headspace, which offers 10-minute daily meditations. If I can get to a yoga class, that is a better option, but—between a toddler and a business—if I get 10 minutes at some point in the day to myself, it is very rare and special. For food, buying local organic for veggies and meat is really the best way to eat, as then I know what I am truly eating.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
SP: That’s an interesting question and different for everyone. I think happiness is something that we have to make time for or allow in our life, and possibly let go of some expectations to achieve. It is easy to be gobbled up by our responsibilities: kids, jobs, partners etc. and really forget about what is important to us. Being able to share something with someone, being able to let things go and accepting that nothing stays the same, helps keep me happy. Otherwise, I would just be bent out of shape about all the things that maybe didn't go the way I planned. Losing my dad two years ago made me realize that life is fast, and we aren't here for a long time, so best to make it a good time. For me, these days, that could be as simple as some alone time and a hot bath at night before bed!
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
SP: Living the process is tricky because sometimes people use that as an excuse not to take action. The last couple years have brought some challenging moments for me, both personally and professionally. For some of those moments, I could help shift and change from the outside, but many were my responsibility to change on the inside. One of the most humbling moments was becoming a mom. For someone who was used to having control over everything and affecting change to make things happen, the lack of control with a baby was a major adjustment. So, as far as trusting the process and losing control on the outside, there is always a way to reclaim that internally and believe that it’s just a part of this crazy and beautiful thing called “life.”