I’m not a flibbertigibbet when it comes to beauty products. When my heart is given, it tends to stay loyal (unless the brand gets mucked around with too much). If you’ve known me for some time, you’ll know I have been having an intense love affair with ila that stretches back, oh to the Garden of Eden at least. Well really, what’s not to love? Everything ila is totally pure, ethically produced, divinely packaged and, of course, smells like heaven. I’m going to sound like a zealot but really, if you’ve ever tried ila, you will know what I mean.
Every ila product is a seduction for the senses – they smell good, feel great, look lovely and are so damn pure that, if you really wanted, you could probably eat them (no, don’t try it! Not everything that’s natural is wise to eat). What, no sound? Well, pop on a CD of founder Denise Leicester chanting her beautiful mantras and, yup, you’ve got the lot.
I have wanted to meet Denise for years and last week I finally got my chance. ila are launching a new range, Gold Cellular Age-Restore – and I was invited down to ila HQ in the Cotswolds for a preview. I’m picky about launches – I’ve been to so many over the years and mainly they’re just a whole load of marketing speak and hard sell – so I tend to avoid them. But I really really wanted to know if Denise is as perfect as she sounds. Is this truly a business built on spiritual values? Can you seriously keep true to your vision once your product stops being a quiet cult and starts playing with the big boys and girls (Harrods have just signed ila and will be stocking the new range exclusively for the first few months).
Well. The first thing you notice on arriving is the scent: warm and embracing yet light and energizing. I walk up a flight of stairs with tea lights brightening the way and past a window ledge with ila’s jewel-bright candles burning (I never can decide which scent is my favourite – jasmine, orange blossom or rose). This is not a normal office.
Denise is much like the scent of her premises: warm, welcoming, inspiring, full of a calm, quiet yet tingling energy. She’s totally natural and just plain nice. She offers me a cup of tea (cinnamon, cardamom and saffron) and we chat about mantras, resonance, the power of touch, healing with the marmas (pressure points akin to the Chinese acupoints) and, of course, her new range. I’m testing it out now (I like to use products for a fair while before pronouncing judgement) and will report back later.
Then it’s off to see where the ila products are blended. The ila barns were built according to the principles of Vastu (the Indian version of feng shui – the idea being that, not only would they bring success to the brand but that they would be a nourishing place for people to work.
The products are mixed, blended, potted and packed to a soft backdrop of mantras. Every mixing bowl is placed over a metal sri yantra (said to bring both spiritual and material wealth, to banish negativity and to fulfill all desires, bringing affluence, peace and harmony – not bad, eh?).
‘Let’s make up a scrub,’ says Denise and I get stirring and blending. The base is pink Himalayan salt crystals and then we add a rich nourishing mix of argan, sweet almond and rosehip oils. The essential oil blend is an interesting one: patchouli, lavender, lemongrass, rose geranium and juniper berry – heady but not too sweet and sickly. Then in goes some vitamin E oil and Denise’s Poppy flower essence made from flowers picked in the surrounding meadows.
‘Put your intentions into it,’ whispers Denise, and I do, making a wish like a child stirring the Christmas pudding. She hands me a stirrer. ‘Now write a blessing into the mix – just one word will do.’ I write ‘Joy’ then wonder if I can get greedy and add ‘Peace’ and ‘Love’. ‘Whatever you like,’ she laughs before adding that the staff put good intentions into every blend and that they, too, end by inscribing a word into each pot. I love it.
Years back, in The Energy Secret, I suggested cooking with intent, imbuing every dish with love and bliss for the people who would eat it. Now here’s the principle being applied to beauty. Just perfection.
Is there a downside to ila? Only the one really and that’s that, because of the purity of the ingredients, the quality of the packaging and the fact that everything is hand-mixed, they are on the expensive side.
COMING SOON: My review of the new Gold Cellular Age Restore range, and its signature facial.