Louisa Canham – LA-EVA

Join Louisa Canham, founder of organic beauty brand LA-EVA in our Richmond Shop on Friday 3rd July and Sunday 5th July in Covent Garden. Learn about LA-EVA's soaps, made from natural ingredients, including essential oils and butters.
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L A E V A / lae.va /

latin adj. (f) meaning

left of centre

[ E V A ] /e:va /

female name meaning

life
living one
full of life

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Tell us about your creative process.

Creatively, we build upon our artisan roots and the early days of LA-EVA when traditional soap-making provided us with a unique medium for exploring complex palettes of scent and the potential of natural raw ingredients. Nowadays we produce gold standard ethical products, including certified organic and vegan skincare and cruelty-free hair care. Central to the LA-EVA experience lie layered essential oil blends, offering an emotive scent scape to everyday self-care rituals. We are inspired by the idea of synaesthesia (from the ancient Greek σùν, syn – ‘together’ and αiσθησις, aesthesis – ‘sensation’) and in recent times were delighted to come together with Petersham in creating a limited edition range with a unique visual aesthetic that captures and celebrates the essence of the Nurseries.

What materials do you most like to work with? Does it differ depending on product?

We use the purest of natural and organic ingredients, including essential oils, base oils and butters to create our products. Being accredited by the Soil Association, the Vegan Society and the Leaping Bunny programme confirms our commitment against all animal ingredients, GM crops, and controversial chemicals including parabens and phthalates, synthetic colours, dyes and fragrances.  Sustainability is a journey and we are continuously working towards the most ethical possible practices. Our products are ocean friendly and come in recycled amber glass bottles. We are committed to the less waste cause and are one of the first UK-based brands to offer a refill service, including at Petersham.

What is the finished product?

We create products that showcase the potential of organic ingredients and the care it takes to create something truly beautiful. ‘Units of wellbeing’ inspired by a love of scent, art and simple rituals of self-care.

Tell us a little bit about you, how did you get to where you are?

I often think of my journey to this point as an against-the-odds one. In my early twenties I trained as a clinical psychologist, completing my doctorate at Oxford and specialising in child and adolescent mental health. I worked with young people with a broad range of complex mental health problems for over a decade. At some stage during this time, I discovered the art of making traditional cold process soap. Initially a gentle personal pass time, but eventually many months of trials and errors paved the way to the formation of some beautiful recipes and a personal aesthetic. In 2014 I came to take an open-ended break from psychology and set up an artisan soap studio. Colourful markets, music festivals, and a few local shops were my new working backdrops. In 2017 LA-EVA began taking form. I opened doors as a one-woman-band with a wash, a lotion, little knowledge, but much passion. Nowadays we work in retail and hospitality in the UK and the EU; our products are made on a farm in Staffordshire, allowing for safety and scalability. Occasionally I pinch myself when I take a step back and reflect on it all.

How would you describe your work in three words?

Organic. Evocative. Thoughtful.

Where do you feel most inspired and who inspires you?

I am most inspired in our studio, which is located on the edge of a working sawmill in Oxfordshire. It is a special, serene place that has evolved from a maker’s abode into a hub of creative collaboration. In the day to day it is a beautiful, unusual office space where we gather as a team around our rustic table made from tree trunks and scaffolding planks. Here is where ideas are generated, where scent blends are created, where artwork is sketched out, where words are scribbled down. But any place, at any time, can be a source of inspiration. Beauty surrounds us when we notice it. I am inspired by passionate and compassionate people.

What is your creative process?

It is a fluid, instinctive, layered one. Concept usually leads the way – it is important to me that what we create is meaningful and considered. We use perfumery principles in working on our scent blends, seeking to create evocative, rich fragrances whilst tapping into the therapeutic properties of each individual element that we use. We also collaborate with artists and makers who lend their essence, ethos and aesthetic to our products and branding, bringing to life the idea of beauty with depth. I cannot help feeling that this conversation needs to happen; there is much about the beauty world – from the ingredients used in products to narratives that it promotes – that does not seem healthy. I tend to think of LA-EVA as a wellness brand. Generally, LA-EVA is built around the idea of that ‘we live life through our senses’ – that what we see, touch, smell, know, all these elements affect how we feel. When the layers are beautiful, so is their impact upon us. I believe in the value of simple luxuries and everyday pleasures. This is what we seek to offer our customers: units of wellbeing that grace one’s surroundings and gently lift rituals of self-care.

What is your greatest achievement?

Riding years of steep learning curves and being surprised by life in my 40s.

What does the next few years look like for you and what are you most excited about? 

LA-EVA is at an exciting stage and I simply love the projects that we are currently working on. It is creatively stimulating beginning to move forward with new products and we look forward to extending our immersive experiential wellness offerings in the times ahead. In the same breath, all that has happened to date has evolved organically and, in this respect, I welcome the unknown chapters to this story that will no doubt also come along the way.

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