By Sonya Rehman
There’s an innocence to Fatima Khan that is not only endearing, but also quite refreshing for a 28-year-old. Buoyant, kind and always ready for a laugh, it seems as if the jaded phase missed her, or even if Khan did entertain it in the past – just like we all do at some point in our lives, as a defense mechanism – she didn’t let it cocoon her against the outside world.
Sitting in her pretty sun room, overlooking a little wooden patio and a patch of garden, Khan states that her family-run beauty company, AURA Crafts, was born eight years ago when her parents began making homemade soaps in 2011.
But the discovery of her mother and father quietly putting together carefully crafted soaps didn’t come as a huge shocker to Khan. In fact, it just seemed as an expected next step after her father’s invention of a natural mosquito repellant (called ‘Repello’) when Khan was diagnosed with dengue during the initial inauguration of the viral disease in the land of the pure.
“My mother has always been health-oriented, I remember growing up in a house where processed foods were a complete no-no,” Khan says, speaking about her family’s innate inclination to all things organic and natural, “Also, my father has always been a very hands-on type of person who has always been drawn to arts and crafts. Their soap-making started as a hobby in 2011; everyone loved them.”
Having studied film from Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, Khan joined AURA in 2016 and “fully immersed” herself into the family business.
From delicious body butters, essential oils, lip balms, face scrubs, handcrafted soaps, and more, one can find AURA’s products stocked at some of the most well-known supermarkets and malls from Lahore to Karachi and everything in between.
Revealing that the company is currently in the research and development phase for a natural deodorant (which doesn’t incorporate the same, harmful ingredients that ordinary deodorants have), Khan advises to always read a product’s ingredients list before buying it. “Go for a product that’s sulfate and paraben free, that’s a great place to start with. Personally speaking, if you can’t make sense of the ingredients list, put it back on the shelf.”
Given the handful of cruelty-free beauty brands in the world today, AURA’s all-natural ethos which steers clear from animal testing comes as a breath of fresh air, compared to some of the big guns such as; Bobbi Brown, NARS, Clinique, Herbal Essences, L’oreal, Maybelline and more. “It was like this from the start,” Khan says, “The soaps and mosquito repellants that my parents made were 100% natural, so it just didn’t make sense to promote healthy alternatives, but at the same time, be harming animals, or promoting something that isn’t natural. There are a lot of big and upcoming brands that are not cruelty-free and take the easy way out.”
Speaking about the hunger for perfection thanks to social media, oodles of face filter apps and the beauty industry’s never-ending promotion of unrealistically flawless beauty standards, Khan thinks South Asia’s unceasing obsession with fair skin needs to be kicked to the curb, as a start.
“The subcontinent was rule by the British, hence fair skin meant you had a higher status in society, added to that, the caste system,” she says, “[The obsession] has turned into a very silly cultural mindset that we aren’t being able to break, but I think we’re getting there. And that’s exactly what AURA is trying to do; from day one we decided that we won’t be selling or promoting fairness products. We could make a lot of money off of it, but the truth is, it’s usually bleach and it doesn’t change your skin tone, and secondly, why would you want to change your skin tone? I really want to get this through to the youth…I have so many teenagers inquiring about whitening products and it makes me pretty sad.”
Currently exploring the possibility of introducing AURA to markets overseas, Khan’s face lights up when she talks about a new, cute little line of all-natural makeup products that she’s in the process of developing. But mum’s the word, for now.
“It’s about time we start honouring who we are and celebrating our differences; whether it’s someone who is super snow white or really dark-skinned (or somewhere in the middle), whether you have blue coloured eyes, or black eyes, whether you’re chubby or underweight – people in our neck of the woods should celebrate themselves and others,” the young entrepreneur states, “When I’m talking about not promoting whitening products, I don’t mean to demean anyone who has fair skin…it’s all about being inclusive and celebrating all shades of beauty. Beauty is what you make it to be.”
One couldn’t agree more.
The Mindful Missy