How the founder of a local natural beauty brand created the solution to South African women's hair and skin needs

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Linda Gieskes-Mwamba - founder of Suki Suki Naturals
Linda Gieskes-Mwamba - founder of Suki Suki Naturals

The natural beauty industry is a fast-growing one. Not only are we seeing the successes of more beauty entrepreneurs and celebrities with their own beauty lines, but other long-existing cosmetics companies are starting to introduce natural ingredients into their products. 

The demand for natural skincare is becoming so big that, according to Forbes, one of the phenomenons acting as a catalyst to the growth of the billion-dollar beauty industry is that of "younger consumers rejecting the large brands their parents preferred and seeking out locally-made, artisanal, natural products in all consumer categories," adding that the 'Instagrammability' of such products also helps.

READ MORE: The founder of this organic beauty brand with ingredients thousands want on their hair and skin, started with no capital 

One such brand is Suki Suki Naturals - a cruelty-free South African affordable luxury natural skincare and hair care brand founded by Linda Gieskes-Mwamba. 

Suki Suki Naturals

The success of Suki Suki Naturals can be attributed to the fact that it's a "modern African brand combining underused traditional ingredients with scientifically-researched formulas," as the founder explains. 

This brand's notable milestones include participating at the Première Classe at Paris Fashion Week, and a current partnership with the Trenery Guild, where Suki Suki created a bespoke Trenery Trio made up of Camomile Soothing Facial Mist, a Blue Yarrow calming facial Oil and a Kalahari Melon lip treatment. 

Speaking to W24, Linda Gieskes-Mwamba told us all about this collaboration and more:

Behind the name

I’m originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in one of our languages, “suki” means hair. Since I started as a hair care brand I thought it would be a fun to celebrate my heritage. “Suki” has other meanings in other languages, in Japanese it means “to be fond of” and in “Hindi” it means to be happy.

The positive meanings of the brand resonated with me.

The inception of Suki Suki Naturals was inspired by personal needs

I started Suki Suki Naturals due to personal needs in my beauty routine. In 2010, I wanted to use natural products for my hair care routine and could not find anything on the market that was natural, efficient and affordable. So I started blending my own raw materials to supplement my hair care (which contained more synthetic ingredients than natural ingredients).

I initially had no intention of starting my own brand, I simply wanted solutions for myself.

When I noticed the substantial change in the volume, texture and growth rate of my hair, I shared my blends with family and friends.

Their reactions to my blends made me realise that my products were worth commercialising. This lead to the launch of Suki Suki in April of 2014.

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Self love via @hannahfaith__

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Highlights and lowlights

Our collaboration with the Trenery Guild is definitely an achieving and a highlight, as well as our participating at the Première Classe in Paris during PFW earlier this year. 

However, discontinuing certain products that were not performing as well as others was a lowlight.

READ MORE: Meet the South African woman who wants to take on Revlon and L’Oreal when it comes to natural hair products

Authenticity sets us apart

I believe Suki Suki’s vision of a modern and authentic African beauty brand is one of the reasons it stands out from competitors. 

Luxury is about quality

I went with what I would call, “the affordable” luxury route. Luxury for me is more about the quality of ingredients rather than branding and packaging.

I source my ingredients with so much intention and I wanted my customers to feel it in the application of the products. In order to make the quality of ingredients that I wanted to make, I had to make a luxury product. I did not want to make a low quality product.

About the Trenery Guild collaboration

The Trenery Guild collaborates with local brands on a bi-annual basis. It collaborates with brands it believes share Trenery’s respect and appreciation for good and natural fabrication. Our collaboration with the Trenery Guild consisted of designing a skincare trio that we called the Trenery x Suki Suki Trio with: the Camomile Soothing Facial Mist, the Blue Yarrow Calming Facial Oil and the Kalahari Melon Lip Treatment.

We wanted to create products that were practical for travel and that can be kept in ones bag. The ingredients were greatly inspired by the Trenery brand, we wanted ingredients that were calming, cooling and that had a relaxing feel. I love collaborating with brands that share and appreciate my creative process. Trenery values natural fabrication and together we created a skincare trio that reflects the clean and green beauty. 

Underused traditional ingredients

We don’t have a signature ingredient that we use in all our products, we aim to use diverse and under-utilised raw materials, but we do have various ingredients that are more present than others. We work a lot with Organic Argan Oil, Prickly Pear Oil, and Vegetable Squalane and Shea Butter.

"Naturally-potent products are even better than [just] natural products"

Natural ingredients have different levels of vitamins and nutrients. We like to work with raw materials that have a high concentrate of vitamins, for example Seabuckthorn Berry Oil is extremely high in vitamin C or Prickly Pear Oil that contains 100 times more vitamin E than Argan Oil (an already vitamin E rich oil). By working with naturally potent ingredients we provide vitamin rich skincare that truly works.

Making a positive contribution to sustainability

We mainly source our products on the African continent, which means that our ingredients don’t have to travel far in order to reach us - thus reducing our carbon footprint. By predominantly sourcing under-used natural ingredients on the continent, we are helping the economy of our continent and increasing knowledge and visibility of the raw materials that we have to offer the world. By maintaining a production of our products in South Africa, we are contributing in creating jobs here. 

Linda's personal favourite product from Suki Suki Naturals

The Prickly Pear Rejuvenating Facial Oil - it’s a great moisturiser and keeps my skin looking awake and dewy.

Retails for R330 online

And one most loved by customers 

The Papaya Rose Hydrating Facial Mist - it has a blend of organic aloe vera and rose water to hydrate the skin and papaya extract to assist with cell turnover.

Retails for R220 online

The future of Suki Suki Naturals

I see Suki Suki Naturals as a leading natural beauty brand in the world.

Images: Trenery Guild

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