An in-depth interview with Shabia Walia, designer of Tattva’s Foot Scrubs, one of the products in MBRB’s Monsoon Story Box
When we opened Tattva’s Tired Feet Rosemary Mint Scrub, we were transported to a spa on a remote hill side, rain beating down the window, our eyes covered with those paper thin slices of cucumber, and our heads empty of the worries of summer. Shabia Walia makes wonderfully evocative handmade 100% natural cosmetics, and she describes her company and her philosophy in her own words here.
Could you tell us a little bit about Tattva, the kind of women who love Tattva, and the team that works with you in designing and creating these products?
Tattva means essence and truth. We believe in capturing the ‘essence of nature’ in our products and are very honest about what we use as ingredients. The whole idea came from being concerned about the amount of harsh chemicals in body products and the need to use simple yet effective products which were made naturally and could be used by young and old alike. We started in the kitchen and positive ‘word of mouth’ reviews straight from our customers have made us what we are. People say they instantly see the difference between other products and Tattva, once they have used our products. We have a very loyal customer base who having once used our products, have stuck to us and have also recommended us to others as a ‘must have’ brand. Our products are used by women who are very aware and conscious of what they put on their bodies.
This includes the young women who are very clear about what they want and older women who always knew about the beauty benefits of natural ingredients and are glad to find them in a bottle. I often get messages from families where all three generations are using Tattva, the kids, the women and their mothers or mother in laws.
We have a small team of highly passionate and multitasking individuals. I am the one who designs and creates all the products, my manufacturing team brings them to life and my husband Ravi Walia doubles up as a packaging consultant and operations head whenever the need arises. Other than these key people, I also have a small group of women who test out the new products and give us feedback before we put them out in the market, the youngest of them being my 6 year old daughter who has quite an opinion on all our products even at this age.
Since we are including your product in our Monsoon box, we’d love to hear of some of your favourite Monsoon memories
My favourite monsoon memory is of going for a bike ride in Goa with my husband Ravi just after our marriage. We were drenched to the core but it was fun as we giggled all the way through the roads singing out loudly. Another memory is visiting Universal Studios in Singapore with our daughter and being caught in a shower. It was surreal as we were surrounded by all fairytale characters and structures of castles and palaces in the midst of rains. We waited for the rains to stop while we stuffed ourselves with hot pizzas and coffee . Staying at home while it pours outside and snuggling under a blanket at night hearing the rain patter on my windows is also something I love. Calling friends home and tucking into hot mutton biryani made by my husband while it pours outside is another sinful indulgence.
What is your favourite place to visit during the Monsoons?
I love a car drive while it rains, listening to old romantic songs. I also often dream of sitting in a French cafe at Pondicherry sipping on hot chocolate while it rains or walking in Prague with the rain drizzling. Incidentally I haven’t been to both these places but the visuals are stuck in my head. Maybe this year the visuals will come alive.
I’d love to hear a bit more about the rosemary mint scrub, how you went about designing it, and the combination of ingredients you’ve used?
I am a big fan of foot spas. It’s the answer to every problem in this world :). Indian women tend to neglect their feet a lot. And the foot scrubs came out of my obsession with foot spas and the need to do one at home in my own space and time. Rosemary is a such a versatile herb and its effects on the body so beneficial. Peppermint is another refreshing fragrance and the tingling effect it leaves is something I adore. I am in love with salt and sugar scrubs. I make them myself, I am so obsessed with them. While I use different combinations of sugars for my body scrubs, the feet need something more strong and exfoliating. I use a combination of Sea Salt and Epsom Salts drizzled with Almond Oil. I add my two essential oils, Vitamin E for moisturising and nourishing and also add dry mint for further texture. Rosemary oil, when inhaled, decreases stress, can boost mental energy and is also known to clear the respiratory tract. It is also known for its pain relieving power along with its anti bacterial and antiseptic properties which are so useful for feet which suffer throughout the day in dirt and grime. Peppermint essential oil is a very effective natural painkiller and muscle relaxant. It is especially helpful in soothing an aching back, sore feet and melting away a tension headache. While the ingredients sound simple, the right size of salt particles is very essential. Too small and they might just dissolve,too big and they maybe too abrasive on your feet. I grind the salts myself. All the grinding, measuring, mixing, smelling is very therapeutic for me. For people, using the scrub is a stress buster, for me making the scrub is.
What’s the best way to store it, use it? Are there any other pointers that you have?
The first and foremost thing for any scrub, body, face or feet is to keep it dry. Use a spoon to scoop out the amount required. Never use your wet hands to dip into the jar. To use, wet your feet, scoop the required amount into your hand, rub your feet with the scrub till the particles dissolve. The salt exfoliates and massages your feet while the oils nourish and moisturise them. Wash off with warm water. The scrub can also double up as a bath soak or foot soak. Add some teaspoons to a tub or bucket of warm water and soak your body or feet into it. The Epsom salts are highly beneficial for health and in restoring the ph value of your body. They also soak away all the tiredness and leave your feet feeling fresh and smooth. Just one word of caution, since scrubs contain oils, it may make your bathroom slippery, so do hold on to something while getting up to avoid slipping.
What are some of your favourite beauty products (Tattva or otherwise)
I love body washes from Forest Essentials and am a huge fan of the ‘Lush’ Bath Bombs. I also love all kinds of handmade soaps and end up picking a lot of them from farmers markets, both here and when I visit abroad. Also my husband who travels a lot, courtesy his cinematography, ends up bringing me a lot of good smelling stuff, especially body scrubs. Earlier he used to get them for me as I loved them, now he gets them for me to try them out, analyse them and generally know the trends in the market. From my own range, I love my scrubs and am partial to them. A bath with Tattva’s ‘Exotic Cocoa Almond Body Scrub’ on a day when I feel low is enough to lift my spirits and make me proud of my creation. The ‘Vanilla Cinnamon Body scrub’ from our range is another favourite. I also love our handmade soaps especially the ‘Lavender Ylang Ylang Soap’ and the ‘Vanilla Coffee Loofah Soap’. Both transform my morning from ordinary into a super fragrant and special one.
Lastly, this is a great time for entrepreneurs, designers and small and medium sized businesses in India. Who are some of the current artists/designers/creators whose work and sensibility you enjoy?
Yes it is so awesome to be an entrepreneur in today’s times, especially when the whole world is a global village and everyone has access to another artists work even if he or she is in another corner of the world. I love reading about other ‘natural body product’ brands, visiting their websites, seeing the awesome work they are doing, getting inspired by their packaging, philosophy etc. As I mentioned earlier, I love Lush and all that they stand for- their concern for the environment, their naked packaging strategy, recycling of jars are all things I wish to do for Tattva some day. Jessica Alba’s story of how she created ‘The Honest Company’ is so similar to how I started and is a huge inspiration. I also love the ‘Naked’ range by Lisa Haydon. I think she does awesome stuff with ‘natural’ just like us, and I love the name. ‘Jaypore’, the online web store features some nice artists and the clothes designed by them are simple, unique and eye catching. Payal Tyagi, my friend & entrepreneur who makes the most amazing natural candles is someone I look upto, respect and run to as my bouncing board. The passion she puts in her candles are the reason they are so beautiful. She is truly an artist and I love her and her candles, in that order.