24 Hours With… LÍHA
Meet Liha Okunniwa, co-founder of the eponymous brand LÍHA - a consciously made collection of irresistible oils, scrubs and ointments all based around the magic of Shea butter. Like her products, Liha’s lifestyle is a lesson in simple luxury, whether that’s taking the time for a walk every morning, slathering on her indulgent tuberose-scented oil after a hot bath, or unwinding in bed with an LED mask, a book and a bar of chocolate. We asked Liha to walk us through her routine, sharing the practices that result in both beautiful skin, and a beautiful life.
“Fresh flowers are a must in my small space to add brightness and inspiration!”
“My morning walk can take anywhere between 30 mins to an hour. It’s a grounding practice that I try and do every day no matter the weather.”
What time do you wake up and where?
I wake up around 5:30am in my cottage in my hometown of Cheltenham in the Cotswolds.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I go downstairs, put a sound frequency or a sound bath on my TV to cleanse the energy. I light a stick of incense, make a lemon tea, and meditate or do yoga for at least 30 minutes.
Where are you usually based?
I usually work from home, or head out to our studio which is closer to Oxford. If I need to be around people, I’ll head to Soho Farmhouse and work from there. Our team all meet in London once per fortnight.
What does your average day look like?
I feel like there is never an average day in the life of a startup! Some days will be really boring paperwork as we are raising investment right now, some days will be formulating new product (which is my favourite!) Some days I’ll be working on market stands or doing workshops... There is never a dull moment! I’m also a single mum to a 17-year-old daughter so the juggle is real, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Do you have any rituals?
I have a lot of very specific rituals that are too detailed to get into here! My main ones are honouring my own pace, and speaking to myself with kindness. Everything follows on from those two.
Where is your studio located and how do you get there?
Our studio is close to Witney in Oxford so a good halfway point if Abi, my co-founder, comes from London.
“It’s a short drive to our little studio a couple of villages over. It is an artist community so there is always someone available for tea and a chat, which has been super helpful with all the WFH loneliness.”
“Our studio is humble but we love it. I will usually sit by the window and work on formulations, emails and strategy ideas. Abi often comes down from London to work here and create content together.”
How would you describe what you do?
We make natural beauty products that are (like us) a mixture of natural African roots and a quintessentially British Attitude. I love the fact that we add little bits of joy to people’s lives, and help them relax. All the products are consciously designed to be multipurpose, reduce waste and make you slow down.
How has your background influenced who you are today?
I am very inspired by my upbringing. I grew up in Gloucestershire above my parents’ shop with them and my three brothers. My mum had a glass topped aromatherapy counter amongst the fabrics, silk scarves and cane furniture they sold. On rainy days she would blindfold me and do smell tests, and that’s how I learned. I was always obsessed with beauty, and started a skincare routine making my own products aged 11, which I think has helped a lot with the ageing process!
Every summer we would drive down to the south of France and spend six weeks in a caravan on the beach, which is where most of my best memories and inspiration comes from. That feeling of falling asleep to the sound of the ocean and feeling like summer will never end is one I am always chasing! The people and diverse cultures that I met during that time will always inspire me - from the West African beach traders, to the chic old French ladies and everyone in between.
How did you get your start in beauty?
In Yoruba (Nigerian) culture you learn to make your own beauty products at the same time you learn how to cook, plus I started to experiment with mixing in my mum's knowledge. Abi and I were both working very different jobs when we started the brand – I was working in museums and had an art publishing business, and she was a former Olympian. We thought it would be a slow burner, but it took off way more quickly than we anticipated.
How did you meet your co-founder Abbi?
We met at university in 1998. At the time it was rare to meet another girl with an afro, so we bonded over that, and our mutual love of Lauryn Hill and vintage clothing. Abi would bring back gold shea from Nigeria and we’d experiment with making our own products. At the time she was a team GB athlete and went on to compete in 2 Olympic games, so she travelled a lot. I’d give her lists of cult products and ingredients to bring back!
“Having a small catnap with my kitten Mochi in the afternoon sun – there’s so much stigma around naps but the science is there to prove that a power nap of 20 mins or so does wonders for brainpower and overall health.”
”Me in my element at a retreat, about to teach a class on how to make your own cosmetics with Shea butter. My favourite type of work day!”
“Me in the Cote D’Azur in a caravan awning, 1981. I’ve clearly been a diva since birth, no point fighting nature.”
What are the most important factors for the brand?
Buy less, buy well. We would love for people to think about beauty as they do about high end fashion in terms of cost per wear. I have a pair of Alexander Wang boots that I have worn for 10 years straight and still going strong! Shea butter and our multipurpose products are like that - they last a long time, have loads of different uses, and help to reduce waste.
How do you get into a creative headspace?
There’s an Austin Kleon quote that says “Creative people need time to sit around and do nothing”. I feel like this is super important – you can’t force ideas or creativity, and everyone knows that often the best ideas come when you are doing something completely unrelated.
Whilst working, where do you go and what do you do to take a break?
I am lucky that I live in nature so I will walk to the river, the forest or to look at horses for a while.
Do you have a favourite item from your collection?
The Idan oil will always be my favourite. It’s summer in a bottle, and an instant hit of luxury, wherever you are. We wanted to showcase the beauty of Tuberose on its own, as it is so often blended in high end perfumes, but rarely given a chance to shine! It is a wonderful aphrodisiac and I use it for literally everything top to toe. Solid perfume, lube, shaving oil, body moisturiser, highlighter, you name it!
Who would you most like to see wearing it?
FKA twigs is a fan of our products - she’s a fellow Cheltenham girl, so that makes me very happy! I love her vision and tenacity. I would love to add Sade to our client list, she is ageless and so classy. Also a girl band called Flo that my daughter put me on to. I’m obsessed with that cardboard box song!
“I usually spend the evenings with a candle and incense burning, reading, playing music or watching classic movies.”
“I am obsessed with my LED light mask - I find it so soothing. I usually do 20 minutes before bed to help with hyperpigmentation.”
What’s on your bookshelf right now?
I am rereading Every Day Is For The Thief by Teju Cole. Really insightful and sparse. I’m also reading the Cybernetic Hypothesis by Tiqqun which is challenging but worth it.
What do you usually do for dinner?
I’m loving cooking for myself, because I overdo it on takeaway when I'm busy. I make what I like to call “my mixed race jollof” which has a lot of shortcuts - but keeps the Maggi cube and the scotch bonnet! I love it with plantains and okra. I’m a chocoholic, so I always have to have some on hand to snack on after dinner.
What time do you go to bed?
Pretty early, usually around 1. Unless I’m having a rare night out - which I think is needed every now and again to stay young! Then it may be closer to dawn, but that’s only about once a year now.
Last thing you do before you sleep?
Read. I don’t have electronics in the bedroom, apart from my LED mask. I like to read things that allow my mind to wander naturally, so I just kind of think and visualise things until I drift off.
What do you dream about?
My dreams are very vivid, colourful and full of symbolism that I never ignore. I drive my daughter crazy by starting sentences with “ I had a dream…..!” and using that to rationalise something or other in day-to-day life. Our subconscious is so powerful and can be a key to growth, so I always make sure to journal things I think are important and come back to them. The best dreams are the ones with music in them. I wish I could have those every night, but they are rare.
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