The heart behind the code
French-born Olivia Guibé is the co-founder and development director for family owned high-end skincare range ar457, which uses pure Argan oil extracts known to hold unprecedented virtues. A mother of three, Olivia lives in London and is now driving forward the development of the brand in the UK – in conversation with Myriam Crété-O’Carroll, the features editor of We Are The City.
Why the name ar457?
‘ar’ stands for Argan, ‘4’ for 4 tocopherols, ‘5’ for 5 phytosterols and ‘7’ for 7 bio-molecules. It is a code – the code of the Argan.
What is the Argan?
The Argan comes from an endemic tree, growing 100 miles around Agadir in south-west Morocco. The fruit [which is unfit for human consumption] is hand-picked, then sun-dried for days or even weeks. The 1-3 kernels inside the stone are pressed to extract the oil. Fruit stones must be broken by hand, one by one. The process is long and laborious. It takes approximately 15 hours and 30kg of fruit to produce only a litre of Argan oil. It is a rare and precious nectar!
Is that the oil used in cosmetics?
Toasted, the kernels take on a subtle and delicately nutty taste (and can be used in culinary oil), while unroasted kernels are used in cosmetology.
What are the virtues of Argan oil?
The virtues of Argan oil are endless. Scientists are fascinated by this amazing ancestral fluid, sometimes referred to as ‘the intelligent ingredient’. It is a strong antioxidant and is anti-ageing. It improves moisture retention and skin elasticity. Polyphenols neutralise free radicals and have the ability to repair DNA damage caused by smoking too! It is also a fantastic ingredient for acne. I could go on forever. Argan oil is definitely a very intriguing and enchanting oil.
ar457 is a family business, created by your father, Michel Saubade. What is the story behind the brand?
My father is a visionary and an entrepreneur at heart. After selling his industrial business in France, he decided to live in Morocco. There, he met another visionary, Professor Zoubida Charrouf – an inspirational woman and the world’s foremost Argan scientist. Between the two, they realised her vision.
What was the vision?
She saw the amazing potential in creating high-end cosmetic products using Argan oil for the beauty of women in the world and, most importantly, the women from her country. The DNA of the brand resides in the excellence while creating fair trade conditions for the oil extraction through cooperatives, run by women. These two were pioneers in aiding the preservation of the UNESCO biosphere. Today, with my brother Pierre Emmanuel Saubade, we carry on the adventure.
You are now driving the development of ar457 in the UK – how will you break into a fierce competitive market?
ar457 is a niche brand. We are still small, but we have a strong ethos, and an unwavering request for the highest excellence. Our products reflect who we are. Now is the right time for us to develop in the UK; we are ready. If I am honest, I am also frustrated to see so many so-called Argan oil high-street products merely using weak oil, while we are pioneers and have expertise in using pure ingredients.
As a female entrepreneur and a mother of three, how does it feel to contribute to helping the future of women in Morocco?
I am committed to beauty, in its whole sense. When I see the smiles on the faces of the women in the cooperatives when they talk about their work, it is just amazing. Knowing that our products enable them to earn an income, learn to read and write, and contribute to a better future for their families really makes a difference in my life.
Where can we find your products?
We are currently represented in luxury spas of five-star hotels and palaces around the world – the Four Seasons George V, Le Bristol Paris, and The Greenwich Hotel in NYC – and sold at exclusive concept stores such as the Excelsior or the Coin in Italy. And of course we sell online.
How did you come to support the Heels of Steel book written by another inspirational woman, Vanessa Vallely?
As a hard-working visionary herself, Vanessa immediately connected with the brand and its authenticity. One of her personal values is to give back so she related to our brand story. The clin d’oeil as we say in French is also that our eye contour elixir comes in a chrome silver tube, so the association with the Heels of Steel was evident. Meant to be?