We sat down with Yasmin Sabet, the Colombian-Egyptian designer behind the iconic accessories and home brand, Mola SASA, for a conversation on beauty, entrepreneurship, and motherhood. Through Mola SASA, Yasmin celebrates the artisanal craft of "molas," the stunningly vibrant and graphic fabrics created by the indigenous Guna Dule community of Colombia and Panama. Having grown up seeing molas treasured and celebrated primarily in home design, Yasmin was inspired to apply their bold colors and patterns to fashion accessories.
Today, Mola SASA employs a cooperative of women artisans to create their unique designs. The brand has also expanded into incorporating a variety of materials and ancestral techniques from other regions of Colombia, always striving to connect with and celebrate the country' rich history and culture. Mola SASA designs have been worn and collected by style icons around the world, and is recognized as a top sustainable brand with social responsibility at the core of everything they do.
Yasmin connected with us from her home in Bogotá where she lives with her husband and two boys. The self-described "seeker of extraordinary crafts" shared her approach to beauty, including lessons from her 104-year-old grandmother, the ritual of hair massages, and the power of face oils.
What inspired you to start Mola SASA?
I have always loved textiles, especially these textiles by the Gune Dule community. The brand came out of this spontaneous idea of making bags out of these fabrics. The first pieces I made were for a small trunkshow for my mother's friends. Then all of a sudden people were wearing them all over Cartagena. People liked them, I suppose, because they were so vibrant and colorful and different. It started taking off on its own and I set my mind to turning it into a business.
Can you tell us about your partnership with the community of Guna Dule Women?
We work with about 80 women from a community of Guna Dule that is located in the Caimán Alto Reserve, in the middle of the jungle. I connected with the leader of the community who is an incredible woman. She has 6 kids and is around 40 years old. Part of our mission is to empower girls in the communities we work with, and support the community leaders to educate younger members on women's rights and building a brighter future.
You are half Colombian and half Egyptian. How do you see your roots playing into your concept of beauty?
I think that for Latin women, their appearance is very important to them. My grandmother passed away at 104, and I think one of the things that really kept her well and happy and delighted in life is her sense of beauty. Even in her last years, she would do her whole cleansing ritual at night. She was still “vanidosa,” but not in a frivolous way.
That's one thing she has passed down to us - beauty without excess makeup, without excess anything, but in a natural way. She always had good creams and products, as she thought it was a good investment. She had her natural wrinkles, but she looked amazing.
"My grandmother passed away at 104, and I think one of the things that really kept her well and happy and delighted in life is her sense of beauty. Even in her last years, she would do her whole cleansing ritual at night."
What are some of the things she used in her nightly ritual?
She always used a cleansing milk and a toner. Always, always. She didn’t use many different creams, just one rich cream. When she was younger, there wasn’t so much variety of products. My mom and my grandmother both loved Sisley products, which was one of the precursors of natural beauty as they spoke about their use of natural ingredients so much.
Can you walk us through your skincare routine?
I always start with cleansing. I love Caudalie's classic cleanser, and I really like the Tata Harper brightening cleanser with little grains. I love putting water on my face, it makes it feel refreshed and more relaxed. Then, I love oils. I use a serum with vitamins, and then at the end, I put on a little bit of Skin Food from Weleda. That Skin Food is really great, and now they have one that is not that rich. It’s great because it’s not expensive and it really feels like your skin is absorbing it. There are also these great "ampolletas," or ampoules that come in glass flasks. My friend who manages spas in hotels in Spain recommended them to me. They’re great, they have a lot of Vitamin C, and they even give your skin a little bit of tint. The brand is called Endocare. In the morning, I use those.
What is your most cherished product of all of them?
Definitely oil. I feel like a prune without it. It makes it glow a little, and the moisture on the skin seems to last for almost the whole day. I have very dry skin because I have thyroid problems. So my hair and skin and nails tend to be dryish. If I don’t put on a nice oil, I feel dry, dry, dry. I think people have a misconception about oil. They think it can make your skin oily.
"I love oils... It makes it glow a little, and the moisture on the skin seems to last for almost the whole day."
Exactly, it can actually be the opposite.
One thing that I think is not used enough, is pure almond oil. Pure almond oil is great for cleansing. When I’m feeling that my skin is too dry, instead of using soap or water, I use almond oil. In general I know that some beauticians and dermatologists don’t recommend it that much, but I do not know why. I think it’s a fantastic product.
Do you have a beauty icon?
I think I would say Lu (my grandmother). She was always so charismatic, so well-dressed. She always had a sense of humor. Even though she was quite a striking beauty, she would always tell me, “when I was younger, I never saw myself as beautiful." I think she must have been conscious of it in a way, but she was more interested in other things about herself. Beauty wasn’t a vehicle for her. But more recently, she did love to look at pictures of herself when she was young. Your perception of yourself is always so different as time passes.
What does confidence mean to you?
I think that my mixed background, being half Egyptian and half Colombian, and having grown up in different places, gives me a lot of confidence in knowing what I like and who I am. It has given me a strong identity.
In terms of beauty, I am a person who is very extroverted, but at the same time I'm not someone who is interested in getting attention for being good looking or dressing well. I think I have gained a lot of confidence from Mola SASA, from my project with the Guna Dule community, from getting recognition from the community, and from seeing how people have received the brand.
Being a mother has given me a lot of confidence and energy. In my "pre-maternal" era, I used to procrastinate more and I wasn't so sure about what I wanted to do. But having a responsibility for somebody else has definitely given me focus. You can't just sit still and do nothing. Yes, I am more tired all the time. But it has definitely given me a lot of energy, and knowing that I am being an example to my kids has given me a lot of confidence. It is important to me that they see that their mother works, and also takes care of them.
This is also why beauty rituals are so important, especially when you’re so exhausted by the end of the day. When I look at myself in the mirror after a long day and look tired and haggard, I do notice that after I use my cleanser, my oils, my cream, I feel like a different person. I look young again, and think, maybe I don’t look so bad after all!
"[Being a mother] has definitely given me a lot of energy, and knowing that I am being an example to my kids has given me a lot of confidence."
What are your favorite beauty treatments when you need an extra moment of self-care?
I love going for facials. They have great places in Bogotá. Women here really like to look good. Their appearance is so important to them, so we have very good places that are not expensive.
I also love hair massages, which is something common here in Bogotá. I go to the beauty parlor behind my office, and they just massage your head and hair for 45 minutes with a hydrating treatment. It is meant to hydrate and strengthen the hair, improve circulation, and simply help you relax!
What are the Mola SASA designs that every woman needs?
I would say our classic mola clutches, and our designs made from Chimichagua. This technique originates from Colombia's coastal Region of Cesar. It was traditionally used by indigenous communities to make sleeping mats from the “Estera” palm. Today it has been adopted by Afro-Latin communities and has evolved into natural rugs and placemats, most of them featuring geometric designs in various color combinations.
Creating work for these artisans is an especially important project for us, because there is a lot of deforestation happening in the region. Until their craft of weaving chimichagua becomes more commercially viable, the palms will continue to be cut down to give way to raising livestock.
Favorite escape in Latin America?
Find Yasmin at @mola_sasa