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From Make-up Artist to Creative Sustainableist

From Make-up Artist to Creative Sustainableist

Khandiz has been a hair and makeup artist for two decades. Prior to studying makeup, she attended art school. Her work marries conceptual art and thought-provoking narratives using ecoethical-beauty alternatives.

Her entry into conscious beauty stems from in life-long interest in environmentalism. She has been experimenting with natural beauty brands since 2006. In 2012 she moved to London from her native Cape Town and began actively switching out her professional kit. Her editorial and commercial clients include Harpers Bazaar Japan, Fashion Revolution, Absolution Cosmetics, Twelve Beauty and Hunger Magazine.

Khandiz has been working with an exclusively clean kit since 2014 after systematically replacing mainstream and conventional brands. She has committed to finishing her kit, at which time she will no longer be a commercial makeup artist and will instead focus on her art, consultancy work and managing the day to day business of CBU.

Passionate about storytelling, creative thinking and systems change, culminating in her entrepreneurial spirit. This has led her to retrain as a sustainability professional. Khandiz holds a certificate from Cambridge University’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership, is certified by the Carbon Literacy Project as ‘Carbon Literate’, and a diploma in Sustainability Leadership from IEMA.

Khandiz is a regular panellist and guest speaker at clean beauty and sustainable fashion events. She has also guest lectured at LCF and provides independent training and workshops for Film & TV on developing a sustainable practice – most recently for BECTU’s ‘Bitesize’ vocational training.

I had an Un Common conversation with Khandiz about her unusual career: 

You've recently completed an UnCommon degree, please tell us more  

I hold a diploma in Sustainable Business Practice from IEMA. Despite not having not finished high school, I never felt held back in my creative career. However, when I wanted to move more into the consulting space, I believed that not having any qualification behind me might make things harder for me to be taken seriously. This of course is a self imposed barrier, but none the less,  I decided to invest in myself and really learn to be able to argue the business case for embedding social and environmental practices and policies into companies. I don’t know that it’s really going to be any easier to get my foot in the door to the organisations that I want to just yet - because like everything, you need “experience” that’s referenced on paper and working in old paradigm economic systems. So, what doing this masters equivelant diploma has done for me is: give me confidence that I do indeed know what I am talking about and deepen my understanding of these old paradigm systems. It also reminded me that my years of creativity are a real asset in this space to drive the conversation forward on an emotional and often intangible level that spreadsheets and logic can’t always do.  

So I am now positioned as a Creative Sustainableist (yes, that’s something I made up, but it articulates exactly what I do and what I can offer brands, businesses and individuals looking to authentically develop more socially, environmentally and financially beneficial systems - that ultimately, reduce stress and add value to the wider world). 

How did your passion for sustainability influence that? 

I don’t think “sustainability” influenced my decision. It is my passion for people, the Planet and the interconnectivity of things that inspired me to dig deeper - to learn more, to do more. I wanted to make a constructive impact. Something practical and tangible and scalable. Working in the creative and beauty sectors for two decades… what I realised is that even in the “eco” space, there is dangerous and problematic misunderstanding around these interconnected issues.  The depths of the disconnectedness is significant. I just couldn’t continue to talk about natural, green, organic and eco anymore and still be part of the bigger problematic systems. Best intentions and all.  

Sustainability is unfortunately such a misappropriated buzz word right now. Most people don’t truly understand what it means - not even the world's leading dictionaries!  

Thinking of  perhaps what the status quo refers to as "sustainability" what are some of the lessons we should take from COVID-19? 

 If COVID-19 has taught us anything is that we are designed to change. We have the capacity to adapt to new circumstances when we need too. Placing the emphasis on “sustainability” for the future is problematic because it doesn’t emphasis the urgency and challenges we are currently and increasing facing so, people are slow to change. We need to understand that we are in it - this isn’t a future problem - We are in the middle of social, environmental and ecological crises so that means  it’s a right now problem it’s only going to get worse if we do not take drastic action.

We can use the lessons from the Pandemic - from everything from our freedom of movement being restricted, to supply chain disruption to price increases and job losses - that we - as human beings have the capacity to adapt. The sooner we take action, the lighter the impact on our way of life will begin the future.  

Can you suggest some simple, every day changes we all can make to reduce the amount of waste we produce? 

Many people are focused on packaging waste - which is of course an enormous problem. But less attention is actually paid to the products inside. Especially in the beauty space. The product itself has a much higher toll on resources use - and potential impact on people and resources if it is not used up.  

Food waste and organic, biodegradable items (and by default beauty waste) are one of the biggest GHG (green house gas) emitters that contribute to global heating when they are not incorporated into natural cycles - ie: when they go to landfil and are treated as waste rather than reintegrating the waste back into a useful system like compost.  

Anything single use is problematic. One of the biggest things we can do is shift our mindsets. This is definitely happening, as we have seen with the uptake of refillable water bottles and coffee cups but we are at risk of perpetuating the same consumption habits, just with more resource intensive products. Having 50 canvas tote bags, loads of reusable cups and water bottles might make us look more environmentally focused but we are still using the same mindset.  

The other thing I would say is that just because something “appears” more eco-friendly, doesn’t always mean it’s the case when you look at the bigger picture. Prioritise reducing, finishing, refilling, reusing and only then recycling. And, if you are going to recycle, please make sure that you actually take the steps needed to increase the likelihood that an item gets recycled. Learn what can and can’t go into your kerbside bin and what other services are available to you locally.  

It sounds obvious, but buy the absolute best quality you can afford. Look for things that could be repurposed or used in other parts of the home once you are finished with them.  Invest in yourself and support independent brands as it helps the entire economy. 

Don’t accept products and gifts (from brands and events) if you’re not really going to use them. Even if they are free! 

How important are the small initiatives such as our NAKED offering in the grand scheme of things when we are only a tiny brand? 

There is Tanzanian proverb that says: “Little by little, a little makes a lot.” In the grand scheme of things, really, a NAKED offering won’t touch sides BUT it matters. It matters enormously that you’re doing it anyway. It all adds up, so if all brands, big and small make very simple, obvious changes that provide customers with better products that help minimise waste (and can save a brand money by not having to outlay on expensive and unnecessary packaging)… that little collectively becomes a lot…in the positive sense. That’s what we need to aim for. 

Remember, sustainability is the ultimate destination - and like any goal, we need to constantly and actively take smaller steps in order to reach it. Do whatever we can, whenever we can and wherever we can is more important than doing it perfectly. 

Any top tips our readers should consider when they are making purchases,  particularly beauty or skincare? 

Ask yourself: Do I already have something similar that can perform a similar function? Why do I believe that this product is going to make me feel better amount myself? Do I really need it? If I do need it, will I actually finish it? If not, could I find some friends or family that I could share the cost and the product with? And, when you do have to purchase products look for brands to spend your harder and harder earned money, that aligns with your beliefs and values.  

Do an “audit” of what beauty products you have. Get rid of any outdated products (in a responsible manner of course) and then decide what you really need. This is your opportunity  to support brands that are considering the entire system, not just one aspect of the “sustainability” conversation, and that align to your personal ethics and needs.  

I would just say, don’t waste your money on trendy “must have” products. Buy - and use - only what what really works for your needs. Skincare and personal care products, in particular are functional.  They is designed to support your skin - which is an enormous part of your own physical ecosystem. They are essential products. 

Makeup, well this is more of a psychological product in my opinion. For some people it is indeed an essential product, but there is a deeper rooted psychology that goes along with our relationship with cosmetics.  We cannot separate these interconnected aspects of beauty as it perpetuates waste in the wider environment and has a very real relationship with our mental health and wellbeing.  

The fact of the matter is we do need things and products - both practically and to some extent psychologically. But we don’t need nearly as much “stuff” as we have been led to believe. 

*Copyright for images belong to Khandiz