The paper's people
THERE’S a sense of romanticism about it: the witching hour is when Primila Ganash brews her skin-pampering potions in her studio.
Jazz wafts through the room. Outside the door, three cats and two dogs wait impatiently for her to finish, just before sunrise.
The reality, however, is also more prosaic.
“It’s just easier to make them then, when the temperature drops and the humidity is more stable,” says the founder of handmade skincare company Love Is.
Known as Philo to her loved ones, she is open of heart and quick to laugh, with a happy, calming energy – it’s not hard to find yourself adopted into her tribe.
Philo’s products are made only by her and not tested on animals – not even those products that are for animals, since Love Is has a dedicated range of pet skincare!
(Love Is products are tested only on humans – friends, family and staff. “It’s through them that the business has grown – I owe them so much,” says Philo).
From Elbow and Nose Balm to Hotspot Cream, the pet range combines her love of animals with her passion for brewing up skincare solutions. A small percentage of each sale goes to the Independent Pet Rescuers, who rescue and rehome stray and abandoned animals.
Philo and partner Paramjit Kaur support good causes wherever they can, including KL Pooch Rescue and the Tanma Federation, which empowers Myanmar women refugees.
“My parents got divorced when I was eight, and I saw how my mother struggled to raise my sister and I,” says Philo. “I remember what it was like to be different, to not have a ‘complete’ family, and I’m going to do anything I can to help other people who need it, but might not get much help.”
The pet range was inspired by Cotton, Pam and Philo’s dog, who had very sensitive skin. Cotton crossed the rainbow bridge this year, and is sadly missed. But his legacy lives on in every tub of the pet range – and in every rescued pet helped by Love Is’ donations.
Philo grew up in Penang, and moved to Kuala Lumpur 15 years ago. She initially worked in project management with YTL and CIMB.
“And then I developed a lot of skin issues, such as eczema,” says Philo. Her visits to dermatologists were too frequent for her liking – until one visit uncovered the culprits behind her skin problems: allergies and stress.
“I was put on medication, including steroids, and I had to avoid commercial body care products,” she says. So in 2014, she consulted that global guru – YouTube – and learned to make her own soap.
“But the ingredients weren’t right for our tropical climate – all that shea and cocoa butter, they made everything too heavy and slippery.”
She started travelling to find inspiration and ingredients, to Australia, India, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia and discovered lighter oils, sweet almond, rosehip and jojoba. Where fragrances are used, she included only those certified by the US Food and Drug Administration. A spark of magic illuminated the results, and a following born of the local bazaar circuit soon grew.
Even more potent sorcery? The mistakes that turn out to be serendipity in disguise – like the healing balm, one of Love Is’ best-sellers.
“I actually wanted to make a cream – for which you mix oil and water – but I mistakenly mixed only the oils, and it turned into a balm ... and now that balm is very famous, because people with eczema especially come looking for it!”
The following for Love Is grew to the point that Philo left her day job last year, and devoted herself full-time to skincare sorcery. Find Love Is in a dedicated retail space in Publika’s Art Row.
“It has grown bigger than I ever imagined it would. I think because people are so much more aware now of what they are using, and they look for natural, home-made things,” she says.
The name? It just seemed fitting. “Love is at the heart of everything we do, because this business is about people and their stories and how they have become part of us,” she concludes.
Primila makes bespoke body care for both humans and