Welcome to EW‘s weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
The week we chat to Jana Khoury, who was previously Communications Director for Christian Loubiton and is now co-founder of sustainable brand Anaskela. As staycation and outdoor season kicks off in the UAE, the brand offers the most beautiful pieces for fabulous days at the beach. Inspired by their endless summers on the beaches of Greece during childhood, the founders of Anaskela wanted to create a towel that was more conducive to travel. Style and function aside, each towel’s unique textile composition is made using fibres made from recycled PET bottles. Each Anaskela towel removes plastic bottles from a landfill or the ocean and re-purposes them into your towel.
EW sat down with Khoury to find out more about the brand, her career and what made her want to enter the realm of ethical luxury.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Art and maths – I’m a typical Virgo.
What was your first job?
An internship at Men’s Health magazine in London, working with the Style Editor. My first ‘real’ job was in PR at Hugo Boss in London.
What inspired you to launch Anaskela?
The idea came from my business partner Melissa, when she was travelling around the Greek Islands with her family. Lugging around 4 bulky beach towels felt laborious, so she searched for an alternative. She came across microfibre gym towels and wanted to create a better version for the beach and for travel in general. We always wanted to work on something together so she brought the idea to me and I loved it… the rest is history!
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Can you talk us through the sustainable focus of your brand?
We never wanted to create more ‘things’ to put out into the world, so from the start we knew that whatever we ended up creating had to already exist materially. We researched for months and discovered that there was a way to create the yarn used to make the towels from repurposed PET bottles, which not only meant recycling single-use plastics into long-term use products, but it also meant keeping plastic out of landfills and the ocean. We also love the idea that you buy one qualitative item that is made to last, and that is what we aim for with our towels.
What are the key elements of your role?
Melissa and I work together on absolutely everything, from design to logistics. The joy and pain of being a small team! Luckily we’ve been friends for most of our lives and it just works.
How do you design the product?
We set aside some time when we are in Greece together, usually by a beautiful beach, and work on the new collections. We usually start with a concept or an idea, and build on that.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps, looking to enter the world of ethical luxury?
I think ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ are going to become essential for any consumer brand. If you’re launching a brand, incorporate these elements from the start, not only because customers will soon demand it, but because we all need to work to create a better world and a cleaner planet.
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What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
If you try and be or do something that doesn’t reflect you as a person, it will appear inauthentic and won’t work anyway.
And what is the worst?
Bad advice is only bad if you take it… and so far so good!
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome with Anaskela – it must have been tough through the pandemic?
When the pandemic hit at the start of our season, we were concerned but acted quickly and decided to focus our efforts on markets like Greece where cases were relatively low and people still went on local trips throughout the spring and summer months. Our quick action paid off and so we got through the last few months relatively unscathed. We’ve learned quickly that it’s important to be flexible, especially in uncharted waters like these!
What is to come from this exciting new brand?
We’re excited to now be shipping to many countries in the Middle East! Apart from that we’ve often been told that the towels make great gifts, so we’ve just launched an illustrated gift box! Although travel is not on the agenda right now, we love the idea of gifting ‘the promise’ of travel. Everyone is looking forward to being able to holiday freely again. Also, we are donating 10% of profits from the boxes to WWF Greece who have been focusing much of their efforts on preventing ocean waste due to discarded PPE as a result of the pandemic. Finally, we’re launching a new collection in the new year!
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