Meeting with Anne Peres, co-founder of the organic cosmetics brand Alaena. We will talk about eco-responsibility, the environment, but also the Basque Country.
The Bidartarde tells us about the relationship she has with her territory and shares her favourites with us.
Using few words, can you describe Alaena, its genesis and its philosophy?
The Alaena adventure is coming from our family history: my dermatologist mom, my plastic surgeon father and my sisters; Alaena comes from the contraction of our three first names Alaia, Hélène and Anne. Our story began with the creation of Spa Alaena in Biarritz in 2015, then the eponymous cosmetic brand. We wanted to combine medical expertise in the product, safety and ethics of organic.
You are passionate about to nature and the ocean, and how to protect it. Is it living in Biarritz that has caused this consciousness?
Yes, definitely. From an early age, with my sisters and parents, we spent a lot of time in the water. We lived right above the sea and our parents taught us how to surf as soon as we could walk.
It was my mom who gave us this consciousness and led us to change our habits through food first, then cosmetics and our lifestyle in general. I work to be able to continue to enjoy this beauty but also to protect ourselves. When we created Alaena, it was obvious that we wanted to develop biodegradable formulas, recyclable packaging, to have the lowest possible impact on our environment.
What relationship do you have with the Basque Country?
My parents moved to Bidart when I was 2 years old, I grew up there and followed all my education until I graduated. I then went to Paris to do a preparatory class and then an engineering school, the Ecole Centrale Paris. After having had experience in Australia and London, I wanted to come back to the Basque Country to settle down and launch Alaena.
I am attached to the Basque culture even if I do not speak the language. I also admire its craftsmanship, the architecture of Basque farms and the variety of its landscapes with always its mountains in the background. I love this sentence by the painter Ramiro Arrue who so subtly describes its atmosphere “I feel affection for everything that makes the Basque Country: its nature, its life, its customs, its music and its songs, the character of men and the rustic grace of girls in their noble and primitive simplicity, their attitudes and their personalities, the quiet strength of sailors and pelotaris, the suppleness of the dancers and the archaism of the workers of the land, all living their lives in the beautiful decor which forms the Basque landscape which is their setting and suits them so well.
What places inspire you?
I live in the centre of the village of Bidart, I really like its center, the Chapelle de la Madeleine and the hills of 100 steps. I like going to the flea market on weekends, especially Ahetze and the Quintaou ones. The atmosphere of the ports inspires me, in particular the port of Guéthary and the fishermen’s port in Biarritz with its crampottes nestled in the cliff.
Where and how do you go to releax?
What I prefer is discovering small places around the world, very far from our lifestyles and consumption, which shake up my daily habits. Magical places where we get lost and find ourselves again, where time stands still, where meetings make us want to smile. A fishing village in Mexico or in Ghana with my partner. We cut our phones, we surf and we live to the rhythm of the local culture.
You are responsible for the production but also for the marketing at Alaena, you usually travel a lot, what do you miss most about the Basque Country when you’re not there?
I miss the sea, the sky, the mountains and the calm when I am far away, but I like to go to Paris regularly, a few days a month. I am stimulated by the excitement of the city, bringing its creative spirit out. It is a real balance game to combine the best of both cities.
What is your daily life like in Biarritz?
During the week I work in Biarritz in our offices at Spa Alaena. I find my team, ten passionate girls, with boundless energy! In the evening, I like to have a drink at Les Halles with my friends, or do yoga. The weekend program depends on the waves and the weather. Either we surf or escape to the mountains for a hike. We then meet our friends for a dinner at home or at a good restaurant.
What are your passions?
As you might have understood, surfing! It is a wonderful sport that allows you to listen to nature, to surpass yourself. I love the feeling of being in the water all year round, appreciating the changes of the sea according to the seasons. Everyday conditions are different, depending on what nature has in store for you. When I was younger I was doing surfing competitions, now it’s just for fun. This passion makes people travel to places, villages, where we would never have been otherwise. It’s a source of incredible encounters.
Do you have any restaurant addresses or creators that you particularly like?
I really like the designer Virginie Devinster and her shop in Bidart, the universe of Gaztelur based in Arcangues, the Poterie de Guéthary, La Ferme Ostalapia. For a countryside getaway, I recommend the Hotel Arce in Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry, for the warm welcome of these hosts and the idyllic setting on the banks of the Nive des Aldudes. Five generations have taken turns in this authentic Basque country house, which was previously the village trinquet.
Is there a project that you really loved recently?
At Christmas, I discovered the book Hemendik which tells the story of 50 iconic objects from the Basque Country. These stories highlight its diversity by crossing various contexts; geographic, historical, political or social. I admire companies that endure over time, reinvent themselves, go through crises. These sometimes family adventures, where each generation contributes its building block and its vision for the company according to current events.
Thank you Anne for this very insightful interview and very close to our values at CityHood.
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