Dubai-based Dr. Azra Khamissa has collaborated with Codex on a Ramadan beauty box. California-based clean beauty brand Codex launched in the Middle East last fall and is available through Watsons stores in the region. While it is an organic luxury skincare company, it has a very scientific approach to beauty. Its founder Barbara Paldus has a Ph.D in electrical engineering from Stanford University and has two decades of experience at the forefront of research and innovation at spectroscopy and biotechnology companies. Codex is known for its bio-science approach to all-natural beauty, with products offering a pure yet potent vegan skincare regime. To mark their first Ramadan, they chose to work with UAE-based Dr. Azra, who has an Instagram following of over 120,000, to create an exclusive Ramadan gift box.
The Dubai artist, who is also a trained medical chiropractor, is known for her avant-garde henna designs that are driven by fashion trends. She has previously worked with fashion brands such as Gucci and Fendi. Dr. Paldus says of this beauty-based collaboration: “Our goal was to honor Ramadan and the traditions of our new customers in the Middle East. We understand that Ramadan is not only a time of deep reflection and spiritual connection, but also a time to fast, purify and heal the body. We fell in love with Dr. Azra’s work, as well as the meaning of henna art. Her designs are beautiful, so we shared our logo with her, which she interpreted in Henna.” The result is a limited edition box that includes three products from the Antü collection, which is focused on protecting, restoring and strengthening.
Here’s what Dr. Azra has to say about this collaboration, her contemporary designs and her “clean” approach to henna artistry.
Q What made you decide to work on more contemporary patterns with henna?
A It all started when I attended the weddings of friends and family where the bride’s close circle is required to wear henna. I noticed that all the original henna designs were very floral, intricate and old school that looked beautiful for the occasion but didn’t suit me beyond the traditional nights. That’s when I started looking into the history of henna and decided to reinterpret it in my own contemporary way.
Q What are the most popular designs for Ramadan?
A During the holy month of Ramadan, the most popular design or pattern is moon related. The crescent signifies the start of Ramadan and also the beginning of Eid when the moon is sighted. It is an obvious design but definitely the most popular.
Q Is it true there was a time you dreaded having your henna done?
A When I was in my teens and in university, I started dreading going to events that required me to apply henna only because the designs were very traditional and didn’t appeal to my design aesthetics.
Q Tell us about the motif you designed for Codex Beauty Labs.
A The Codex Beauty Labs logo is based on the Fibonacci spiral that is related to nature. I remember when I first saw the logo, the design almost immediately popped into my head. I am attracted to patterns, symmetry and balance and my designs are inspired by Islamic geometric art. This is what helped me come up with the motif for the Codex Beauty Labs Ramadan gift box.
Q You launched your own completely natural henna last year. Tell us more about the product. Where is it available?
A Last year, due to the pandemic closing airspaces all over, I was unable to source my henna from Pakistan, which pushed me to finally learn to make it myself. I had tried using henna from a few local salons, but grew increasingly concerned when they couldn’t tell me what ingredients were used and from where they were sourced. I began doing my research and was very clear that I will source the highest quality ingredients, natural powder and essential oils for my product. I learned a lot during this process. We ensure that the henna smells great, and so we use a mix of lavender and eucalyptus that has relaxing properties and enhances the henna application experience.
Q Where do you sell your henna?
A My products are available at Faces in Mall of the Emirates or online at azra.ae. I have also collaborated with two local artists recently, graphic designer Shamma BuHazza and illustrator Nour Flayhan, to create sticker stencils so that customers can apply their own henna. We hope to continue to connect with artists around the world.
Q Was it the pandemic that made you look at launching your own product?
A Yes, things definitely changed for me during the pandemic. Before that, I didn’t have any time, as my calendar was completely blocked with henna application appointments. With this newfound gift of time, I was motivated to put it toward developing my own products.