Women in Singapore may soon be wearing false lashes made from possum tails if one Kiwi businesswoman’s vision comes to fruition.
Sharee Wilkinson is the creator of Moka Premium Eco Fibre Lashes, a beauty product which offers an alternative to synthetic disposable lashes and lash extensions. She is also developing an eyelash glue made from harakeke (flax) and keratin extracted from sheep wool.
A makeup artist with over 10 years’ experience, Wilkinson was disappointed by the lack of sustainable lash products on the market.
“The issue is the high rate of synthetics. Especially for extensions – they fall away one at a time, you could be in the shower, and they go down the drain. Women are not thinking, ‘oh, these are synthetics, they’re going into our waterways’.
“It got me thinking, what do we have in our own country that I could possibly use to make lashes? Then a family member said to me, what about possum fibre?”
After connecting with Māori Women’s Development Inc, Wilkinson received a loan which enabled her to develop her all-natural strip lashes – false eyelashes that can be easily applied and removed by the wearer. The lashes are made from possum tails, which are usually treated as offcuts in the fibre industry.
She later attended a natural workshop with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, where she was put in touch with Rangi Te Kanawa, a textile conservator at Te Papa and harakeke expert.
“I grew up in the Hokianga, and spent a lot of time outdoors. We used to use the gel at the base of the harakeke plant as glue. I was curious to see if I could use it to create adhesives for the lashes.
“I asked [Te Kanawa] about the gel and she was really encouraging – she said it would make a fantastic glue, and sent me some samples.”
Creating a one hundred per cent natural glue was a crucial part of the puzzle for Wilkinson, who says the adhesive used for eyelash extensions is particularly toxic.
“It’s basically superglue, on your eyes.”
Wilkinson was one of five beauty entrepreneurs who were selected to travel to Malaysia and Singapore in February as part of the ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative.
During that trip, she says it became clear that Singapore was a “great market” for her lashes. She has already received expressions of interest from two companies, including a store called Colours Boutique.
“It’s a very high-end boutique catering for the Indian bridal market. I’ve done a lot of Indian weddings as a makeup artist and Indian brides love to go for a full-on makeup look.”
Wilkinson has also been looking into halal certification, which she thought may be an issue in the Southeast Asian market as her possums are not slaughtered using the halal method.
However, she was reassured as she found some “loopholes” when it comes to halal cosmetics.
“It would be more about the glue being halal as opposed to the actual lashes, because the lashes are not actually ingested. I spoke with the head of business development at the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise office in Singapore, and she said, no, you won’t have to worry about it. But if I can get the glue halal certified, that would be fantastic.”
Wilkinson says she hopes to have her lash products on shelves by the end of the year, and in the next couple of months will launch an equity campaign with Tā Koha, a crowdfunding platform for Māori entrepreneurs.
“I had a really amazing conversation with a woman in Singapore. She had her own beauty salon, and she told me she couldn’t sleep at night putting adhesives on her clients’ eyes knowing how bad they are.
“She said, when your lash glue comes, I want it.”
- Asia Media Centre