Letters from Dara

A letter about love

Dara and friends

We opened our doors at aylabeauty.com on Valentine’s Day nine years ago. And every year, our birthday prompts the question: why that particular day? The short answer is that, for Ayla, a profound and enduring source of inspiration is the deep sense of support, honesty, and love that can be found behind the longest-running relationships.

One of the greatest gifts in my life is the friendship that I share with four women I’ve known since the late '70s and early '80s, when we were growing up in a small town in New Hampshire. Despite the scattered sprinkling of our current locations across the country, we see each other at least once every spring. We’ve treasured this gift even more with each passing year: being with someone who reminds you who you are can be both grounding and motivating in a way that few things can rival.

What makes these friendships so beautiful, I think, is that we tend to be more accepting of those we’ve known for a longer period of time, just as we are with family: the little things they do that make us crazy become things that we smile at. And with longtime friends, that unconditional love is all the more special because it is chosen every day, every month, every year.

I was at an off-the-grid yoga retreat with two of these friends last month, where we experienced the fractious combination of me (a light sleeper who screams involuntarily at the sight of critters) with one friend I’ve known since 1983 (who can sometimes be a little loud, in the most endearing way of course) and another I’ve known since 1980 (who would alternate between silent seething over the loudness and involuntary screams, and silent and incredibly considerate fear of keeping me awake by turning over in bed, thus not sleeping at all) in one small, electricity-free bungalow — where, it seems to me anyway, headlamps make furry creatures in the bathroom look particularly large and menacing. In the middle of the sleepless night, none of this was funny to any of us. But in the light of the following day, it was hilarious. Especially when I decamped to my own separate bungalow.

But would we have found the funny if we’d just met each other last month? I suspect we wouldn’t have been quite as generous with our laughter. As we meet people later in life, we tend to hold those relationships to different standards; if our beliefs and tastes and opinions don’t quite align, we’re more apt to judge and less likely to put the effort into deepening those connections, finding middle ground, or sharing a moment of mirth over our differences.

One of the many reasons why I feel so lucky to have these long friendships is that they remind me to bring this perspective to all of my relationships — to soften into acceptance and find what is lovable in each person, even when it’s hard. To smile at the idiosyncrasies, even when they drive me batty. I don’t always succeed, and you can’t be good friends with everyone, but the strength and ease of these since-childhood friendships reminds me to keep trying to find the funny, the lovable, the light. And it is worth it every time.

One of the things that led me to create Ayla was my practice of counseling these same friends on their skincare choices. This practice, and the honesty and love behind it — the desire to see and celebrate that light within each individual — became the model for the way that we talk to our customers, the thread that runs through everything we do.

Our dear partner and friend, Pedro of TWELVE Beauty, very kindly wrote here that I treat our customers like my best friends. It’s true: I do, and it’s genuine. But it’s not just me. Our entire team brings that same love and care and honesty to everything we do at Ayla — as they work with our brands, place orders for stock, plan events, answer emails and phone calls, perform facial treatments, package your shipments, and meticulously ensure that our products are as fresh and as potent as can be — and I am both astounded by and grateful for the fact that we all believe so deeply in what we do.

So much love pours into and out of this business in a real, deep way, and I cannot thank you all enough — our team, our partners, our customers, and everyone who has spread the word about us over the past nine years — for believing in us and for loving us. It is an honor to see the light in all of you. Thank you for making that such a simple joy; thank you for being Ayla’s Valentines and for choosing us every day, every month, and every year.

- Dara

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